CSE 131: Extra-credit Project ideas

Project Overview

Projects are similar to your weekly assignments-- just larger and thematically more complex. A project consists of ~15 to ~40 images organized around themes as suggested below. However, this project needs to be made up of beautiful photos that make use of design elements such as line, color, pattern, texture, and light to compose outstanding images, artfully processed in Lightroom or your favorite program. The project may have accompanying text (or a story), or stand alone with only a title. It may be a Picasa or Google+ album, or could be a PDF book, as described in "Self-publish" below.

Please remember that the photographs that you submit for your project must be taken by you specifically for this project, between now and June 6. Do not reuse old photographs that you may have laying around, even if they perfectly fit your project!

We will judge your photos on their quality and beauty-- and their contribution to the theme. You can earn up to 25% of your total grade in the course in extra credit for a really outstanding effort. This time you should not caption your photos with technical information. If you fancy yourself a writer, make a photo-essay, and accompany your photos with liquid prose...

Examples: Take your pick; most of what I do is in project form...

Even better, from my friend Chase Jarvis...

Here's a Blurb book of mine... and several by John Paul Caponigro... He has a great website, with lots of information.


Pick a project by Monday, May 14. Email the teaching staff with the project you have selected here.

Final project deadline is Wednesday June 6, by 11:59 p.m., via email here. Send the URL of your album, or your completed PDF.

Some Suggested Project Ideas

That idea may sound a little morbid, but graveyards can be a wonderful place to photograph. Often, they are beautiful areas, surrounded by nature. They are peaceful places to spend time, which allows you to connect with your inner creativity. You can also take along a close-up lens, and photograph the writing on the tombstones, or just the textures. Some of the old stones have wonderful, rough textures that may make good images in their own right, or they can be composited with another image in Photoshop. Lakeside is a great place, north of Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill; or Calvary Cemetery northeast of University Village. Lots of angels in stone...

You can often find mannequins in store windows. If you are lucky, you can catch store displays in the middle of being set up. Keep your eyes open; there are many fun and intriguing photography project ideas here once you’re on the lookout.

Nature Reclaiming
The idea here is to shoot man-made objects or environments that nature is reclaiming. Old cars, or abandoned buildings with vegetation growing throughout make for great photography project ideas.

Seattle has water, lots of it. 71% of our planet is covered with it. This is a big topic that could take you years to explore! You can photograph oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, or your bath tub; everything from large bodies of water to small trickles. There are many creative photo ideas to be found within this topic.

The trick here is to go beyond just photographing someone else’s art, and to interpret it yourself. Can you bring order to chaos? Can you find meaning in interesting juxtapositions? Use the urban artists to inspire your own photography ideas.

Landscape au Monet
Find yourself a beautiful landscape nearby, and return to it many times to photograph it under different lighting conditions: morning light, evening light, mist, or rain – each one will produce very a different image. Keep an eye on the weather. Storms can produce some dramatic light. Have your camera nearby so you don’t miss out. This is an exercise that Monet did when painting his Haystacks series.

Repeating lines or shapes form patterns. Experiment with composing your entire image from a pattern, or breaking up the pattern with an irregularity.

Reflections...Of Me!
Capture yourself in as many different reflective surfaces as possible. This is a fun project that will get you thinking about how effective reflections are in photographs.

When Henri Cartier Bresson first got his Leica camera, one of his favourite things to do was to capture himself in reflective surfaces around Paris.

Start with your bathroom mirror and go from there. Explore the way reflections distort - flatteringly or unflatteringly; think about the potential for surrealism - spoonface!? Blend reflections with the environment - ripples on a river, alongside manikins in shop windows etc.

It doesn't have to be your whole face in the reflection - maybe just an eye, or even a silhouette. This is one of my favourite photography project ideas because the potential for creativity is huge!

Imitation - Learning From the Best
It's standard practice for art students to copy the works of past masters. Doing the same in photography is often tricky, because photos rely on a moment that comes and goes in a fraction of a second. But you can engineer things to a certain extent, or simply imitate a famous posed portrait or fashion shot.

This will really test your photography composition skills and ability to capture a desired mood through lighting etc.

Some great photographers (Google them):
Henri Cartier Bresson
Steve McCurry
Ansel Adams
Margaret Bourke White
Nick Brandt
Dorothea Lange
Galen Rowell

A day in the life
If you’ve got a free day that you can devote to a photography project, or very tolerant instructors, consider doing a day in the life project. This means documenting an entire day – either a day in your life, or the life of someone else, in which case the possibilities are endless and you could turn it into a whole series (in the future). Consider also thinking outside the box slightly – a day in the life of a bus stop anyone?

You may wish to dedicate some time to making a photobook containing a project on this page. Companies like Blurb make self-publishing easy – you can get away from tacky templates and make stylish, professional looking photobooks with a little time and effort. It’s a great feeling making a book, knowing that it’s all your work through from taking the pictures to taking control of the pacing, design and layout. Lightroom 4 has a book module; explore it, and turn in a PDF of your completed book, complete with text and photos.

Raindrops on windows

We have a lot of it. Raindrops on windows make really cool and interesting shots. You can get really creative with these shots so really stretch your imagination and see what you can create. Shoot through the raindrops to the scene behind.

Food Photos

It may be slightly annoying to your friends and family, but snap a shot of your food before you eat it, especially fancy foods and deserts. Mmm. Chocolates :) Try to light your shots, either by placing the food in front of a nice bright window, or with speed lights if you have them, or just turn on some ambient light and use a nice low aperture lens like the 50mm f/1.4. If you are in a really dark restaurant you can also try moving the candle light close to your food to get a bit more light.

Self portraits

Give people a glimpse at the artist behind the camera and take a self-portrait. You can do a classic camera-in-hand mirror snap, or get creative and put your camera on a tripod, set a timer, and run in a wheat field. There are so many options for creative shots and the best thing about you being the model is you can take your shot whenever you like and take as long as you want snapping it!

Go on a photographic journey

Plan a weekend vacation, or even a day trip, around where you can go take great photographs. A pasture filled with cows? Excellent. A hiking trip up a mountain, with beautiful city views? Even better. An old-school diner with handmade milkshakes? Spectacular.

Compositional elements

In chapter 3 of The Photographer's Eye, Michael Freeman lists fifteen graphic and photographic elements. Shoot artful photos that illustrate each of the fifteen, including horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, curves, motion, focus, and exposure.

How do things change over time? How quickly do they change? Find something in the class or outside that you expect to change. It could be a caterpillar, a flower bud, or a tree. Figure out how quickly it is going to change, then take pictures at regular intervals to show this change.

Something similar
Do you have an idea for a project not covered here? Send us a description of what you're planning, similar to these descriptions. Go for it!