Can I Ask you a Personal Question? Part 1


Why did you pick up a camera and start making pictures?  It doesn’t matter if it was yesterday or twenty years ago, take a moment and remember back to what drew you to photography.  Now I want to ask you if that is still the same reason that you pick up your camera to make pictures today.  If it’s not, ask yourself why.

I had this epiphany about three years ago.  I was ready to put down my camera for good when I started wondering why I no longer liked something that I had been so passionate about.  The answer surprised me.  It was because I was no longer shooting for myself.  I was shooting to please others–clients, followers, other photographer friends.  That was definitely NOT the reason I picked up a camera in the first place!  So I decided to start over.  For me, starting over was starting to shoot film.  I made film shooting my first personal project.  I had always wanted to be “good enough” to shoot film, and I decided that it didn’t matter whether I was good enough; I was going to just to it.  And I remembered why I was drawn to photography in the first place.  It’s a reason many people start pushing the shutter button: I wanted to document my growing family in a beautiful and artistic way, and I wanted to do something creative.  So beginning in January 2012, all of my personal family photos were shot on film.  This personal project changed my life.

The thing is, I didn’t even know it was a personal project.  It was just something that I felt strongly about, something that moved me enough to take action.  And that, my friends, is the definition of personal work.  Shooting personal work is one of my top priorities.  It makes me happy, it challenges me, and it has even brought me paid work that felt like personal work.  Personal work can be anything you are drawn to, anything you’re curious about, anything you want to get better at doing.  In fact, I’ll bet you’ve already got quite a bit of personal work already!  Look back through your Instagram feed, your Facebook posts, or just your images from the last year–especially your favorites.  What themes or patterns do you see?  Do you have common subjects, themes, framing, colors?  This is where your journey with personal projects begins.

Next week, I’ll help you get started on a personal project of your own!

+Jen Golay is a Midwest mom of two boys–ages 14 and 10–who constantly amaze her with their creativity and cleverness.  She is married to her best friend who willingly indulges her love of film photography and never rolls his eyes or complains when she brings another film camera into the house.  Learning is Jen’s real passion, and she is always willing to share whatever knowledge she has collected.  If she’s not hiding behind a camera, she’s probably hiding behind a book.  You can find Jen’s photography on her blog Daily Life Photography and Instagram where she shares film images from her every day life and work.  She loves comments and questions and promises to reply!

If you’re looking for a little guidance and encouragement to start your own personal project or want to take your film photography to the next level, Jen is excited to offer in-person and online mentoring sessions!  She can help you with finding the right personal project for you, portfolio review, creative film techniques (e.g., double exposures, long exposures, Polaroid), strobes on film, or just getting started shooting film.  Get in touch with Jen to find out more.!


  • August 4, 2015 - 4:45 pm

    Julie Kiernan - What a thought provoking article. Shooting film started as a project just for me too, which I guess qualifies it as a personal project. I wanted to shoot some of my daughter’s wedding on film and from there it’s become such a wonderful experience. I slow down and really shoot in light I love of, any subject that pleases me. Now, I’m incorporating some film into client work, but film started, and will really remain, a special project just for me.ReplyCancel

    • August 4, 2015 - 5:49 pm

      Jen Golay - That is exactly how I feel, Julie! Even though I’ve done some client work on film, it still feels more personal to me. I think that is because I connect more with whoever or whatever I am shooting and don’t get distracted by a little screen. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • August 11, 2015 - 9:46 am

    Can I Ask You a Personal Question? Part 2 » Embrace The Grain Workshop - […] week in Part 1, I asked you to take a moment and remember back to why you picked up a camera and started making […]ReplyCancel

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