It's a MUST. A job is a job. It doesn't matter if it is photography or sitting at an office desk. It's still a job. And yes, while photography may seem like a super cool job (well, it really is) but there are certain photography jobs I would rather not do. Yep, you read right. There are certain photography tasks I would rather not do. Why? Because they don't ignite the passion I have for photography. They don't inspire me. They don't challenge me. It's the same as an "office desk job". I'm sure you joined the company because they had some really awesome things to say, but there are those mundane tasks that every job has that you would rather not do too! But, we still do these jobs with a smile on our face and to the best of our ability because it comes down to this- WE GOT BILLS TO PAY!
This is why I give my self personal assignments. You might find me at a tattoo shop photographing. You might find me in the Chattahoochee River photographing. You might even find me at a desk working on an extensive restoration project. Projects that I can do to practice techniques, to try new things, to "see what happens if"… To break the "rules".
Doing personal projects like this allows me to bring new ideas to all shoots. It allows me to bring my personality to the shoot.
How do I come up with personal projects? I might be on Pinterest for an hour (don't act like you're not on for long amounts of time too!) browsing around and see something that strikes me and an idea develops from that. Or I might be at the grocery store and see an interesting person and ask them to "model" for me on a shoot. Or someone might approach me with a shoot idea. Ideas come from everywhere! Movies, other people, magazines, the internet, my Mom.
It doesn't matter where the idea comes from. What matters is that the idea is executed- good or bad.
The important thing is to stay creative.