On Personal Projects
After shooting a certain number of projects you start getting comfortable. You know what works and what the client wants and you can hammer it out at lightening speed. You are in your element, you are in your groove, you are a well-oiled-machine. Sadly this is also where you can get stuck in a rut and even a creative career becomes akin to a mechanical/factory styled workflow.
I experienced something similar a few years back when I was working as the lead photographer for Lee University's Office of publications. We were required to have a similar "look" for all our images and we had the workflow down to a button press - almost literally. It was then I realized that I had gotten too comfortable. I wasn't trying anything new and although I was doing what was needed and asked of me, I was not growing.
Growth is what keeps us relevant. If we don't push ourselves, we never set new limits for ourselves. Stagnation sets us on a course for extinction. But you are also required to follow a certain guideline for your work. If I thought of shooting an entire event is black and white with an analog holga camera, I would have probably been shot down. Would it be creative? Sure! Would it work with what my boss wanted? Definitely not!
My solution was a personal project - a photo a day project for the entire year. It was something different, it allowed me leeway to experiment and to suck at something with minimal consequences; And most of all - it was for myself. It didn't have a deadline, no cost attached and through it I could explore and grow.
Since then, I have made it a point to set aside time for something personal, something experimental. It allows me space to try new styles of work, space to explore and space to grow. So if you feel like you are not growing, try working for yourself - you might be pleasantly surprised.