Where does a project end? For most of us, we go about photography projects in sort of an organized, structured way. Maybe we only intend to create a single photograph, or perhaps we set out to create a larger project like a small series or even something as big as a book, but whatever the project happens to be, it usually has a clearly defined ending point.
Sometimes, I wonder if we ought to even worry about these ending points. Let’s take writing as an example. Some authors write a short story and stop there. Others take that short story, look at it, and decide that there’s really more to the story than can be described in a few thousand words. It could really use expansion with more detail and greater characterization, so what was once a short story becomes a novella or even a novel. Sometimes, you even see authors going to even greater lengths. That novel turns into a series, three books or six books or sometimes even more than that. That one short story or that one novel just isn’t always enough to tell the entire tale.
When that happens, should you stop? I don’t think so. I think it’s better to let the creativity keep on flowing until the story reaches its natural conclusion. If it takes you 12 books to get there, then so be it. Why stop if you can keep on going?
To my mind, it should be the same way with photography. You may go out into the field with the intention of creating a single photo, or maybe you only want to create a small photo story about a given subject. But if the ideas are still coming to you, and you can create 20, 30 or even more images, then why stop at just a handful?
That’s the important thing. If the subject material captures your interest, and you can make the project larger, then why not do it? Back in the film days, we might have limited ourselves because of the limited number of shots available, or because of the time and cost put into development. But today, we’re no longer limited by rolls of film or by technology that keeps us from chasing our creative dreams, so there’s no real reason not to pursue a project until it runs its natural course.
So that’s my advice. Keep going until you don’t see anywhere else to go with the project. Maybe that means turning it from a five-image series into a fleshed-out photo book, but wherever you end up, there’s no reason to limit yourself. Or maybe things will go the other way. Maybe you’ll keep pursuing the project until you run out of ideas, and at the end, you’ll find that really, only a couple of the photos work together. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Ultimately, you can’t know until you’ve taken the time to explore your ideas completely. So let yourself explore, and pursue that project to its natural conclusion.