Shooting a single theme gives your mind ‘permission’ to block out all the other distractions you may be subject to and forces you to home in on just one thing. It’s almost irrelevant what that one thing is. The project is more to do with exercising your ability to ‘see’. Having a specific subject in mind will force you to look at things in a different way than perhaps you would have done otherwise.
For example. Let’s say your chosen theme is dogs. Most of the time you might be wandering around completely unaware of dogs that you pass. You may not notice the black dog with single white paw. You will be oblivious to the enormous Great Dane being led by the lady who is also holding a small Chihuahua in her arms. The sprinting Springer Spaniel with ears flapping and tongue hanging out being hurriedly chased by a lead wielding owner would go almost unnoticed. However, if you go out for a day’s shoot with the intention of coming back with only shots relating to dogs, dogs in cars or dogs and their owners, then you might be surprised just how many dogs you come across!
Dogs can also be a great ice breaker. If you want to build up the confidence to speak to your subjects, then the dog is a perfect excuse to do so. You are not interested in the person, you are interested in the dog, which for some makes it much easier to speak to the person in the first place. Dog owners are often used to people coming up to them asking questions about their dog so use this to your advantage!
Pick a theme that appeals to you, and for a day go out and only shoot images relating to that theme. Ignore any other shots that come your way, you are not interested in them, leave them for another day. Focus on your chosen theme and this theme alone.
Here are a few ideas for themes:
2. Old people (on their own or as couples)
4. Vanishing points
5. Young people / teenagers
7. Tattoos and piercings
9. Very low angles / very high angles
10. Groups of people
13. Shadows / extreme dark and bright areas in the same shot
14. Rain / Fog
16. Buskers / Street Performers
17. Skateboarders / BMX Riders
18. Graffiti, signs, road markings
I am sure you can come up with a few of your own, pick something and just concentrate on this one theme for your entire days shoot.
What follows are some specific projects that incorporate some of the ideas above, that you can work on for a day, a month and throughout the year whilst at the same time thinking about your chosen themes.
If you have found this interesting, all I ask is that you tell your friends and spread the word through your social media channels, and please consider making whatever donation you can to a fund created to help photographers around the world dedicate time to interesting and often essential projects.