Project Management for Photographers: Documenting Inspiration

Third in a series.

Every project has a starting point, which can come from a variety of sources: a fully developed brief detailing what a client wants; a scrap of paper with a couple of words on it; a verbal conversation with someone; or, quite often for photographers, an observation of some visual element in our environment.

In project management methodologies, this starting point is known as an “initiation document,” which, once received, kicks off not the project itself, but an extensive bit of exploratory research, which can be carried out with any number of tools. One of my personal favorites is Microsoft OneNote.

OneNote is basically a structured notebook held on a computer, enabling you to create folders and pages capturing any and every detail relating to the project. In addition to text and images, you can include audio — such as discussion from a meeting or even evocative noises that help set the mood for what you want to achieve. (You can watch a brief video tutorial here.)

Sources of Inspiration

Using software like OneNote, you have the flexibility to include all kinds of inspiration sources in your research. Experimenting with different forms of inspiration can keep you from getting stuck in a rut — making the same creative choices again and again.

Your research can take many different forms: statistical analysis; diagrams and sketches; sample photographs of what you would like your final outcome to be. Libraries, galleries, parks, sculptures, monuments and many other objects are just waiting to fuel your imagination.

The world is full of inspiration if you are willing to go looking for it — and have a system for capturing your explorations.

Whatever you do, get away from your computer and see things in the real world. Yes, the Internet is a wonderful research tool — but, as anyone who has had the pleasure to see some of their favorite paintings and photographs in real life can tell you, an image on a screen is a pale substitute.

Using Your Mobile Phone

The “ideas book” has long been a popular tool for art students to record anything they come across they find interesting. This may be a picture, a sketch, pieces of fabric, even leaves, papers and plastics. Mine frequently contained reems and reems of poetry, as I found writing very inspirational for my artwork and photography.

Today I like to incorporate my mobile phone into the process of capturing inspiration. If I am entranced by a bird singing, for example, I take its picture and then record its song on video. If I come across some appealing text, I save a draft text message of it.

Wherever you choose to draw your inspiration, remember: the more varied and creative your initial research, the more unique and successful your project’s final outcome is likely to be.

Once your research has been carried out, you can begin to put together your project brief. Depending on the size and source of the project, this can take a variety of formats, but it is a foundation that you will refer to regularly as you progress through the timeline of your project. I’ll cover this in more detail in my next post.

4 Responses to “Project Management for Photographers: Documenting Inspiration”

  1. Evernote is another package that will tie your smartphone and computer together

  2. You're probably the first person I know of using OneNote.

  3. Thanks Guys,
    I've never been able to get away with evernote, just can't fit my way of working with the interface for some reason.

    OneNote is, in my opinion, the most undersold part of the office suite. I bought it as a stand alone package in the 2003 version and the later versions are even better again. One tip which is great for it is to save your notebook to dropbox then you can pick it up over multiple computers. I just wish they would put it in the mac version of office as well!!

  4. Chaps,

    For the Mac try Circus Ponies Notebook 3.0. I have been using it for years after abandoning the PC and have to say it is amazing.

    Just finished a long project where we collected notations, web pages, references, photos, and all of our text and then used Notebook to publish it out into a nice cohesive package.

    Great blog. Cheers!

Leave a Reply