Business + Marketing

Personal Photo Projects for Greater Brand Exposure

September 7, 2022

By Blair deLaubenfels

When you make your living taking photographs, starting personal photo projects can seem like a busman’s holiday. However, as an artist, exploring your passions projects can be pivotal to finding your true voice and creating new opportunities. This month, we are focused on photographers who have opened doors and boosted their bottom line by pursuing personal photo projects that started as a still small voice and ended up speaking to a larger audience.

Personal photo projects that can add to your bottom line, like Joe Short's All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go.
From Joe Short’s project, “All Dressed Up and No Place to Go.” David is an acrobat who worked as a decorator when COVID turned things upside down in the performance industry. © Joe Short Photography

3 Personal Photo Projects that Led to Greater Brand Exposure:

Joe Short Photography
Documentary Portraiture
“All Dressed Up and No Place to Go” Personal Photo Project

For English wedding and portrait photographer Joe Short, the call to his personal photo projects was incited by the radical shift in the performance industry brought about by Covid-19. Watching artists surrender their livelihoods and creative expression to a world where no one was watching was a profound experience and one he captured compellingly.

[Read: Reset Your Photography Business]

Short, who photographed the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle, says “The lockdown had a devastating effect on British performers and entertainers, and I decided to document artists that had taken on new jobs or simply had their livelihoods turned inside out. I documented 28 people from a huge variety of backgrounds and disciplines. The project called All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go was a tremendously inspiring undertaking in several different ways. I gained a lot of exposure via the web and national press, along with two Portrait of Britain awards and one Portrait of Humanity award from the British Journal of Photography. The project was also picked up by The London Times, HuffPost, and The Daily Mail.”

Daily Mail tearsheet of Joe Short's personal photo projects.
Short’s project also caught the eye of the Daily Mail. © Daily Mail/Photos by Joe Short Photography

Most of Short’s subjects came from the music industry where he already had contacts or were friends of friends who fit the bill. After a few sessions the artists started to suggest other performers with their own thought-provoking stories. Pretty much everyone knew someone else who was adapting their life in an amazing way through Lockdown and Short had a wide choice of subjects to choose from.

When Lockdown rules began easing, Short knew he needed to get the word out while the topic was still relevant and as soon it was completed, he sent it to several UK based picture editors at national newspapers and nudged everyone he knew with contacts in the press. The Daily Mail had contacted him about a previous project, so they were already on his radar. The Guardian was also interested in the story but anxious that coming out of Lockdown it might be too late. He also approached local magazines and they were thrilled to run it as many of the characters were based in Western UK. The Portrait of Britain and Portrait of Humanity awards came as a result of his media exposure along with features in several published books.

In terms of how the project affected his art, Short says, “I am more confident with portraiture and taking on jobs that I would otherwise have felt were out of my comfort zone. Technically, I’ve learned new skills regarding lighting and working in fixed spaces, along with organizing photo shoots. With my wedding photography, I’m rarely in control of the action, but this project was very different and occupied an entirely different head space. I sense people take me more seriously after seeing my personal work, particularly given my three gallery shows in the last year. Outside all of it though, it’s been a joy to meet and spend time with so many interesting and passionate people”. 

Street and documentary photography example, woman at beach
The Shaw’s quirky and emotional, observational photography has earned them numerous accolades and awards. © York Place Studios

York Place Studios 
Inspiring the Street/Documentary Style Wedding Photography

Brother and sister team Liam and Dominique Shaw at York Place Studios started their wedding photography careers with street photography as a hobby. Finding their voice in the unscripted, often chaotic world we live in spoke to their natural sensibilities and influenced the way they captured weddings. Their photography took off as they followed the path opened by their personal projects and soon their street style brought them to the forefront of today’s wedding photojournalism scene. 

[Read: How to Strengthen Wedding Photography Client Relationships]

Liam and Dominique say that, “through practicing street photography and bringing everything we learned there into our wedding work, we were able to create a whole new style that we hadn’t seen before. That differentiated our work and gave us a huge unique selling point. It’s crazy to us that the term ‘street-wedding photography’ has now found its way into general wedding vocabulary, so much that our couples are specifically searching for it.”

York Studios personal photo projects include street photography translating to wedding portraits
From street photography to documentary wedding shoots, The Shaws have created a huge selling point for their wedding brand. © York Place Studios

“While street photography is very much a hobby and practice arena for us rather than our main professional output, we’re humbled that our street work has found its way into publications like MyModernMet, LifeFramer and Petapixel. Our Cuban series also had its own exhibition in Newcastle and two of our wedding/street images were finalists in the London Street Photography Festival.”

Pioneering this style has led to invitations to speak and share ideas all over the world. The Shaws have spoken at BodaF and Rural (both in Barcelona), Limitless in Bali, Keep It Real in Berlin, Doc Day in Dublin, Boring in Warsaw, run workshops in Oaxaca, Mexico, and contributed to numerous events in the UK including Nine Dots, Burn, X-Weddings and The Photography Show. They also have upcoming talks in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Belfast.

Ballet dancer from Whim W'him company in Seattle.
Volunteering her photo services to a local dance company paid off for photographer Kim Bamberg. © La Vie Photography

La Vie Photography
Photography for Seattle Contemporary Dance Company Whim W’him

When Seattle photographer Kim Bamberg of La Vie Photography volunteered her time to a local, contemporary dance company, Whim W’him, she never guessed how many long-term benefits her efforts would bring. 

[Read: Whitney Collins’ Succesful Transition to Dance Photography]

A fun project for Bamberg during her slow season, she says shooting for Whim W’him took her into a new art world and new world of connections. “It opened my eyes to a whole new way of photographing low-light and motion and made me act as an observer who could not direct or encourage the dancers the way I could with people at weddings. In addition to shooting the performances, I also worked with the donors and leaders of the company on a regular basis. Building those relationships led to several lucrative marketing shoots for leading international companies, including MPGSport, who wanted to replicate her Whim W’him style. The work enhanced her website portfolio and drew dozens of other clients from throughout the Pacific Northwest.

An image of woman at ballet barre for MPG SPORT ad as example of personal photo projects.
MPGSPORT asked Bamberg to replicate her Whim W’him style after seeing her personal photo projects. © La Vie Photography

It’s been several years since Bamberg has worked with Whim W’him directly and in the meantime she has photographed the wedding of founder and artistic director Olivier Wevers and his husband along with numerous weddings and events for the most famous families in the Seattle area. Bamberg says “The people I met are part of my community now, and they feel like extended family. They are even supporting my new gifting business, San Juan Gift Co.


1. Find a subject you are passionate about that will keep you interested from beginning to end. If you don’t finish your personal photo projects, you may spend a lot of time in the creative process without the result you are hoping for, so be sure the idea feels exciting enough to see it through.

2. Look for a noteworthy story you can use to pitch your project, whether it is rooted in current events or based on a unique technique and point of view. The more timely, compelling and different, the better chance you have of gaining recognition. 

3. Consider the plan and scope. How many photos will be in your collection? How long will you take to complete it? What contracts and people will you need to support you? What must you do to protect your copyright from the outset, and what will you do to market your project to the media?

4. Consider your approach to the subject. How will you capture your subjects and story in a different and distinctive way? Shooting with a vintage camera, creating dramatic staging or lighting, or focusing on the unscripted moment? Whatever you do, make your project look cohesive throughout with a consistent processing style.

5. Stay flexible and open to changes while remaining true to your vision. As you create your collection, you may find a story unfolding that was originally beyond your imagination. Or you may find a person who becomes your muse. It’s okay to respond in the moment; just stay focused on loving the process and making it work for you.

Interested in achieving success with your personal photo projects? Do you have a personal project that has helped you expand your horizons and catapult your career? Submit your story to We would love to hear from you!

Blair deLaubenfels is the owner and editor-in-chief at World’s Best Wedding Photos. With 20 years of experience in the online publishing, photography, and wedding industries, she is also a sought-after business and marketing consultant, writer, and public speaker. Well known for helping artists, photographers, and creative entrepreneurs of all kinds succeed, she specializes in brand building, SEO friendly copywriting, photo curation, customer service, and sustainable business planning.