365 Photo Challenge Tips

What is a 365 Photo Project?

I just finished my second 365 photo challenge a few weeks ago. Now having completed two 365 projects, I've learned A LOT about what it takes to complete one of these photography projects.

The concept sounds easy enough. Take one picture a day every day for one year. What's so hard about that? The first thing I learned about 365 photo challenges is that they are definitely not as easy as they sound. I have definitely learned that lesson. Twice!!

But... there's good news! With a little bit of planning and the right mindset about a 365 project, you can make it a reality. 

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My 365 Daily Photo Project Experience

Successfully completing my first 365 photo challenge resulted in tremendous growth in my work. I actually credit my first 365 project with helping me discover my photography style.

While I didn't see quite as much growth the second time around, I could not be happier that I took on this daily photo project again. I love having an entire year of our lives documented, and I particularly loved embarking on my second 365 project with a special group of women, photographers, and friends.

8 Tips to Rock Your Own 365 Photo Challenge

Since many photographers commit to 365 photo projects at the start of a new year, I thought this would be a good time to share some essential tips I learned from my own experience, so you can rock your own photo a day challenge!

Photo a Day Challenge

1. Don't Put Constraints On Your 365 Photo Project

It's a lot of work to commit to taking a photo every day for an entire year. It's even more work to commit to taking a photo a day for an entire year when you impose themes or restrict camera bodies or place similar restrictions on your shooting.

It's tempting to want a theme each week or to tell yourself that you can only shoot with your DSLR, but you are setting yourself up for failure by adding such constraints. Allow yourself to shoot what you want, when you want, and how you want for your 365, and you will be more likely to complete your project.

365 Photo Project

2. Be Kind to Yourself - Its OK If You Miss a Day Here and There

Life happens. Work gets in the way, kids get sick, vacations happen... lots of things can get in the way of us taking a photo on a given day. Be okay with that. Don't allow a missed day or a missed week to derail your entire project. Pick back up when you can, and keep shooting.

Remember that you're the only one who defines the success of your project... and perhaps success with a 365 project means shooting 340 out of 365 days to you. There are no "rules" to a 365. Be proud of yourself for attempting such a project no matter how many days you are able to complete.

365 Photography

3. Realize that Not Every Image You Take is Going to be Award-Winning

As I mentioned above, life happens. Sometimes we have long days or tough days or just plain non-inspiring days where the only photo we can manage to take is one of the alarm clock on our nightstand. That's okay. It would be completely unrealistic to expect that we could create amazing images every single day for 365 days straight.

I always like to remind myself of a great Ansel Adams quote whenever I take an image that is mediocre (or even less than mediocre) for my 365 project.  He said, "Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." That's an average of one significant image per month during a 365... and I can definitely live with that school of thought.

365 Day Photo Challenge

4. Take Your 365 Photos Early in the Day

When you see a moment you want to capture, seize that moment. You may end up taking a different photo later in the day that you like better for your project, but at least you will have something if that doesn't happen.

Oftentimes, we pass up moments that would make great images because we don't have time to grab our cameras or we think we will have more time later in the day... and then the day gets away from us, and we end up with nothing for that particular day.

So seize the moment as soon as you see something you want to document. You will thank yourself later when you realize that you never had a chance later in the day to pick up your camera again.

Project 360 Photography

5. Have a List of Prompts for Days When You Need Inspiration

You will have days where - even when you have great weather and a lot of time - you just don't feel inspired to pick up your camera. For days like those, having a list of ideas for your 365 project will come in handy.

Jot down ideas as they come to you. You may never actually execute those ideas, but they sure are helpful to have on days when nothing particularly special presents itself to you and/or when you are simply not feeling inspired creatively.

365 Day Challenge

6. Keep Your Camera Highly Accessible and Set to "Basic" Settings

You never know when a special moment for your 365 project is going to happen, so having your camera readily accessible is essential. I keep mine on the main floor of our house in a cabinet that's easy to access so I can just grab it and flip it on pretty quickly.

And as often as I can, I try to remember to put my settings where they generally fall when shooting inside my house so that my camera is ready to go when the kids do something "photo-worthy".

Daily Photo Challenge

7. Try to Find a Group to do Your 365 Project With

Having support and encouragement from other photographers who are working toward the same goal is priceless. I worked on my 365 project this year with a group of 14 other photographers. We have supported and encouraged each other in so many ways.

We talk primarily about photography, but true friendships develop along the way, and we end up talking about life, kids, work, and pretty much everything else under the sun. Not everyone in my 365 group completed the project, but I know that I wouldn't have been able to finish my own project without their love and friendship.

Year Photo Challenge

8. Have Fun!

Above all... enjoy your 365 project! When all is said and done, the main thing you want to remember about your 365 project when you look back on it is that it was a fun experience.

It's terrific to see growth in your work over the course of a year. It's awesome to have an entire year of your children and family documented. It's incredible to form bonds and true friendships with the people with whom you're completing your 365.

But the main goal is to enjoy yourself. So if you can look back on your project and say, "That was fun!," you will have truly succeeded, no matter how many pictures you took during the year.

How to do a 365 Project

Conclusion

I am sending positive photography vibes and encouragement to all of you who will be starting a new 365 photo challenge this year!

And I am also sending huge congratulations to those of you - like me - who recently completed their previous daily photo projects!

Whether you shot every single day of the year, missed a few days here and there, or missed entire weeks on end, you should be proud of yourself for giving it a shot and for giving yourself and your family such a special photo gift.

365 Day Photo Journal

Do you have any questions, comments or other tips about your own 365 Photo Challenge? Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And please share our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

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