by Guest Contributor Ashley Spaulding
Project 365 - Taking a Photo Each Day for a Year
I just completed my second 365 project a few weeks ago. Having two of them under my belt now, 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've learned about 365 projects is that they're definitely not as easy as they sound. I've 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. Making a 365 project my reality the first time around 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 as much growth the second time around, I could not be happier that I took the project on 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.
Since many photographers commit to 365 projects at the start of a new year, I thought this would be a good time to share some tips for completing your own 365.
1. Don't Put Constraints On Your 365 Project
It's a lot of work to commit to taking a photo a 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 to have a theme each week or to tell yourself that you can only shoot with your DSLR, but you're 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're more likely to complete your 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 your success with this 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 complete.
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's mediocre (or even less than mediocre) when I'm working on a 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.
4. Take Your 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'll 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'll 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'll thank yourself later when you realize that you never had a chance later in the day to pick up your camera again.
5. Have a List of Prompts for Days When You Need Inspiration
You'll 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 comes in handy. Jot down ideas as they come to you. You may never actually execute the ideas, but they sure are helpful to have on days when nothing particularly special presents itself to you and/or when you're simply not feeling inspired creatively.
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.'
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.
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 if you see growth in your work over the course of the year. It's awesome to have an entire year of your 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've truly succeeded, no matter how many pictures you took during the year.
I'm sending positive photography vibes and encouragement to those of you involved in 365 projects this year! And I'm sending huge congratulations to those of you - like me - who recently completed their projects! Whether you shot all 365 days this year, missed a few days here and there, or missed entire weeks on end, you should be proud of yourself for giving it a go and for giving yourself and your family such a special photo gift.
Do you have any questions, comments or other tips about your own Project 365? 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)!
Ashley lives in the Kansas City metro area with her husband and two children. She splits her professional time among her photography business, teaching photography, and writing grants at an academic medical center. In her free time she can be found hanging out with her family and likely enjoying either a glass of red wine or an ice cold beer.