1 Easy Way to Guarantee Your Photography Will Improve

1 Easy Way to Guarantee Your Photography Will Improve

How do you make every day count as a photographer? How do you make every day count for yourself? There is 1 major project that thousands of people start every January 1st that improves their lives and it has nothing to do with going to the gym.

©George-the-past-tends-to-disappear

Day 319 by George.

Photo-a-Day, or 365 Projects, is the secret to success for many photographers of every level. They are fun, challenging, sometimes mundane, sometimes exhilarating, and always a great teacher. Why do people commit to taking a photograph every day for a year – rain or shine, sickness or heath, inspired or not? I will explain the main reasons why Photo-a-Day goals are healthy, what you can do with the results, and how to get started.

©Mackenzie Baker

Day 66 by Mackenzie Baker.

3 Reasons to Start Taking 1 Photo Every Day: Presence, Practice, and Purpose

Your only requirement for starting a Photo-a-Day project is the desire to participate. There are 3 main reasons photographers make this commitment: Presence, Practice, and Purpose. Let’s look at each one in detail.

Presence

In art and in life we’re thinking about the next big thing. A Photo-a-Day goal makes you think about right now. Looking for something meaningful, interesting, or even funny to photograph every single day helps to slow down time.

©Frank Schalkowski

Day 245 by Frank Schalkowski.

Mindfulness gives you heightened awareness of your surroundings and you start seeing the photogenic in everything. Over time, your eye gets better and more discerning which allows you to walk away from every situation with more winning shots than duds. Your everyday environment may look very different to you at the end of the year than it does today.

©Angie Richelle

Day 19 by Angie Richelle.

Practice

The daily discipline a project like this requires is going to be a building block for future success. Whether your aim is to take better pictures of your children or to launch a business in your name, you need the discipline to shoot even when you don’t want to and strive for excellence even when you’re uninspired. It also teaches you to accept bad days constructively.

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Day 10 by Foto Flower.

Learning acceptance through error is one of the best features of a Photo-a-Day project. The hard stuff can always be postponed but not if you’ve put yourself on the hook for 1 shot every day. You are forced to face your dragons. Some photographers like to stick to certain themes as an added challenge. Here are some ideas to get you started:

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Day 205 by LaShina M.

• Self portraits as a different character
• Still life scenes of mundane things
• Creative cropping
• Weekly themes with micro-goals (new lighting position every 7 days, new Photoshop trick, testing the limits of your camera settings, etc)

©***Karen

Day 16 by ***Karen.

• Black and white
• Objects of appreciation

©Libby Livermore

Day 69 by Libby Livermore. Also on Flickr.

• Texture
• One word, letter, or number for each day
• Mood

©Mouton Rebelle

Day 25 by Mouton Rebelle.

• Skies
• Humor
• Shoot with a new lens every month (we, of course, recommend renting)

There are lists online you can refer to if you ever need to be pointed in the right direction on any given day. You can find a members-curated list in this Flickr 365 group.

©Xavier J Peg

Day 86 by Xavier J Peg.

Purpose

Keeping up with your new 365 day goal is easier when you join others who are doing the same thing. 365Project, Project 365, Capture Your 365, and many more host communities to support daily photo activities. Participating in a shared tradition of daily observation is a gift to yourself and your peers.

©Steven Shepherd

Day 318 by Steven Shepherd.

Sharing is not required, however. You can keep your photos to yourself in private blogs to print and scrapbook later or to completely discard like a sand painting. Your photo-a-day might be shared only on Instagram, where there are tons of #365 and #POTD participants, or on sites like blipphoto, which only lets you upload 1 photo for every calendar day. Search for 365 project apps to get reminders on your phone. If you’re the type to get in early to a group, 500px has new 365 project groups that need more members right now!

©Kristine Laine

Day 81 by Kristine Laine.

Things You’ll Learn About Yourself 

Here is a short list of things you might expect to learn about yourself at the end of your year-long journey:

• Some subjects interest you more than others! Take note of your favorite images even if they aren’t your most popular. Your photos are trying to tell you something.

©Joshua Vittitow

Day 88 by Joshua Vittitow.

• You have weaknesses. Observe them. Perhaps you find that studio lighting is far more difficult than you imagined or you have consecutive days where you missed a fleeting moment because you didn’t focus fast enough. These are areas to home in on.

• Criticism – friend or foe? If you’re opting to join a 365 community you will learn how to accept critique and temper praise. These experiences will help you decide where to take your photography and how to present it (most groups are exceptionally supportive and only critique when you request it).

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Day 141 by George Redgrave.

• Some people shoot with the same camera and lens every day – it is part of their discipline for the year. Others like to shoot with as many different pieces of gear as possible to find out what they should invest in at year’s end. Both are a benefit. Opting for the former allows you to master your tools while the latter gives you more general gear knowledge.

©Emmanuel Orain

Day 300 by Emmanuel Orain.

See how easily your photography will improve over time with this structured project that allows you to still make your own rules. You’ll break bad habits and foster good ones. Better yet, you don’t have to start on January 1st! You can pick up a Photo-a-Day personal challenge year-round! If you’re a veteran Photo-a-Day participant, share your tips, lists, and resources in the comments below. Before you go, visit these pages for more info:

A Beginner’s Guide to Project 365
11 Tips to Succeed with a Photo365 Project
Staying Inspired as a Photographer
The Four Best Places to Post Photo Essays


All photographs used with permission by the photographers, who are all actual 365 project participants. 

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Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. She is a Marketing Coordinator for BorrowLenses.com and also writes for SmugMug. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Previously, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

9 Comments

  1. Momentile is no longer accepting new accounts 🙁

    Reply
    • Good to know – I may omit them from this post then. That’s too bad.

      Reply
  2. Thank you so much for featuring my day 10 photo on this blog. It means a lot coming from Borrow Lenses.

    I am a beginner to 365 photo projects. I started mine on Labor Day 2014 so I’ve got a ways to go before my year is finished. My advice that I’ve seen so far is that life can get busy and/or you may just lose inspiration. Keep shooting regardless even if you don’t think your photos are good. Every photo makes your eye more keen to your style of shooting and allows you to open your eyes and mind to the world around you. And like the article states, you will see a difference in your photos as your project continues.

    Reply
  3. This is all about practice. Like a musical instrument, once you master the mechanics, you actually become free of them, and then you can play what you hear, you can capture what you see.

    Reply
  4. I started mine on November 7th – my 58th birthday. I am combining a shot a day, as well as a post a day on my blog – http://wp.me/PCnCs-2. I’ve seen all the benefits you mention, as well as some more. Funny thing is what I think are good shots tend to get little or no reaction, while some of those images I take that are last minute fillers, or less than spectacular, end up getting lots of kudos. Hard to know what people want.

    I’ve missed a couple days but haven’t dwelt on it. The discipline was what I was looking for, and this enforces it. Dylan Thomas wrote poetry 4 hours every day. I can spend 45 minutes shooting, processing, writing, editing and posting to get better at both crafts.

    Reply
    • Took a look at your blog and it looks great! You’ll be so glad you did this later on because not only is it a skill (and discipline) challenge but also serves as a really handy diary (a little more creative than the average diary). Bravo!

      Reply
  5. Love the idea. I think I will start it June 1st (Jan 1 being in the past). Thanks for sharing this wonderful concept.

    Reply

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