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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
• 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)
• Black and white
• Objects of appreciation
• One word, letter, or number for each day
• 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. Check out posts tagged with #365project on Instagram for more inspiration!
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.
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, #365project, 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.
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.
• 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).
• 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.
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.
All photographs used with permission by the photographers, who are all actual 365 project participants.