365 photo projects are tough. Here are some tips to make them easier and better your chances for success
I am starting a 365 project in 2018. It isn't my first, but it's been many years since I've done one. I created a small group on Facebook, and limited it to a few people to keep it manageable, but if you are looking to start a similar project, groups are easy to find on places like Flickr. This is a letter that I wrote to our new group about how to have a successful 365 project. Some of it is very specific to that group, but you may find some value in it too:
"Always carry a camera. The best camera in the world is the one you have with you"
365 projects are tough. Several of us have done them before, and that is where I met a few of you. Life is tough. It has a funny habit of getting in the way. And a year is a long time to sustain anything, let alone something that may seem as trivial as a photo a day. But here is the funny thing. We are starting off as a group. and the emphasis behind this group is personal growth, constructive criticism, unabashed enthusiasm and kindness. I am fully invested in nurturing that with this group. And as far as a photo a day being trivial? To some of us, an image a day is our lifeblood, the air we breath. We would no sooner leave the house without an image maker of some sort as we would not wearing clothes. Most of us are already doing it, whether we share it or not. I am so excited about the opportunity and potential this group has. Already it is filled with close, dear friends that have little to no experience with a camera, armed only with their cell phones and a desire to share and learn, all the way to living, breathing, working pro photographers. DO NOT let the experience level of the others in this group scare or intimidate you. These are some of the finest, most caring individuals I know. They love nothing more than to share their passion, their knowledge, and their love of the process with you. That’s why I’m here. To learn. To share. To teach. And to get to know more about each of you in a slightly more intimate setting than my Facebook feed. I have missed surrounding myself with like minded people sharing their passion for photography. It really helps kick start my creativity, and I think you will find the same. Whether we call ourselves photographers or not, we all share that interest, and most likely we are the documentarians of our lives, or for our families. Horrible shit happens in life. Spouses get sick. Family members pass away. Divorce. A disease strikes a family member. When my son was diagnosed with diabetes, I documented the whole thing. It is how I cope. It helps me heal. It maintains some semblance of normalcy. And those images are powerful to me. I have used them to advocate for years. They may have even saved a life or 2. And I won’t name her, but she is a member in this group. She had a dear family member that was hospice and she posted the most beautiful black and white images of her last few days with them. They were so moving, so tender, I have tears right now just remembering seeing them. We are here. To hold your hand. To offer support. To offer love and hugs and to let you know you have a group that cares, that understands. My vision for this group is simple. Post an image a day. While some groups will insist it be taken that day, we will hold to a 36 hour rule. You know, just in case you already shared your image of the sunrise, and then later that day your baby took it’s first steps. We need to see that! So 1 image a day, every day, taken within 36 hours of posting. No nudity. Budoir and implies are great and allowed, but no nudity. You can post an image taken by any type of camera you have. Cell phone, drone, GoPro, film, DSLR, etc. Many of us shoot more than 1 format. Posting limits: Please keep it to 1 image post a day. But I will allow follow up images to be posted in the comments. So post your image, and then if there are follow up images you want to post, or behind the scenes stuff, or funny outtakes, etc, please feel free to post away in the comments. We want to make sure we get to see everyones daily posts. With that said, if you have a question about anything photography related, feel free to post away. Someone here will have an answer. Looking for a new lens? Ask. Want to know how to photograph long exposures at night? Ask. Need posing advice for a family of 12? Ask. Heading of to Yosemite and want to know where the best place to shoot El Capitan is? Ask. Struggling with shooting black dogs? I’m sorry, that info is copyrighted...
Always carry a camera (from here on out, camera refers to whatever you have to take pictures with). The best camera in the world is the one you have with you
Keep your eyes open. You will learn quickly that one of the amazing things that happens in a 365 project is your heightened awareness of your surroundings and improved ability to see.
In the beginning, shoot everything to make sure you have an image. As you start to get into a rhythm, you can get more selective.
Somedays you will post a beautiful image of a sunrise in Rockport. Other days it will be an image of the half eaten toast you had for breakfast. Kinda like life.
I highly suggest not only posting your image here, but also creating a folder on your hard drive and naming your images with some kind of daily numbering convention like 1-365, 2-365, etc. At the end of the year you will have this amazing window into a year in your life. And as we get close to the end, we can talk about places that will print out books for you.
Don’t let the day get away from you. Don’t miss an opportunity thinking something better will happen later, or that you only have your phone with you. Take the shot. And then, if something better presents itself in ideal conditions, with the right light, while you have the proper lens mounted to your 85mp beast, with the proper settings already dialed in, and no cigarette butts in the foreground with and no McDonalds bags in the background, not a power line or pole on the horizon, and that unicorn looks you straight in the lens just as the mist settles at golden hour... well, just always take the shot.
If you need guidelines to help you, set them up! Things like: Monday - landscape, Tuesday - family, Wednesday - culinary, Thursday - work, etc. Or shoot something blue every day this week, red every day next week etc.
Follow the light. Learn to see it streaming through a window, or the subtle light of an overcast day. Some people love bright sunny days. Others love an overcast morning. Embrace what your given and learn to work around whatever compromises you have. Embrace the rain and the sun.
Take risks. Don’t just shoot a black dog every day because you think it’s the only thing your good at. Break out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Meet up with friends to go shoot. Limit yourself to only a 35mm lens for a day. Get a cat. Understand that dogs come in all colors, shapes, and sizes (this one may just be directed at me:) )
Plan ahead and write things down. Planning a day at the amusement park? Remind yourself to bring a camera. Have 3 hours free on Sunday? Head out to a farmers market. Create opportunities and plans to capture images.
Add notes and info to your images. This will help you learn what worked and what didn't, and if you are looking for critique, it is a great way for us to know what settings were used so we can take helpful suggestions for the next opportunity.
Have fun. Enjoy the process. Interact with the group.
And most important, to get into a rhythm, start today! The group will start off on 1/1/18, but you can start taking a picture a day right now. By the time 1/1 rolls around, you will already be in the habit of taking an image a day, carrying your camera with you, etc.