I recently completed my first “365” project, where participants take a new photo every day for an entire year. My goal was simply to push myself to become a better photographer. I defined two rules for this undertaking. First, I had to pick up the camera and take a new photo every single day for the duration of the project. I was not allowed to “save up” extra photos for use on subsequent days. Second, I had to post the photos publicly, so everyone in the entire world could potentially see them. This provided motivation to “put my best foot forward”. I also had an optional third goal of posting photos on the same day they were taken. I knew this might not always be possible, but I came close to making it happen anyway.
My project started on August 24, 2011 and continued through August 22, 2012. Yes, because of the leap year, I probably should have undertaken a “366” project so my Type-A tendencies wouldn’t be so deeply offended by the “missing” photo on August 23rd. 🙂 The result was a collection of 365 published photos, thousands of unpublished attempts, new insight into my camera’s operation, and daily practice with post-processing software and techniques. Some of my results were disappointing. Others were quite satisfying. All in all, I found the experience to be a worthwhile, challenging, and extremely rewarding endeavor.
If you have ever thought about taking on your own Project 365, I strongly encourage you to do so. Nearly everyone who has taken the plunge has ended up pleased with the experience. Need some guidance and words of wisdom? Here is a short list of suggestions and personal observations. Take whatever you find valuable; ignore the rest. After all, it’s your personal project, and you can do with it as you please. There are no “laws” to follow… you get to define your own path.
Keep It Simple – Decide what you want to accomplish, put together a list of rules/principles for the project, and commit to a start date. No need to be overly complicated.
Engage Photographic Community – I can’t stress enough the motivation provided by a vibrant online community. Whether you use Facebook, Flickr, Google+, or other services, seek out and connect with people who are actively engaged with photography. I found a particularly engaged community on Google+, and recommend checking out the G+ 365 Project group for a great starting place.
Plan For Lack Of Motivation – If you’re anything like me, you will certainly have days where you don’t want to deal with taking a photo. Come up with a contingency plan to fall back on. For me, I always left the door open to take a quick snapshot of my big toe if I couldn’t come up with anything else. Sometimes there is value in just pushing through and getting to the next day.
Don’t Apologize – My internal voice always tells me to explain or justify what I perceive as “poor” work. Perhaps easier said than done, but try to avoid that trap if at all possible. It isn’t necessary. Some days will be better than others. It’s the same for all of us.
Keep On Keepin’ On – The value of taking on Project 365 isn’t necessarily realized in the resultant collection of photographs, but in the process itself. The experience will change the way you look at the world, and will undoubtedly increase your skill level. All of this by simply taking the journey.
If you choose to accept the challenge, I wish you well and look forward to seeing your work. Feel free to leave a link to your project in the comments below!