How One Photographer Dramatically Changed Her Photography with a Photography Project 365
I picked up my first DSLR camera in December of 2015. I knew basically nothing about photography and began to scour the internet for tutorials and tips. Over the next 5 months, I read every photography education blog and tutorial I could get my hands on. Over and over, the same theme kept coming up: if you want to improve, you have to PRACTICE. Multiple blogs and tutorials recommended committing to a photography project. There are several types of photography projects. The most common are a Project 365 and a Project 52, which involve taking a photograph per day (for the 365) or per week (for the 52) for an entire year. Some more advanced versions of the project might involve a specific subject matter or photography type, such as black and white photography or documentary type photography. One blogger wrote that she did a project 365 early on in her photography career that was so transformative in her work that she now does one every third year and that even after many years and many 365’s, she still sees dramatic improvement every time she completes one. I was so intrigued by this concept that I decided to give it a try. Because I was a beginner, I didn’t attach a lot of rules to my Project 365. The only rule was to shoot every day. If I was already shooting something that day, I counted it toward my 365. If I wasn’t already shooting something that day, I just picked up my camera and snapped a photo.
Here’s a shot from Day 1: April 30th, 2016
Perfection is Not the Goal
First let me say, I wasn’t perfect. I missed a handful of days. There were a few days during the year where I’d contracted some daycare crud from my daughter and just couldn’t be convinced to drag my tail out of bed to shoot a thing. There was at least one day where I straight up forgot. But that’s ok. The point of the project is not to be perfect. The point of the project is to get better. So even when I messed up, I kept going. And on the very vast majority of days (I think 357 total), I managed to get my shot. Some days I struggled with what to shoot. Some days I snapped something I knew was awful just to say I got it done. A lot of the photos never even got edited. But most days I managed to capture a moment in my life. I took pictures of my daughter jumping on the couch. I took pictures of my cat. I took pictures of my dishes. A tree in the park. A butterfly at the zoo. A duck staring at me down in the middle of the sidewalk. My kids dog-piling on their dad.
What I Learned
I learned to keep my camera close at hand. When I was in my house I kept it somewhere I could easily reach it. Lens cap off, turned on (it goes to sleep when not in use, so I didn’t worry about the battery. I worried about moving quickly enough to catch a moment). I always took it with me when I left the house. I learned to keep a watchful eye. I watched where my children most often played and I learned to dump our clutter in other areas so I could make photos without a lot of distracting elements. I learned where the light fell in my house at different times of the day. I learned to stay off my phone more and be present in the lives of my kids, so that I would be there to catch them with my camera when they did something adorable. I learned to notice the lines and the colors around me as we went about our lives. If we went to the library, I photographed it. If we went on vacation, I documented it. If the light was pretty, I documented it. This photo of my dishes was inspired by the morning light through my dining room window and a photo challenge I happened to be doing that day with a theme of “round”. It also served as my P365 for the day.
How I Grew
One of the greatest benefits of the Project 365 for me was that as I was learning and studying about different techniques, I could immediately practice them in my project 365. I could pair practice with my education in an organic, ongoing way. I began to be able to focus on multiple photographic elements at once. I began to get faster with my settings. These things became second nature. Eventually my composition, lighting, and editing improved. I always had photos to showcase on my social media pages, which drew in interaction and inquiries. Some of those inquiries turned into client work and between more regular client shoots and all the new techniques I was able to apply to those shoots due to my Project 365, my client work improved too. I was more in demand, and able to raise my prices.
This is not to say that a Project 365 is a cake walk. It took what felt like a long time to see improvement in my work. It took commitment and time and energy and planning. None of these skills come naturally to me. But now, at the end of the year, when I compare that first photo to the one I took on April 30, 2017, I see tremendous improvement. I have documented our year and will be making photo albums for the grandparents for Christmas. I’m really proud of what I’ve learned and how my photography has grown, but I’m also proud of myself for making a commitment and sticking to it. And I know that before long, I will be doing another Project 365, because there is still so very much to learn.
Last Day: April 30, 2o17