I love this time of the year. Seeing all the new ideas for projects, the excitement everyone has to jump in! One of my favorite projects has always been the "365" - taking one photo everyday for a full year. I know it can sound daunting. I know many people who are too scared to even start the project or people who say they keep trying to start one but fizzle a few months or sometimes even just a few weeks into it.
If either of these sound like you, read on! I have tricks and tips to help you succeed in this project 365!
As I write this I am officially on day one of my fourth project 365. It wasn't even a question if I was going to continue the project from last year, it's just become what I do now. But it wasn't always so easy. I crashed and burned just a few months into my first attempt at a 365. I was overwhelmed, unorganized, and uninspired. But instead of throwing my hands up at the loss I reflected on the project: Why did I want to start and complete a project 365? Why didn't it work for me? What was different those first few weeks that kept me on track, what changed?
Here is what I learned and helped me press on full steam ahead into success with this project. I'm confident you can complete a project 365 too! (and you might be a little surprised by what I'm going to tell you.)
1) Identify your why: Why do you want to complete a project 365? There is no wrong answer. I also find there is also usually more than one reason. For me I wanted to make sure I documented the little moments of our lives as much as the big ones. I also wanted something that would push me creatively and to better my skills. Shooting everyday you are going to have to get creative about lighting, you will have to find new ways to document the things that happen almost every day.
When you know your why you can revisit that driving force when you are feeling overwhelmed and uninspired. When that happens allow yourself the time to think about what your why means to you, how you felt at the beginning. Don't just think about it as a to-do, think back and remember your excitement, revisit your why and let it guide your camera.
2) Make a list: If your days are anything like mine, many days can look the same. The routine of getting kids ready for school, homework, baths, bedtime. Maybe throw in the grocery store and that's that. Yes, there are times when we go for beautiful hikes, fun trips, there are birthdays, and trips to the park. But when you are shooting everyday it can feel like you are capturing the same thing again and again.
So make a list of all the big and especially little things you want to capture. Are there new techniques you want to try? Panning, double exposure, free lensing? Write those down.
Mine would start to look something like this (but much longer): Doing their hair (My younger boys are suddenly really into doing their hair, adding cologne, the whole nine yards getting ready.) Camp outs in the living room. Painting and art at the kitchen table. Playing guitar. Snuggling with dad. Making breakfast. Helping with chores. Playing headbandz. I love simple, classic, individual portraits. Even though they are seemingly simple, they always ignite my passion even more. I really want to experiment more with capturing the night time sky. I need to get more self portraits with boys.
Also think about the places you go together. Think about taking your camera with you to the grocery store, the dentist, when you drop or pick your kids up from school. It can feel uncomfortable at first, but I have never been somewhere in public that anyone actually minded. Most people understand. Taking your camera with you will really help you feel like you are achieving more variety in your daily shots. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will feel.
It's okay if you shoot the same thing a few times, or even many times. I don't know how many bath shots I have over the years, how many brushing teeth, how many snuggling and watching their favorite show. If I know I've shot it before I think about how I can make my original shot better. Maybe I can be more mindful about the light or composition. Or I think about how I can tell this same story another way. This is where you push yourself and how you learn in this project.
Add to this list as you go. If there is something sweet or fun that happens and you miss it, or maybe the light is terrible but you know it's something that will come again, add it to your list and come back to it.
An amazing birthday cake/candle photo has been on my list from my first project. As birthdays would get closer I would brainstorm idea of the kinds of shots I could get. Birthdays would come and go, I would get a photo that was okay but just not quite it. So the next birthday I would try something new, how else could I capture today that pushes me creatively? How can I take this moment that happens every year and make it art? Then last year I got the shot that made my artist heart and my mama heart high five each other! It didn't happen out of luck. It happened because I had other experiences of trial and error, it happened because I had shot birthdays moments the same way that I knew this had to be different if I wanted a different outcome. It happened because I was pushing myself. It happened because as I make my list or when I revisit my list I will visualize the potential shots. The creative process has started well before I picked up my camera for the day. I don't just do this for big moments like birthdays; I do this for teeth brushing, breathing treatments, and everything in between.
3) Get organized: Part of the reason my first 365 failed was because I was not prepared or organized. I figured as long as I was taking a photo every day I could come back to them and put them together for the project. That thought was okay for a few day or maybe even a month. But when one month turned into two, turned into three and it was completely overwhelming to even start.
I edit in Lightroom so I make use of the star rating system to mark the photos I think I may like to use for the project. I give '1 star' to the photos I know I want to keep and '2 star' to those that really excite me. I don't get to edit everyday so this helps me manage my time. I used to feel like I had to edit everything I shot and liked; that I could only pick my photos after I saw everything edited. Completely overwhelming. By narrowing down the photos I want to use for my project I can edit those photos first to stay on top of my project first, and then circle back around to any others. Export your 365 photos into their own folder so they are all together and you can see your project coming together as you add more. I love to take it a step further and make monthly collages to see what my month looked like. Then at the end of the year I always look forward to a large 365 collage and a video slide show set to music. I really think the excitement of seeing that end product is a big motivator for me. Sometimes when I am really on top of it I will make weekly collages and blog about my week. No matter how or when you choose to do it, take the time to see and appreciate your project coming together. It's like a little pat on the back to keep up the good work.
4) Be realistic, every day won't be epic: There is this unsaid, unrealistic expectation that we put on ourselves that we have to create this epic, show stopping magic every.single, day. It just doesn't happen.
(and ps: social media doesn't get to decide what is amazing and what isn't )
Sure, there are a few of my daily photos that truly do take my breath away, they are some of my best work creatively. I am not the same after I create them, they open a new door to me. I follow these moments and see where they take me. I know I am a better photographer because of this project. I know there are shots I never would have taken if I wasn't working to complete this project. That's the beauty of this project, it can spark something in you at any moment. But with that said, then there are also a few photos that I cringe at my choices, it's not my best work as a photographer, I would never add them in my portfolio. But I can still see why that was my photo of the day and what it meant to me so I keep it. I learn from those. What could I have done better. If I take a shot like that again what am I going to do differently. Then there is everything else in between; the photos that are how I see beauty in our everyday.
Now when I say every day won't be epic, don't get me wrong, always push yourself, hold your standards high, that's how you will grow. But also don't beat yourself up about the days that are just good, or maybe even not so good. I learn as much from my failures as I do my success. Be open to new ideas, be bold, and you'll find those days when you create something that forever changes how you shoot.
okay...are you ready for this next one? It's the one that changed everything for me.
5) Make your own rules! This is YOUR project 365, no one else's.
When I started my first project 365 (that ultimately failed) I went in with hard, rigid rules that I had to shoot every day. Yes I know you are saying "ummm, isn't that the point of a 365 Kelly?? Where are you going with this??"...stay with me.
When I looked at my why's for starting a project it was to beautifully and creatively document our days, it was not to take a photo of a flower or my coffee just because I needed a photo that day to check a box.
I pick up my camera almost every day, almost. Truth bomb - I don't shoot every day. I miss days sometimes. I'll say that again. I miss taking my photo of the day some days. But that does not derail me. Because you know what, sometimes I shoot in the morning because my guys and I went to get donuts, and then later I shoot again because I was compelled to pick up my camera while they were riding bikes, and then maybe again that night because we decided to do a glow stick bath. I might want to use one, two, or even all three of those moments in my month. Because those moments are my driving force, not a checkbox that each photo came from a different day.
A great example of this came this year, my younger boys had winter concerts that where at different times, one in the afternoon at school and the other later that evening in a bigger venue. I wasn't going to pick a photo of one concert and not the other; both were meaningful and moments I want to remember. So that means that even if I did pick up my camera every single day that month, a different day was getting the boot to make room. Moments guide my 365 not rigid rules.
Yes, it is wildly important to pick up your camera a ton while doing this project. Shooting as much as you need to for a 365 is a catalyst for change and growth. Only by picking up your camera habitually will you will hone your skills, perfect new techniques, or learn to push through being uninspired or what I call a "funk". So pick up your camera!
But please know that missing one or two days does not mean you necessarily failed. If I find that if my day or two is turning into a streak I pick up my camera right then and go look for one of my moments from my list. I also found that by giving myself a little grace when I need it, that panicky, pressure that makes this project seem like work will dissipate so I can find my joy in this project again which then fuels my motivation for wanting to pick up my camera daily.
I'd love to know how your project 365 is going. I'd love to know what your favorite tip is, or what has kept your 365 going. I'd also love to be a resource if you need help.
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Like I said I love seeing my project come together, so I am going to offer 25% off any collage set or collection in the shop with code: MYYEAR ...it's a beautiful and motivating thing to watch your efforts come together each week and each month. Find them here
Use #kellyjacobiphoto365 to share your collages, ask any 365 questions you may still have, or tell me what your biggest 365 hurdle or favorite 365 tip is! I'm here to help and want to see you succeed in your project 365!
Good Luck ~ I know you can do it!!!