Completing a Project 365

Committing to a Project 365 can sometimes be a bit cumbersome. If you're like most people, it simply is cumbersome. Committing to taking a single image a day doesn't sound like much, but once you start going, you realize the commitment. Needing your camera to come with you almost every where. Taking the time to upload and edit. Often, you take many more than a single image and then feel compelled to edit all that you've taken. Sometimes you just don't want to take your camera with you and realize you missed the magical moments. Sometimes you end up with a dud of a picture and you're hard on yourself for not creating a jaw dropping shot. Sometimes, you put off editing and then you realize you have 2 weeks worth of pictures and didn't even touch your camera for 3 of the days in those two weeks. 

And then, December 31st rolls around and you beam with pride. Seeing all of the images put together as a whole has to be one of the most rewarding and most gratifying moments for any photographer. Truly. 

This has been my third attempt and success at doing a Project 365. Yup. I have never.quit. a 365. Ever. When I choose to do one. I'm doing it and I'm going all in. But it ain't easy. I want to quit at least every quarter and usually a few times in between. Here are my tips to completing your Project 365, intermingled with some of my favorite shots from my own. 

1. Know Your "Why" and Remember It. 

Why are you choosing to do this photography project? Are you wanting to document your children more? Remember this when you fizzle out. Do this for them. Are you wanting to work on your photography skills? Remember this when you get bored in March. There is never an end to learning and always something new to acquire. Look at your first image and then your 90th. Let me know if you've seen a difference. You will, so keep going. Imagine the difference between 1 and 365. 

When you commit to this project, remember why you're doing it. Write it down, even, so you can return to this "why" when you have moments of wanting to give up. Or so you can see your "why" when you unknowingly missed 5 days. 

2. Make Up Your Own Rules 

Friends, who seriously only colors in the lines? You know what I say about these projects? They're YOUR projects. It's art and it's all very personal; it's like a written journal in pictures. You can go to a blog and follow a list of rules of how to complete it because you know what will happen? You won't.  

Do you need to skip a day or two because you were too sick or had camera problems? Do you want to change your why? Do you want to start your project in May? Do you want to edit and post once a week or once a month or once a day? Find what works for you, know it's okay to change things as you go and just do it. This is YOUR project.

3. Use Themes

When I did my first Project 365 before having kids, I needed themes so I could think of something to shoot every day! I had Macro Mondays and Farm Fridays. Living in the country with a commute passing farm after farm, I got to stop and document so many gorgeous properties across the two counties I traveled. Macro Monday was a fun genre for me, taking me away from my natural lifestyle/documentary approach to shooting. I also tried to add in a self portrait here and there. Many people use "Me Monday". 

Finding daily themes online is very easy. Googling "daily photo prompts" will give you a ton of ideas and prompts for the day. Things from handwriting, high key, low key, shadows, up high, down low, what you wore that day, etc. It takes the guessing work out of it all. 

4. Put a Project Inside the Project

Another way to stay inspired is to have little projects within this big one. Here is a list from my wonderful mentor, Courtney Rust.

  • My Brood 
  • 30 ways 30 Days
  • 30 Days of Macro
  • 30 Mornings
  • 30 days of light
  • Composition Challenge
  • Light Study
  • On the hour
  • Day in the life
  • My Saturday Morning
  • Things we eat
  • The place we live
  • Pieces of Me
  • Favorite places
  • Storytelling Essays

Think of what inspires you. Are you always admiring the trees, the sunset, street watching, dogs, the front doors around your town? Photograph those things! Make a project out of it. 

5. Let Go of Being Perfect

Don't try and make every single picture perfect. You'll fail. Nothing is perfect. Having 365 days of perfect pictures is the most unattainable goal I can imagine in this project. Don't do this to yourself. 

The biggest advice I can give in this area is to shoot from your heart. Even if you're shooting to practice and grow in the skill of photography and even if you're goal in a particular shot is composition, don't allow your head to take 100% control of that picture. Let your heart in a little. Feel it. Shoot with it. It's amazing what it will come up with if you look and shoot with your heart in the lead. And you know what? Your Project 365 isn't being graded. It's not being submitted for pro. It's a project for you. So if you flop on composition or exposure or you edit some wonky tones or break a ton of rules, it won't matter if you shot with your heart. It'll still be a gorgeous image because you will feel from it, and so will your viewers. 

6. Have a Work Flow that Works for You

This is so important. Think of your computer and workflow as your desk and filing cabinet. You need an order that works for you and work in a clean space. Remember, every single photographer works differently from the other. Some may be similar, but no photographer's workflow should be your workflow. Take what works for you, and make it your own. Or don't! Maybe you found a photographer that has a workflow that is exactly what you need and works perfectly. Then do it! My point is, is that if you try and implement a workflow that isn't yours and it doesn't work, don't let it go, find what works, find what doesn't and then make it work. Having organization will make it SO much easier to complete this project. You won't need to do it every day, or if you miss a day it'll be okay. Here's my workflow. 

1. I use a CF card specifically for personal pictures, fill it and won't erase it until I've bacedk my stuff up on my computer, cloud and external. 

2. After I've shot for the day I upload it to the computer even if I don't shoot. Here's what my folders look like:

2018 --> 01_January --> 01.03 (all RAWs go in here)

3. After I edit my pictures, I export both a high res and low res into different folders. I have a 365 folder and a seasonal folder. Here's how they're organized

2018 --> 365 --> 003-print.jpg (and) 003-web.jpg *I edit in LR. High res is exported 2912 on the short edge and low res is exported 1080 on the long edge and I sharpen for screen

2018 --> 01-Winter-2017 --> Winter-1.jpg, Winter-2.jpg, Winter-3.jpg, etc. * I only export high res for these extra pictures because I don't share a ton online and what I do put on social media, the HR uploads fine. 

4. After I have edited and exported the images out of LR, I will then move the RAWs off of my computer to keep room. I try and do this monthly

So, even if I can't edit every day, I have everything put in their folders, know what I shot when and can then export easily and also keep them organized. There have been times (like, September, October, and November) that I edited once a month because it was just too much to do it every day or even every week. 

7. Get Social

Doing this project with outside support and cheerleading will make all the difference and keep you accountable. The first year I did a 365, I connected with a group of other 365ers through Click it Up a Notch. This is a wonderful forum for new photographers. There are a ton of groups on Facebook and I'm sure IG, too! Go google them and find them. And when you join, be sure you get involved, even if it's scary. If you don't post or share, you will be a lurker who can easily duck out and not be accountable. BUT, please be sure it's a supportive group that gives you love and encouragement. If you have this from a forum or group, go find one. This is so important. Make sure you have a full bucket! Also, share on your personal social media accounts. Your friends and followers will adore watching you grow and the stories you share through your pictures. 

8. Don't Compare

You guys, I know this is a hard one. It's almost impossible to not compare yourself to another artist, but please don't. You are who you are, we all have different talents. Some days we will produce stunning images and some days they won't be as remarkable. Some days you'll really see the growth and some days you won't. Please, please remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Every photographer has started somewhere. And you know what else? NONE of us share the 5348 bloopers it took to get that one really awesome shot. The expert of something was an amateur at some point. Don't ever forget that. We all have a different path and a different journey. Look at others' work as inspiration and beauty. The minute you start to feel down on yourself or start comparing what you're looking at to what you're producing, close out your browser for a bit. Trust me on this. 

9. Your Camera Was Built to Go Places. Take it. 

These cameras are big hunks of steel. They are meant to go places. Live a little. Get a camera bag you love. There are so many styles. Diaper bag, back packs, etc. Yellow, pink, brown. Just go get one you love. (Seriously, go do it. I give you permission). And then go grab that bag every time you leave the house. Leave the camera out when you're home; always be ready. And when you're in public? Live a little here, too. Don't be scared to crouch down in the middle of a grocery store aisle, pull over on the side of the road or take your camera out in some drizzle or snow. It's exhilarating and it'll be worth it. And it's even more worth it if your gear is insured ;). Be sure you do this.  

10. Be Prepared to Grow

If you shoot every day, you're gonna grow. That's all there is to it. You can't possibly shoot for 365 days straight (or nearly that many days in a row because it's totally okay if you miss days) and not grow as a photographer. You will see growth somewhere; maybe your raw talent, maybe your style or niche will be refined, your editing style, etc. There's going to be growth, so hold on tight and enjoy the ride. 

For me, completing my project this year was worth every single minute. It was hard during some times, especially (especially) during my busy season, but I stuck with it. In these images, I see two beautiful children who have grown tremendously over a year. I see a husband who is my constant companion and supporter. And I see a woman who is as strong as a bull. Period. Honestly? I'm not sure how I could see this without this project. Without seeing this life through my own eyes in the most concrete, beautiful way I could imagine. 

Know that if you choose to do this project, you absolutely won't be disappointed. And if you give up, it's okay. There's always next year. Or next week. Or today. 

Good Luck!