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Jumpstart Your Photography – Start a 365 Project

With the beginning of a new year, many people around the world take time to reflect on the past year and set goals or resolutions for the upcoming year.

McEnaney candle

It’s a good time to ask yourself; “What do I want out of my photography this year?” For most of us, the response might be to improve our skills, to be inspired, and to find more time and energy to pursue our passions. No matter what you want out of your photography, your path to accomplishing your goals will require dedicated time and effort.

If you are looking for a way to dramatically improve your photography this year, now is an excellent time to consider starting a 365 project.

What is a 365 Project?

There are many different 365 projects, but they all share one goal in common: taking at least one photograph every single day, for a full year. Many photographers take that idea one step further to including taking, and posting, at least one photograph a day for an entire year. Some people start 365 projects on January 1st, but you can begin one at any time.

McEnaney 365 2012

A 365 project is an important commitment that will make an immediate and lasting impact in your photography. While the idea of daily photography sounds deceptively simple, such a project will push and stretch you, and your photography.

There are many different online communities that support 365 projects including 365 Project, Capture Your 365, and many, many 365-themed groups on Flickr and Google+. Joining a community will help you in your 365 journey by providing encouragement and accountability. You will also find many ideas, challenges, themes, and examples for inspiration and motivation.

Why Do a 365 Project?

The most important part of a 365 project is the commitment to daily photography. If you truly want to improve your photography and push yourself, then you need to be using your camera, often! Accepting the challenge of using your camera everyday will help make photography a commitment and even a habit for you.

Using your camera every day will also open your eyes to the photographic possibilities that abound in your everyday life. I find myself noticing so much more now that I would have just passed by without comment before: the way the shadows on the wall change with the hours, or the tiny details of fallen pollen on the inside of a flower. Daily photography has made me keenly aware of the passing of the seasons and the small differences in each day.

McEnaney oak seasons

Daily photography will push you out of your comfort zone and force you to engage with other types and styles of photography. You may love shooting macro (close-up) shots of insects, but will now have to deal with rainy days and changing seasons. You may love shooting portraits of people but will need to find new ways and places for finding willing subjects. Whatever photography you ‘do’ now, you will find yourself in situations or late nights when you simply must find something to photograph. You may find that these more desperate times led to your most productive photographic ideas and images.

McEnaney abstract

Daily photography will also help you better plan your day or your time. I have found that waking up fifteen minutes earlier allows me to leave the house earlier in the morning, to spend those fifteen minutes taking a photography break along my commute. Watching the sun rise over one of the many lakes in town is an amazing joy and privilege, but it is a commitment I would never had made on my own, without 365.

Tackling a 365 Project

I highly encourage you to try a 365 project, as there is no better way to keep yourself taking pictures and making progress in your photography. While a 365 project is a huge commitment, there are some steps you can take to keep yourself (and your friends and family) sane and motivated along the way.

  • Plan for photography. Make a commitment to scheduling time for daily photography. Think about the subjects and situations you are attracted to, and plan for how to include those in your day. Maybe it is waking up 15 minutes earlier, or picking up your camera as soon as you get home in the evening, or taking a walk during your lunch break. Or it could be something more elaborate, like planning a photography outing to bucket list locations near or far.McEnaney heron
  • Plan for posting, viewing, and commenting. If you want to get the most out of your 365 project, then you will want to get involved in a photography community. Viewing photographs and leaving comments will keep you inspired, while receiving comments and feedback from others will help you improve and motivate you to keep going. I found early on that it was much easier for me if I was taking a photograph every day, but was posting and sharing yesterday’s photograph each day. That gave me a day in-between to look back and select the previous day’s picture as well as a chance to do any editing or post-processing.
  • Pick a theme or try a challenge. At some point (or, more likely, many points) during your project, you will find yourself in a slump. Pushing through the low points will teach you a great deal about commitment and motivation. Think about picking a theme for a week or a month or perhaps trying a challenge offered by other 365ers. Last year in February, I was part of a “Flash of Red February” challenge that involved taking black and white photographs for the entire month, except for a red photograph on the 14th for Valentine’s Day. This was a creative twist, and black and white was a great choice for a potentially dull winter month.McEnaney flashofred
  • Seek out balance. A 365 project is a large commitment and one that can occasionally be draining on your friends and family. Remember that taking a photograph a day does not mean you have to be taking a photograph every moment of the day. Your children, pets, spouses, and friends will thank you.

Interested in starting your own 365 project?

All you have to do is pick up your camera and get started. Think about joining a 365 photography community too, as the motivation and support along the way will be priceless. You can find my project at Archaeofrog.

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Katie McEnaney
Katie McEnaney

is an educator and photographer from Madison, Wisconsin. Read more tips on her blog, Boost Your Photography. Her first eBook, Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR, is now available for Kindle on Amazon.

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