During my first 365, I constantly wanted to experiment. My summer was full of free time, and I happened to work at a bookstore, which isn’t the most fast-paced job in the summer. I had a lot of time to think and plan my daily photos, so it ended up being what I looked forward to at the end of each day. Once summer ended and school started, I completely ran out of juice. I was hanging out with my friends again, and life started to move at full speed once again. I wasn’t spending my time thinking about photo ideas, and the quality of my work dipped significantly. I lost my drive.
This is bound to happen many times as you make your way through your year long project. Every day is different, some days you have a ton going on, but others turn into a wealth of free time and photo opportunities. Remember, this is your project, don’t stress yourself out about it. No matter what, you will learn to be a better photographer and you will learn a lot about yourself in the process. You may not feel like you’re making progress, but once you look at Day 1 compared to Day 200, you’ll see a huge difference.
Austin Kleon, who describes himself as “a writer who draws”, writes about the value of creating something small every day in his book Show Your Work:
Building a substantial body of work takes a long time–a lifetime, really––but thankfully, you don’t need that time all in one big chunk. So forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days.
Upload a photo each day, after a week you have a series of 7 photos, after a month, 30, after a year, 365. You can even mix it up by doing mini-projects or themes within your 365 to make it more varied. Play with flashes one week, do only portraits the next week, etc.
In fact, I’ve had to adjust my 365 strategy as my life gets busier, and I found there are 3 different ways you can pull this off:
1. Photo-walk gathering- Focus on quality. Go for a walk, take 10 photos, and post them a day at a time. This covers those days that you’re not sure if you can get out and shoot, keeps you in people’s social network feeds, and keeps you from spamming with 10 photos uploaded all at once. I got married this year, so I now have tons of responsibilities that I didn’t have before. If I can squeeze in time for a hike or a walk downtown for a few photos, it keeps the 365 busy, and makes sure I don’t just slack off and take a crappy photo.
2. Photo-a-day method- Pretty self-explanatory. Take a photo each day before midnight (or whatever your definition of the end of the day is). I focused on this method in my first and second 365, and I found that it is really difficult to have a quality photo each day. If you’re in college, like I was at the time, you’ll find that it’s hard to get a photo done when you have to study, or if you’re on a date with a girl and you don’t want to break away to get your photo. (Telling a girl you have to go to take a photo to put on Facebook before midnight isn’t the most attractive sounding thing in the world….and yes I’ve done this) This method becomes stressful fast, and it makes the 365 seem like a chore at times. If you’re in it for the challenge, I recommend this strategy, if you’re in it to get a body of great photos, you may want to try my next method.
3. Photo-walk/Photo-a-day hybrid- I could define my current 365 project, 365 Reloaded, (I’m into movie inspired titles), as a combination as the above two methods. This has been my most successful 365 project, not only because I’m not killing myself to take a photo every day, but because I want it to be good. I’m making sure I post a photo every day, but now, I have responsibilities at home and work. Sometimes, taking a new photo that day might not be as good as the photo I took yesterday on a hike that I haven’t posted yet. Other days, I’m able to use the events of my day as the photo of the day (fortunately, most days lately have been good for this), and I can take and upload a photo in the same day.
Whatever method you choose or make, it’s up to you. This is your project, so it is supposed to be on your terms. This isn’t a school assignment, this doesn’t have to be part of your portfolio, it is your daily photo devotion. With this commitment, you learn, you document, and you begin creating a very large body of work. I don’t know what my portfolio (or hardrive) would look like with the 365, but I will say that the reason I’m still a photographer today is because I commit to taking a photo each day. It forces me to tweet, blog, and have my small voice heard on the internet. It’s my journey, my photo journal, made public for others to keep up with. If you are dedicated enough and get people involved, they will care about the 365 project with you as well. (I’ll talk about this in the next section) Keep going, charge on.