The Power of a 365

The Power of a 365

The commitment to do anything every day for a whole year is a difficult one. So difficult in fact that the very concept of a New Year's resolution is a joke to most. It's no surprise then that for a photographer to commit to a 365 project takes some serious dedication. Doing so means that you will create and publish something new, every single day. The question is: Is forcing yourself to be newly creative every day really worth it?

Let's start the answer with a quick story. In late 2009 I was finally tired of struggling to keep my blog active. I updated it maybe once or twice a month at the most and it was always unpredictably erratic (not the best thing for developing a following). It was a constant source of frustration because I knew I should have a blog, and I knew it needed to be updated regularly to be of any use. So something had to change and with the growing importance of blogs in branding strategy...the thing that needed to change was very obviously me. While I was searching for some sort of motivation to post more regularly a very close friend suggested that I just make a schedule of posting once a week on a specific day no matter what. It's the simple things right? Well, knowing myself I knew that I would start to make excuses and miss a day or put it off until later in the week so I dismissed the idea. Sort of.

I needed something more…unavoidable.

Thus began "The Daily Photographer," a complete change in direction for me that has had some surprising and profound and unexpected impacts on myself and my business. Originally it was going to be a daily project for one year...It is now over 1,100 images deep (just started it's 4th year I think if math serves) and has been an amazing yet occasionally irritating teacher.

Here's a bit of what I've learned:

 

1.) You never know who is looking.

Less than a year into the endeavor I received an email from a young photographer in Kenya citing how inspired he had been from following the work that went up each day. He went on to thank me for writing in each post as well because it helped him to see that there was an approachable person behind the images. At the end of his letter he asked me if I would be willing to take some time out to look over his work and offer him any advice I could. I was happy to do it.

Even many of my colleagues have written in saying that seeing me keep the "Daily Photographer" going for so long has inspired them to be more active in their own online presence.

Angela by David Bickley Photography

Messages like these are commonplace now, and that kind of impact is hard to overlook.

 

2.) Syndicated posts are amazing.

When I first started I had to manually post everything on each social network I was a part of…that seriously sucked. Once I started looking at my options I found that there we a lot of services that would help me distribute my content automatically across each account. I still manually post my images into a specific Facebook gallery because I feel like people are more inclined to look at an image than read a post. The actual text still syncs though for people that want to read.

Scott by David Bickley Photography

The one downside to this is that collecting the conversations and comments that happen on each site and having them display on your blog is still not easy (as far as I've seen, but if you know better please let me know). So that leads to blogs that may be devoid of comment activity while sites like Facebook are loaded with them.

That to me is a minor issue as the attention and presence it what you're aiming at.

 

3.) Creativity under fire still sucks.

 

Man in Picadilly Circus by David Bickley Photography

Coming from the advertising world I'm no stranger to having to be new and fresh everyday without reprieve, but that doesn't mean it's easy. The upside to this challenge is that the more you practice the better you get at it. Taking a photograph can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be and that is definitely a blessing here. In fact, the occasional "I didn't have a lot of time" snapshot is something I encourage whole-heartedly.

Why?

Because you're not a camera-god, and it's ok to show that to people. We all want to appear that we've never taken a bad image. We all know better. Snapshots can be taken creatively too. I've posted iPhone photos before and the world didn't end, clients didn't jump ship, life went on. The fact is that your bad images are probably still better than the average so get over it.

 

4.) You will miss a post.

Taylor by David Bickley Photography

And you'll find yourself making it up the next day. I never thought I would feel so attached to my readers, but I do and when I'm late or somehow miss a day I feel so terrible that I post twice the next day. I also get plenty of messages asking where the post is for the day, so that helps too.

 

5.) Your business can't help but grow

The Ice Queen by David Bickley Photography

When you are putting up new content daily and syndicating it properly people will notice you and many of them will eventually hire you. I would say that somewhere around 20% of the time the studio phone rings it's someone saying "I see your images all the time in my news feed and I love your work, what are your rates?"

Is it always the kind of business I'm after? No, but that doesn't matter because it at least gives me the option if I'm having a slow week. Right? Right.

 

6.) Perception is reality

I don't know a single photographer that is shooting paid work every single day of the year. Yet when people see constant activity of high-quality images coming from you they naturally assume that you are. The perception of being in demand creates demand. That's where the saying "fake it till you make it" comes from. I'm not saying lie to people, that's completely off the mark. What I'm saying is that you will look busy even in slow times and that is a great thing for you.

The thing to be careful of is creating the perception that you do a type of work that you don't. I rarely post images of weddings because that isn't even close to my market. If one goes up it's because it was a friend's wedding and I take extra steps to make that clear so nobody gets confused. If you aren't conscious of this you will get clients saying "I thought you didn't shoot _______ anymore."

Joel by David Bickley Photography

Keep it consistent with the direction of your career unless you specifically use the project for completely random personal images.

 

7.) You will become a better photographer

I don't think this needs much explanation, but here goes. The more you shoot the better you get. The more you flex your creative muscles, the stronger they get. You will find ways to create images that are completely out of the norm for you. Shooting the same thing every day is boring, so you will experiment and expand your repertoire. You will learn how to talk about your images with people from all walks of life, and as a result you will start to understand your work better yourself. People will connect with what you're doing because there is a reality to it that can't help but come out. There will be days that creativity is nowhere to be found but the commitment is still there, and you will find yourself taking a picture you never would have before.

Intricate Braids by David Bickley Photography

And people will love it.

--

Personally I have no idea how much longer I will keep at it (I never imagined that I would still be doing it 4 years later). What was originally a simple 365 day commitment has transformed into something so much more to me. Truth be told, I'm not sure I will ever stop now. Every annoyance, every time I've had to head home early because I forgot to post, every time I'm completely stuck on what to shoot or say....it's all been undeniably worth it.

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20 Comments

Noam Galai's picture

Great post David! really interesting read

this has  given me something extra go that extra mile!!
I know I can't dare go that far, but at least I can try to better than what I'm doing today....
all the best wishes!!

I've done this! 

Tho 2012 had 366 days haha
I started on the 1.1.2012 and finished on the 31.12.2012
And I started the project only a month after I got my first camera and started shooting because I believe that that's the best way to learn something, constantly do it.
This is the last photo of my project
It's me with all the photos from the project.
This project is really cool, it basically shows the development of a photographer in a year.http://img829.imageshack.us/img829/2235/day366.jpg

James Fallas's picture

i just started my 365 project and i´ve see my page comments growing and the likes go up, this gives me more courage to keep doing it, thanks for the post i really love it, here´s some of the pics i´ve done for now =) 

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.511349315553341.112425.1456911...

I'm working on mine now! 

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.146647408819164.33377.115880021...

I have noticed some very drastic changes already.  At the beginning, I would take a bunch of pictures and take one good one, maybe 1 out of 50.  Now, I can take 5-8 and get a good one.  I can picture what I want to accomplish better now than when I started.

I have also learned that when you sit at home and try to think of something to go shoot, it doesn't really work out that great.  By just going "out" you discover new things.  Even when you have a plan of what you are going for, something else much better comes along and works out much better.

Finally, when I look at the 36 images that I have created so far, I can remember back to that day, what I was doing, what time I worked, what I did when I got off to get ready for the picture, etc.  If I would not have taken that picture, the day would have been lost in my memory and I would not have remembered it.  I think it is interesting that at the end of this year, this will be the only year of my life which I will be able to remember something from every single day.

Connor Surdi just started his 4th one in a row... may wanna look into that dedication!

Rebecca Britt's picture

Connor is a beast. 

Lénárt Gábor's picture

I wrote an all in all blogpost about the 365projects on my blog:
http://sztyui.com/minden-amit-tudni-kell-a-365-projektekrol-hosszasan-ki...
It's in hungarian, but covers all of the topics about the project.

i started one this year with my dog as the main subject. it's "ruff" to say the least. :)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/90292340@N02/sets/72157632414893643/

125/365 - 05 May 2013: Señor Wally

In my opinion 365 projects are just a really good way to create 365 very unspectacular images and burn yourself out while doing it. The moment that photography becomes a "chore" you are doing it wrong. A better project would be:

"Create a least one image per month that is better than any image you have created in previous months"

Philippe Dame's picture

Yep, I totally agree with your points. A project like that is a sure way to grow. What friends and I did was assign ourselves a day of the week and posted on that day consistently for a year. The group provided an instant audience.

The best part was that we shared a theme each week that was open to interpretation. It linked our work but also provided a nice creative constraint. If you're interested, here's our themes and the blog that hosted the project: http://learningdslr.com/365/our-themes/

here's mine:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mangtacio/sets/72157632399373357/

1/365: Gusto ko lang naman ang masilayan kang muli!

i truly agree with what you have said...i'm hoping to finish my project as well. thanks.. indeed, an interesting read..

Jeremy Cupp's picture

I hated it. It felt like a chore and I just don't have the time with work to take an edit an image. They aren't for me.

Actually I'm doing 365 project with my mate. One theme and two photos per day, one posted by me and one by her. Here is the link: http://365razydwie.blogspot.ch/
Lots of fun I must say.

Matthew Coughlin's picture

I started one in 2011 to learn how to use my first DSLR i had just bought. I pushed myself to learn off camera lighting and shot for about 250 days. Along the way, I realized that I was falling in love with photography and wanted to focus on it as a career. I stopped the project to focus on getting my business together, getting a website and marketing myself. Since then, I have shot for national editorial publications and have been very busy shooting commercial work with some of the top agencies in my area. I look back at my attempted 365 as a launch pad for my discovered passion that I have since turned into a full time job.

Hey, 

I love this post David, I have tried for several years to do a project like this, and 2013 is the year I'm finally sticking to it. I'm absolutely set on finishing it and Im trying to step into different realms of photography, where I mostly photograph is street photography and landscape, Im pushing myself into photojournalistic, portraits and candid photos.

I'm only shooting on the Fuji X-E1. I love that camera it goes every where with me. My biggest challenge is that I have school full time and I work part time, finding the time to photograph, is the hardest, most of my photographs are in the evening and at night. 

Im also posting all of my photographs on Tumblr take a look!

http://boonephotography.tumblr.com/#

Absolutely wonderful post! I started a 365 project the day I left for college as a way for my friends to keep tabs on my new life.  Now, 2 and a half years later I still update my Pic of the Day album daily and feel awful on the rare days where I don't shoot and need to "cheat" by using another days work.  Its a rewarding and expressive means of remembering each day of your life.  

-Pete
vdbphotos.com

I'm doing one as well! project365.brendancarlson.me

My retired dad just finished his 366 project, and it was perfect for him.  Some days it was definitely a chore, but mostly it just increased his passion and skills exponentially!