Photographing a single image each day for a 365 Project sounds easy, but in practice, it requires a tremendous amount of dedication. If you put some thought into this undertaking, however, you can succeed in completing a 365 Project next year.
On the surface, you need to simply take one photograph per day to complete a 365. But if that were the sole definition of a 365 project then both my wife and daughter could say they have been doing a 365 consistently for the past few years. For you, as a photographer, a 365 is more complicated because you aren’t looking to just casually snap a photo of anything and everything. Instead, you are more likely to assign a theme. Maybe you want to only photograph people — or more specifically, strangers. Maybe you want to shoot in natural light only. Or maybe want to use film, or shoot on a specific camera. Or maybe you simply want to create a good photograph each day.
If you’re attempting a 365, I think it is indeed wise to set some sort of parameters. In my case these were: all images to be taken using a digital Leica M camera and all images to be of people. Parameters are important so that you avoid just whipping out your phone and shooting your lunch each day. You’re going to have to work harder than that if you’re going to be proud of your 365 at the end of the year. However, in practice, the number one tip I would offer is to go easy on yourself. Make every effort to have each day’s image fit the parameters, but be willing to give yourself a break now and then. This project should be a fun, creative endeavor.
One of the breaks I gave myself the last time I did a 365 was to occasionally post a photograph that wasn’t actually taken that day. Often the shot I had taken that day was of my wife or daughter, who were not camera ready when I took the photo and they would not be comfortable with me sharing that image. So whenever that was the case, I would post a stock photo from my files to represent this day. On a personal level, I still gained the creative benefit of making new art each day, but I freed myself from the burden of having to make each image acceptable for mass consumption.
Another suggestion would be to do the project as a daily diary for yourself rather than as a showcase for your talent. In this scenario, you might consider doing the project on video instead of photographs.There is a marvelous app called, 1 Second Every Day that makes it easy to create a 1 second (or 1.5 seconds) video clip each day. (I should point out that the app used to make it easy to do so. Today it is cluttered with various sharing and collaboration options as well as a paid “pro” tier and the experience is less smooth than it was years ago).
The interesting thing about using this app is that you aren’t trying to create a good video clip each day. You’re simply filming a single snippet to represent this day. And, the snippet is always from your point of view. So it’s never a clip of you and your daughter — instead, it’s your daughter as seen from your point of view that day. Maybe the clip shows her crying, or laughing, or just sleeping. Whatever the case, the clip will be just one single second of what you saw her doing. You’re free to capture the mundane — the view from the train on your morning commute, the “out of order” sign on the elevator, the crowded waiting room at your dentist’s office… At the end of each month, you can assemble these clips into a 30-second movie. The concept may be hard to appreciate on paper, but that final video will definitely be special to you. It’s something you create for yourself. In this age of sharing so much of our personal lives, we sometimes neglect to create for ourselves.
In doing a 365, sharing is something you’ll also have to consider. Posting a single image each day to your Facebook or Instagram story, or posting a quick video as a YouTube Short can be far more time-consuming than it might seem. But realize that although you’re creating a new image each day, you don’t have to post each day. You can instead make a post each Sunday showing what you created the previous week. Posting 7 pictures at the end of the week is exponentially less time-consuming than posting 1 picture each day for 7 days. Just as you have to give yourself a bit of leeway in the creation of your 365, you need to be willing to give yourself some freedom in the sharing aspect of the project as well.
You don’t have to share your 365 at all, but I think sharing the work benefits you as a photographer. Firstly, it keeps you focused on sharing good work and showcasing yourself in the best possible light. Also, it gives your potential clients or supporters insight into your daily life and it reveals how you see the world. The images you are compelled to create each week give insight into what you value, and when a client finds a connection there you may be in a position to get paid jobs from that person.
Finally, if you do decide to begin a 365 next year rejoice in the fact that you will have an opportunity to actually use all that fancy gear sitting on the shelf. Imagine how beautiful that shiny new 70-200mm lens that you shouldn’t have even purchased will look at the start of 2023 when it is battle-scarred because you really put it to work in 2022. Imagine how proud you’ll feel when someone says, “There’s Jane, taking photos again. You never see her without that camera around her neck.”
My best advice for completing a 365 project is simple: "Don't"
It transforms photography into a "chore" that has to be done each day which flies in complete opposition to thoughtfully investing in your creativity and improving your craft.
I always suggest as an alternative; limit your portfolio to your 20 best images. Make a personal rule that you are not allowed to add a new image unless you remove a weaker image to make room. Aim to replace at least one image per month. This will motivate you to invest in actually and measurably improving your craft rather than creating a collection of 365 photos that are indistinguishable from an iPhone snapshot.
+1 I’d rather suggest well thought and planned « 12 » project.
I agree. A 365 can absolutely feel like a chore. The last time I did one, I found myself leaving the house and setting out to take a photo just to fulfill the obligation of the 365 project. One way I dealt with this however, was to instead take a family photograph that I wouldn’t post. I knew that I’d always appreciate the time I spent taking a photo of my wife or daughter, even if was just another shot of my daughter looking at her phone. Even if I didn’t share that photo, I knew I would never regret taking any family images.
I've done two of them. The one I did while still living in Louisiana was easy. Plenty of stuff in my yard for the days that I wasn't out shooting for something else. The one I did here in Winnipeg was more difficult due to the winter weather. But I finished it. It wasn't a chore and it did nothing to impede my other photography. Here's an example of what you shoot in the winter :-) :