Photography is a hobby that took me by surprise. I stumbled into it after buying a fancy camera to capture the fleeting moments of my first born’s babyhood, but never expected to do more than take a few photos of my family.
I took an introductory class on the basics of a DSLR, but quickly craved knowledge outside the basics. It’s one thing for an image to be technically correct, but I wanted to create beautiful photos of my family that tugged at the sentiments of the heart long after the memories faded. I’ve taken several classes, participated in workshops, joined an amazing online community and created a local group of moms with a similar passion, but the very best thing I’ve done to improve my photography is to start a photography project.
I read about starting a Project 365 and knew I needed to jump right in. I’m a rule-follower by nature and can easily get bogged down by logistics, so starting a loosely defined project like this was a bit of a challenge, but nine months into it, I am hooked.
When I look back on my photos so far, I see some good ones, some silly ones, some terrible ones and so many memories. I’m not a professional photographer and at this point I have no desire to be one. I love taking photos of my own family and being able to capture memories for friends and family though so improving my photography is always a goal. With my Project 365, I’ve drastically improved the quality of my photography and captured so many memories at the same time. It’s a win-win all around.
If there’s one downside, it’s that some days it’s just hard to drag out the camera for a photo. Those are the days I take a picture of a random pumpkin or of my countertops. It’s slim pickings for cooperative models once the kids go to bed!
I’ve had many friends join me on this journey and they all ask me, “How do I start?” There are many Project 365 forums and communities where you can work through specific themes and prompts as part of a group, but I took a different, more simple approach.
Here’s what I tell friends about starting a simple Project 365:
1. Just start.
I’m a detail person so I totally understand the need to have a long-term plan in place before committing a year of your life to a photography project, but they key is to start while you’re motivated and if that is today, don’t miss the opportunity! You can make up the rules as you go along and change course anytime if needed. Each day you pick up your camera makes you a better photographer than the day before.
2. Keep the rules simple and plan to break them.
My Project 365 has only one rule: take a picture every day. I aim to do this with my DSLR, but there have been a few days where cell phone pics have had to suffice. Last week we went on vacation and there were a few days where I did not even take a cell phone picture, and I’m ok with that.
3. Jot down a list of rainy day ideas.
I keep a note on my phone with ideas for photos on rainy days, messy days, busy days, uninspired days, etc. Some days are just hard and it’s nice to have a backup plan. Some things on my list now are my baby’s first shoes, my daughter’s lovey, a teapot and cup of tea, a self-portrait, my kids reading together, our mail and my kids napping.
4. Think about what skills you want to work on.
When I started, I wanted to focus more on lifestyle photography and get better photos of real moments inside my house. Challenge #1 is that my walls are a lovely taupe color that looks great in real life, but causes everything to have a yellow glow in pictures. Looking through my project, my photos inside my house have improved a lot.
I’ve also tackled food photography and self-portraits. If you’re brand new to your DSLR, you might focus on the basics of photography and the exposure triangle then maybe you want to challenge yourself with different lighting conditions or improve your action shots. Whatever you decide, it’s more fun when you have a goal to work toward.
5. Recruit a friend to do it with you.
In the world of online communities, I can find countless people taking on photography projects to connect with, but there’s something about having a real-life friend in the trenches with me that makes it easier to keep going. I have a few friends who started their projects after seeing mine and it is so inspiring to follow their projects and see the growth happening day after day.
6. Share your photos
I take photos for myself, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t love sharing them with others. Sharing keeps me accountable and helps keep me going when I’m running out of steam.
In the beginning, I joined a Project 365 forum to share photos daily and posted weekly updates here on my blog, but I quickly found that I needed a simpler method for sharing and switched to posting only on my personal Facebook page. I’m going to aim to start weekly or monthly blog updates again to share with those friends I don’t know in real life, but I reserve the right to change my mind.