Let’s face it: Photography isn’t a hobby you master overnight. Taking better photographs requires cumulative knowledge. A few weeks or months (or years) away from the lens and you’re almost back to square one.
How do you learn? By doing, by making mistakes and trying again. If you want to take better photos you need to practice, maybe make a commitment. 365 day photo projects have become popular. Taking up the reins of a one year project, shooting each and every day, will help improve your skills as well as giving you a visual reminder of each day.
Why a 365 Project?
It’s easy to put your camera bag in a closet: You pull it out on weekends and for special occasions. Your camera becomes your fair-weather friend, not your companion, like that kindly relative you really want to visit but never seem to find time.
A 365 project forces you to have that camera out, to use it each day. The camera and you bond, inseparable, like Abbot and Costello, PB and J, or lobster and melted butter. And from that your skills will improve. You will become a better photographer. You will see the world in a different way.
David Lee, a Seattle-native living in Japan, is in the midst of a 365 Project or A Photo a Day Project, started January 1, 2009. He explains his motivation for the venture to the Phottix Journal.
“I had a color dark room in the 80’s in high school. I got back into photography three years ago. I wasn’t as good as I remembered,” he says.
“365 forces me to use camera more than 2 or 3 times a month. I re-learned the basic science and camera settings, after the first couple months … things become second nature.”
David shoots 5 to 20 minutes weekdays and equates daily shooting to exercise. He’s often not happy with his results, but feels much more confident and capable.
“I’m better at nailing focus, exposure, but am still working on composition,” he says.
365 – it’s not about getting the perfect shot daily, although Lee says he tries, it is about getting better and shooting each day even when you don’t have time.
To reward his progress over this past year David has signed up for the Martin Bailey photo safari in Hokkaido, Japan in Feb 2010.
Getting a 365 Project started
Pick a realistic start date and plan: When will you shoot each day? Pick a time. Have a schedule: How often will you post your photos? Where will you post them? Get your website or flickr account ready before you start. Get any gear you may need. Taking self portraits? Make sure you have a wired or wireless remote shutter release.
Shoot everyday. That’s reason for the project. If you can’t shoot at your scheduled time do it earlier or later. Don’t fall behind. Shoot and evaluate your results. Post them for others to consider. Join a flickr group or online community for 365 photo projects. *flickr 365 group search results.
Take you camera with you everywhere. You never know what you will see. There are possible photographs all around us. Don’t be afraid to pull out your camera and snap a few.
Evaluate your results. Are you making progress? How could you have captured that image differently? Look at the work of other photographers for inspiration. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Street photography? Macro photography? Landscapes? Try your hand at something new. Step out of your comfort zone. You have 365 days…
Editor’s Note This post was first published in September 2009. As we start 2011 it seems a good time to revisit it.