Improve your photography skills with a 365 Project

January 6, 2011

My Fenway perpetual calendarTaking photos is easy. Taking good photos is hard. There’s so much to learn: Exposure, depth of field, off-camera lighting – if you don’t shoot regularly you will forget more than you learn.

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.

Eyes of a Child by David Lee

Eyes of a Child by David Lee

“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.

Post Office Boxes by Donald Harper Photograpy Project 365

Post Office Boxes by Donald Harper Photograpy Project 365

Stay focused

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.

Stay inspired

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.

Calendar Image: Creative Commons License photo credit: joyosity
David Lee operates David Lee Photography. His 365 Project can be see at a photo a day. His image, Eyes of a Child is from May 20, 2007.
Mailboxes courtesy of Donald Harper Photography Project 365.



Jérôme Aoustin September 4, 2009 at 8:56 am

I couldn’t agree more with you. I started my own Project 365 28 days ago for a few different reasons.

First one, a personal challenge. I tried on January 1st of this year but wasn’t really committed to doing it seriously… after a few days I just forgot to take my daily shot and that was it. It is a commitment. Some days it may not be easy, everyone has imperatives in their lives. But, ultimately, everybody can find the time for it. It doesn’t even have to take more than 5 minutes. What is 5 minutes in a day? If you love doing it, it will be 5 minutes well spent.

Second, I want to grow, to get better. And nothing beats practice. It’s like everything else, it’s not acquired overnight. You need to work on it. Soon enough though, you start realizing how good it feels to do something that you really love. And like all things, it gets much easier. It feels great.

Third, I also love writing. I used my blog to display my photos and write about it. Two passions complementing each other. I am so glad I finally got myself to do it.

Kimberly C. October 12, 2011 at 3:45 am

I have been searching for inspiration today for my 365, I am busy back blogging photos taken months ago on topics I have near forgotten. It is very hard. Thanks for sharing this!

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