Suzanne is blowing my mind with her 365 photo project. She’s making it look so easy that I asked her to write about it for me… I mean for all of you. I love her tips! Have to admit, I feel inspired to at least try. And hey! You! Before you click away because you’re not a “photographer” and don’t have a “fancy camera,” YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AND DON’T NEED ONE! So there. At least stay for Suzanne’s cute kids.
I started a 365 Photography project this year because I figured with three kids, a dog, a cat, a blog, a husband, a 100-year old house, a small photography business and myself to take care of I didn’t have enough to do. That’s mostly sarcasm, but there’s a tiny grain of truth too.
Taking 2 minutes each night to upload a photo is one thing I can always cross off my list and makes me feel like I accomplished something that day, even if it’s done while still in last night’s pajamas.
We’re now up to mid-March, so 70-something days of photos, and I can honestly say I haven’t cheated, haven’t missed a day, and haven’t even been tempted to quit. I have learned a lot about what I like to photograph (my kids outside) and what I hate to photograph (anyone under indoor lighting) and I’m here to tell you – YES YOU – that a 365 Project is something you can absolutely do. And you don’t have to wait for next year to do it – start your 365 today! Or tomorrow! Or the first day of next month or on your birthday or whatever day you want. Worry less, capture more.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Define Your Project – One picture a day can mean a lot more than you think! Are you going to take a picture every day or post a picture every day? Are you going to use your camera or your phone? Where are you sharing them? What are your goals? My rules are: One picture with my big girl camera from each day, taken that day and posted that day. No editing. I’m pretty sure I will eventually fail at the posting every day part but I’m determined not to fail at the taking a photo part.
It also helps to think about your end goal – I’m going to print all of mine in a book. The kids are obsessed with looking at our pictures and talking about how old they are and what the remember from that day. If this year goes well I’ll probably start again next year – maybe with different rules – so I can have a book every year.
2. Capture Real Life… – Unless you live in a Pottery Barn catalog, your house is not perfect. Your kids are not perfect. Your food is not perfect. You live a real, full, interesting, messy life and documenting that is just as important as taking perfect smiling family portraits. Probably even more important. On days when you’re feeling creative and inspired by all means do something fancy. Go to a beautiful park, dress your kids in matching outfits, bribe everyone and get something you’ll want to print 4 feet big for the wall. But on most days, take a picture of your life as it is.
Top photo: Staged, styled, location scouted. Bottom photo: Called them weirdos and took the picture.
3. …But Look For Your Slice Of Perfect – Learn where in your home has good light and use it use it use it. Find a blank wall and figure out how far you can back up away from it to get some negative space in your pictures. Practice shooting in AP mode or go full manual (this is a great time to practice!) so you can blur your backgrounds and underexpose to hide things in the shadows. Pick up clutter a little more or just shove it out of the way so it’s less distracting.
If you absolutely hate shooting in your house, get outside. Go somewhere photogenic like a museum or a garden or the beach and make a point to take one special shot that encompasses everything you love about that moment.
Top photo: I moved the red laundry basket out of the photo and opened one of the curtains to get light on the baby’s head. Bottom photo: The dark, blurry background hides a magnitude of sins (so does the wall on the right – the other side is the playroom).
4. Push Yourself… – Take your camera EVERYWHERE. Get brave. Use it in Target, at the grocery store, in the mall, wherever life takes you that day. If you only have the kit lens that came with your camera, practice using it at different focal lengths. If you own other lenses, rotate them to get a variety. Try wide angle shots. Close ups. Night, morning, movement, still life, intentional blur, auto white balance, manual white balance, teeny tiny details or the whole big sky. I’m making a lot of technical mistakes while I try new stuff, but hopefully by the end of 365 days I’ve learned a lot of new things.
Top photo: If I hadn’t brought the camera to the pediatrician, I would have missed the moment when Caroline got her shot and cried “I want my brooooother!” and her brother immediately came to her rescue. Bottom photo: Freezing my butt and my fingers off to take snowflake macros is incredibly thrilling. I did this with a 100mm lens and a $12 magnification filter from Amazon.
5. …But Know Your Limits – You know what would have absolutely killed my project? EDITING. Being able to “fix” my pictures means I end up with a huge backlog of unedited photos that never see the light of day because I still need to edit them. My rule for my project is I post straight-out-of-camera shots (SOOC in photographer talk) with no editing beyond what I can do in my camera menu. That means a lot of my photos have weird color, are a little crooked and aren’t composed perfectly. But it also means posting the photo really is a 2-minute task instead of a 30 minute chore. It’s also made it abundantly clear I am LAZY about taking straight photos.
Top photo: You know why the color is so bad? Because grocery store lights give off ugly yellow light and this is what it looks like unedited. Bottom photo: I used the black and white filter built into my camera to convert the picture, but didn’t touch it in Lightroom or Photoshop.
So, there you go. I promise starting is the hardest part, after two weeks it’s a habit and you’ll stop forgetting to bring your camera everywhere. I post my photos on my personal Facebook and also on my Flikr page, so you can follow along there if you want to see what I’m up to. If you start one – or already have one! – link me in the comments so I can check it out. I’m obsessed with the details of people’s lives and this is a great way to get a peek.