I started my first Project 365 on January 1, 2010. I haven’t put my camera down yet, so I’m currently shooting my fifth year.
At first the project was geared towards keeping my husband connected while he was deployed. We also lived 7 hours from family and had two small children. I wanted to document our daily life so they wouldn’t miss out. I was new to shooting in manual and the first project was also dedicated to improving my skills. For whatever reason, even after my husband came home, as our family grew to four kids, and after moving again (much closer to family), I haven’t been able to put my camera down in five years.
Of course, I absolutely run into days (weeks!) where I do not want to pick up my camera. Since 2010, I’ve dealt with 2 fairly difficult pregnancies where I was sick until I the day I delivered my boys, I’ve had 2 newborns with all the craziness they add to life, a stressful move, and many months away from my husband while he was at various training or deployments. So how have I kept shooting? (Aside from being stubborn? I kind of panic at the thought of missing a day lately! I really would like to finish five years without missing a day and then maybe, just maybe I can switch gears into a smaller project!) Here’s a few tips that have kept me shooting!
1. Shoot early.
I often try to get my shot of the day before lunch time. Our house gets the best light in the morning hours, my kids are a little less grumpy before lunch rolls around and if I shoot early, I don’t have to frantically search for something to shoot once it’s dark outside and everyone is in a bedtime meltdown! And a bonus- sometimes I shoot something that isn’t that interesting in the morning (a safe shot) and then something else comes along during our day and I shoot that instead. It never hurts to have a few options for a shot of the day.
2. Keep an inspiration journal
I keep a small journal in my camera bag with ideas for shooting. I make notes of little things my kids are doing, interesting locations I’d like to try out, themes I would like to explore. Whenever I run low on ideas, or if my kids aren’t really that into my ideas, I pull out the journal and usually find several options for the days shoot. I also keep a pinterest board with 365 ideas. For example, I jotted down that my youngest was in a stage of being pretty terrified of his shadow. I knew I wanted to capture it before he outgrew the stage, so I was on the lookout for this shot for several days before I captured it.
3. Carry your camera everywhere.
I like to keep my big camera with me wherever I go, safely of course! My camera bag holds my Mark3 (usually with my 35mm), a spare battery and wallet/keys/a diaper or two quite easily with room to spare and I’m not worried about expensive equipment getting broken. On the rare occasion that I don’t want to bother with the big camera, I am a huge fan of my iPhone 5s and Instagram. Also during the summer months, I have a waterproof camera for our pool days. I have no excuse for not capturing our day with these options! Also I’m pretty flexible with the “rules” of my project- I don’t mind occasional iPhone days and I’m a huge fan of underwater shots when we’ve spent weeks at the pool!
4. Be flexible.
My first year I tried to follow themes for each month; I tried out different perspectives (only shooting from a low, on the ground perspective for example). I shot with specific lenses or specific apertures for a month. At the time, I was experimenting with different settings and techniques to improve my photography. But as I mastered my camera, I often found the strict themes to be a bit too confining, so about mid-way through the year I decided to ditch the themes and just shoot my life.
Do what works for you!
Just allow yourself some flexibility. For example, originally I only wanted DSLR pictures but when I was pregnant and sick, sometimes I only managed to catch an iPhone snap during the day. I let go of my need for perfection and decided to look at the big picture- everyday didn’t need to be a big camera shot or portfolio-worthy, I just wanted the day captured! Plus iPhoneography is fun and kind of addicting!
5. Shoot the details.
Kids don’t always enjoy having their picture taken. On days when none of my kiddos want to be in front of the camera, I often just shoot the details. I either pull out my macro lens and head outside or I shoot faceless portraits. I love mixing the detail shots into the year end collages so remember to shoot the weather and your surroundings as the seasons change. Here’s a look at 2013 in collage form- see how I mixed detail shots with my every day portraits?
6. Try something new.
When your motivation slows down, sometimes trying something new is just what you need to get back on track. Borrow or rent a new lens! Process only in black and white! Something I’ve tried recently has been freelensing (You take the lens off your camera, set focus to infinity and experiment! The intense area of focus vs blur can be hard to work with at first but it’s addicting!)
Take action: Leave a link to your Project 365 or other photography project in the comments below.