with Courtney Slazinik
6 Ways to Stay Motivated with a Photography Project
6 ways to stay motivated with a photography project via Click it Up a Notch

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.

If you are looking for a photography project be sure to check out these 14 ideas.

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!)

Read more: 11 Tips to Help you Complete a Project 365


Take action: Leave a link to your Project 365 or other photography project in the comments below.

  • Nicole
    April 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    I’m currently on my 3rd year of the 365 project and I couldn’t agree more with every point you made! I have recently decided to get an underwater camera and was wondering what you shoot with? Also, I’ve never heard of “freelensing”, So thank you for the new shooting idea!

    • April 18, 2014 at 11:24 AM

      Nicole- thanks for the comments! I updated the post with a link to the camera I have, it’s an Olympus Tough TG2 and I love love love it!

  • April 18, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    What great ideas! I really like the journal idea – that shot of him scared of his shadow is perfect!

    • April 21, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Thanks Linda- I love my journal it’s saved me so many times!

  • April 18, 2014 at 7:42 PM

    Liz, I am currently at day 293 of my first Project 365. I lost my enthusiasm last month and pushed through and I am thrilled now as the end is in sight and I never want it to end. I choose a theme each month or I follow a set of prompts for the month. My favourite so far was my month of gratitude in February when I took a photo every day of something I was grateful for and then made a little slideshow with the images. I post to both Instagram and my FB page and select my “favourite” shots to go to Flickr. This is such a helpful post I love connecting with other 365ers.

    • April 21, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      Wow that’s awesome Karen! So glad you’ve stuck with it! I’ll have to head over to your blog/flickr and check it out!!

  • April 19, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    I’m very impressed that this is your 5th straight year. Today is Day 214 for me & I struggle to find things to take pictures of a lot, but I really like the idea of keeping an inspiration journal!

    • April 21, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Way to go Cindy! I’ll head over to your blog and check out your project! You’re in the home stretch! I hope the journal helps you :)

  • Tina
    April 22, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Thank you for the great ideas. I’ve been tossing the idea around to start the P365 but fear I won’t have enough subject matter to photograph as my children are all grown so I don’t have that advantage and I work full-time (which sadly occupies a great part of my day ugh). I carry my camera with me every day but still find it hard to take photos. I enjoyed viewing your P365 photos, they are incredible. Once again I feel encouraged to take the leap. Your article is very helpful and encouraging.

  • Tanya monroe
    August 30, 2014 at 10:43 PM

    Tina, my children are also grown and on the days I don’t have my grand babies I have no clue what to shoot. I started a 365 a while back and quit. Now all I can think of is starting again so I can finish. And thanks for this article it’s great!!!

  • January 9, 2015 at 8:43 PM

    I really enjoyed your article and think I need to start in inspiration journal. What a great idea! I’m just on day 25 of my 365 project and already I feel myself changing. It is such a great experience. I’m logging my progress daily here: http://www.sarahstrausphotography.com/my356project/. Thank you for posting this bit of advice. I’m so impressed that you’ve been doing it for 5 years!

  • January 9, 2015 at 9:02 PM

    Feeling better about the days when I’ve felt uninspired (and I’m only nine days in!) and feeling a little relief that a phone pic really can be okay. :)

  • January 9, 2015 at 9:30 PM

    I have had two Canon DSLR’s and never took the time to really learn how to use them properly but I have finally decided to make it a 2015 goal and your blogs, etc have inspired me to do the 365 Project. I have already learned how to alter my focal points and loving that. I look forward to this journey and want to thank you for your wealth of information you share here.

  • January 9, 2015 at 10:26 PM

    I really needed this article today! I appreciate the advice, and can’t wait to start a journal. My Project 365 is http://carinoltephotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/-project-365. My kids are not ever in the mood for photos…and we’ve been sick for a month

  • January 9, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    I’m excited to be working on my first 365. I’ve been shooting nearly fail for a while now, but I haven’t organized my images into an official 365 project before. I think this will not only make me a better shooter, but a better editor as well. It can be do hard to choose just one amazing image each day!
    I’m lucky to have an awesome support system too. I’m completing my 365 along side some very talented ladies in a blog circle format. Come check us out and feel free to share some images on our Facebook page, too.

  • Courtney
    January 10, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    I’m doing a 52- week photography project with self portraits. It’s my first long-term project and already I’m feeling a little stumped about ideas. Thanks for giving me some things to consider. I especially like your thoughts on having themes.

  • January 19, 2015 at 8:52 PM

    Love these great ideas! I just created a 52 week project and it’s going well so far. We have a great mix of newbies and professionals! http://www.facebook.com/groups/eyecan52

  • Rachel
    January 5, 2016 at 9:24 PM

    I just finished my first 365 project!! Definitely ready for a little break, but now doing a gratitude photo project (not daily, but at least weekly). I just looked over all the photos I took over the past year and it made me tear up…such precious memories and moments that I never would have captured without this photography challenge! http://www.myneedforcreativity.blogspot.com

  • Stacy K
    December 17, 2016 at 12:51 PM

    Great tips! At the same time, a few other important things to keep in mind is to change gears of how you approach things. Why do I want to be a photographer? How can I approach things differently in photography? How can I market myself differently? All of these questions are important things to ask, in addition to the article above. Here are some extra questions to think about to stay motivated!

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