A Photo a Day: A Reflection on my year long project
Last December (2018, not 2019), I watched several photographers that I follow and admire on Instagram finish up their 365 projects and rave about the experience. I debated back and forth over whether I should commit to trying it, and kept flip flopping. It's supposed to so beneficial. But what happens if I get sick? People say how much they improved doing this project. But what if I forget? Imagine the collection of images you'll have at the end of the year! But how do I stay motivated to shoot new images? This will help you to find your style and voice. But how do I shoot and edit for myself during busy season? Basically all of my reservations were different versions of the question: what if I fail? Because I hate that feeling. Like really really despise it. But the answer was that nothing would happen, not really. The only fallout would have been that I didn't complete the project, and in the grand scheme of things that's not really so terrible. So on January 1st, I made a snap decision to just do it. I mentioned it in passing to my husband so that I had someone who knew about it and could hold me accountable, and I just went for it.
During the winter and cold spring months, it gave me something fun to keep me busy. I brought my camera pretty much everywhere and photographed my family doing pretty much everything. No one even blinked when I took out my big camera in public places like Target, the hair dresser, Barnes and Noble or Dave and Buster's. It was fun to watch the number of days grow and grow. 30 days, then 60, 100 and higher. Things got a little crazy in May, but I still managed to shoot every day and edit almost every day. The summer months went smoothly, as we had a lot of fun adventures to document, and then September hit. Actually, mid-August. I ended up being booked every single weekend from mid-August through Thanksgiving. The kids went back to school, so I luckily had 5 kid-free hours, 3 days a week in which to work on client galleries, answer emails and schedule sessions in addition to working on my own project, which I mostly did at night.
After Thanksgiving, I had 2 sessions and then I was finished with client work for the year. At that point, though, I was feeling pretty burnt out and it was kind of hard to pick up my camera every day, especially with the very early sunsets stealing my natural light during the hours my kids were home from school. The end of the year was so close, though, so I pushed through and completed it. And, funnily enough, I haven't stopped yet. I was sure that come January 1st 2020, I'd gladly leave my camera in its bag all day, possibly even for a week or longer. But after a whole year of shooting daily, it feels wrong to not document something every day.
Over the past year I've created a habit, and though I'm sure there will come a day, probably in the not too distant future, where life will just take over and I'll let myself skip a day guilt free, I will likely continue to shoot nearly daily. The advantages are just too great, and the cost nearly nothing. I can shoot literally anywhere, in any light, confidently. Framing a shot happens all day long in the background of my thoughts, which has meant that my compositions and storytelling have improved. I'm more thoughtful about what and how I want to capture something before I shoot, which means that I spend less time overshooting and less time editing afterwards. I experimented with some editing styles, and while I haven't settled on just one look (I like way too many looks to made a decision), I'm getting closer. I can cull and edit client sessions *really* quickly. I like to play with my own personal work a little bit more, so edits can take longer depending on what I want to do creatively. From an organizational standpoint, I got to be super organized photo-wise. I got fast at culling out what I knew I wouldn't keep or look at again, and then I'd edit what I wanted, picked a photo for the day, then exported one to my 365 folder and the rest to a personal folder. I backed up once a month because space is super limited on my computer, so I HAD to get everything to my external hard drive in order to continue shooting. I think maybe only photographers will appreciate that last sentiment--we shoot a ton anyway, and keeping up with your personal stuff tends to take a back seat when you're busy with client work. There were definitely days that, if not for this project, I would not have worked on my own images, creating an immense backlog of images to get through another time (or never).
From a negative perspective, there's not much. Yes, I had to work to keep shooting every day, but hard work isn't really a negative in life. During February last year I was sick almost the entire month. Once with the stomach flu, once with a bad cold, and once with another flu-like virus that hung around for over a week. I still managed to get one shot every day, even though I'd rather not have made the effort. There were times I felt awkward pulling out my camera in public, but I eventually got over that. Periodically during the year, I felt stuck, uninspired, uncreative. But that would have happened anyway, and I learned to push through it.
The absolute best part about the project is that I now have an incredibly special and unique memento for my family to look back on. A photo from every single day of 2019. They're not all winners, and I struggled frequently with whether to choose a more technically perfect photo for the day, or one that better represented that particular day. I'm not sure what others have done, but there were many times throughout the year where I chose a photo that best represented our day over a photo that I liked more or that was actually a better image in terms of light, composition, connection, etc. I still kept those images, just not as a part of this project. I haven't yet put together an album, but I plan to do so very soon, and I know we'll all enjoy looking back through it regularly.
If you followed along at all through the year, thank you! Your words of encouragement meant a lot. And if you made it all the way to this point in the post, good job, this was a long one! Below I've put together some of my absolute favorite images from the year. Take a look and see if any of your favorites are in there as well!