Finding Your True North – A 365 Day Photo Project

You want to read this post, believe me. I must have hit a series of the delete button about 4 times trying to come up with a title for this blog post. I can almost feel the eye rolls, “yea rights,” and click-away-from-this-post-quickly fingers even thinking about a 365 Day Photo Project. Whether you do a project to this scale or something smaller, read this post.

 

The Obvious in Doing a 365 Day Photo Project

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  • You might lose your inspiration and find yourself in a creative rut.
  • You might just plain get lazy some days and that camera will feel like 1,000 pounds.
  • You might not make it a full 365 days. You might get soooo busy that you miss a day… or quit.
  • You might get frustrated as hell wondering why your photos don’t look as gorgeous as the ones you see on Pinterest.

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The Not-So-Obvious (but totally true)

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  • You might find that the photos YOU are taking are 100% for you… without any pre-conceived rules in your head. And if they aren’t “perfect,” you just might think you are brilliant (because, you are, duh!)
  • You might even find that you have re-ignited your passion for photography.
  • You might discover the you within your photos.
  • You might find confidence in yourself and your shooting.
  • You will feel the most astounding sense of accomplishment and pride when you reach your goal and have physical evidence of your memories. If you make it a full year, you should totally celebrate and I will raise a glass to you from afar.
  • You will expand your photography vision and grow your skill to a new level. I promise. I know this, because I’ve been doing an ongoing 365 day photo project for over 3 years now! You can read about how it changed me in the blog post I wrote for Clickin Moms HERE (pin it, read it later).

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Sort of Embarassing….

So I’m going to let the cat out of the bag… I had a longggg way to go when I started shooting. Like, I can’t believe I’m really going to share this entire link with you all, but it must be done to prove the value in a 365 Day Photo Challenge. a) the left column is from 2011/2012 the right column is 2014. b) I may celebrate my improvement, but just like anyone, I see the flaws in my images still today. I have self doubt. I still want to improve.

then and now photos

If you’d like to check out my personal project in its entirety, it started at Kendall’s World and then migrated to my photography website, Marie Masse Photography, when our son was born. 

 

Starting a 365 Day Photo Project (or 5 day, or 14 day, whatever you decide)

To be brutally honest, a 365 day project is the best. What else is going to hold you accountable to practice?

How many times have you been frustrated with your photos or your business and you get click happy and add the next ebook, workshop, tool, or gadget thinking surely it is going to enlighten you with some kind of secret and morph you into the amazing photographer you want to be? (Woah run-on sentence alert) You’re not alone… I’m so guilty of this. Wanna know how to overcome this problem? Wanna know the real secret in becoming a better photographer?

PICK UP YOUR CAMERA FOR JUST 10 MINUTES  A DAY. SHOOT ANYTHING YOUR INTUITION TELLS YOU TO SHOOT.

It doesn’t end with just shooting. It’s also about analyzing the photos you’ve taken. Ask yourself what your flaws are. Ask yourself what your strengths are. What is trending in your photography world for what you are drawn to?

Evaluate how you got the shot. How is the photo you love different than your outtakes? Analyze where you stood, the light, the lens, the camera settings, the emotion, the engagement with the subject. Could you have done something different? You can learn a wealth of knowledge by looking at photos – including your own. By observing your own photos in this manner, you will begin to see trends. You will see your flaws (maybe you shoot crooked 70% of the time like I used to) and you will see your strengths. Most importantly, you will be on your way to finding your true north in your photography journey… the direction in which your passion lies.

Simply put: if you want to improve your photography skills, you have to put in the time for practice.

 

Deciding on What To Shoot for your Personal Photo Challenge

For me, I wasn’t even trying to be a photographer when I started my challenge. I began photographing my daughter when she was born with a one year goal for a photo a day. But what if you don’t have children or you are not into photographing people? Take a few minutes and think of a few ideas that come to mind in what you’d like to photograph. Simmer on it for a day or so. Think of the story you want to tell. Think of your ultimate goal in photography and what you think would be the first shooting step in getting there.

I can’t tell you what to choose as your subject. My only advice is to keep it consistent. If you are unsure of what is in your heart and soul behind the lens, start with a shorter project. For example, I thought I was going to be a newborn photographer. Soon into my 365 day project, I knew posing babies, props, and set ups weren’t for me. So if you think you may be passionate about something, set a goal to photograph that subject everyday for just 2 weeks or a month. The point is, start shooting…

PICK UP YOUR CAMERA FOR JUST 10 MINUTES A DAY. SHOOT ANYTHING YOUR INTUITION TELLS YOU TO SHOOT.

Listen to your gut and you will find your perfect project theme. If you begin and hate it, start shooting something else. And if along the way you create a super amazing Iconic (to you) image, share it with us for a chance to be featured. If you don’t want to choose a theme, don’t.

Rather than a specific subject, perhaps consider challenging yourself to shooting a new technique each week – like something out of the Goodbye, Posing Guide ebook. Practicing a skill-set will help you be more familiar with it when you are shooting a session – kind of like having that trump card when you play Euchre (where are my Euchre fans??).

 

6 Quick Tips for a 365 Day Photo Project

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  • Keep your camera near at all times. Bonus if you have a back up. My camera is in the middle of my home so I can run and grab it on a moment’s notice. It’s not packed away in a camera bag EVER. Bring it everywhere.
  • Track your photos and progress in a blog. This holds you accountable, acts as a place to visually see your progress. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be something simple.
  • If you feel like you can’t possibly photograph your topic any other way and your creative spark tanks, get out of the house. Shoot something else. Go for a walk. Find another environment to shoot your subject in.
  • Avoid copying poses and sets ups you see on Pinterest or elsewhere. The point is to grow your vision, not clone yourself of someone else’s.
  • Ask for help when you find yourself stuck or frustrated. Join a forum or seek a photographer that offers mentoring.
  • Be on a constant state of awareness. It’s easy to become aware of a photo opportunity with your camera in hand, but practice this even when your camera is put away. Look for opportunities. Think about how people react to various things like when you speak to them (with children, what makes them laugh, for example). This one tip alone with enable to you anticipate photo ops as they unfold.
  • Bonus Tip: PICK UP YOUR CAMERA FOR JUST 10 MINUTES A DAY. SHOOT ANYTHING YOUR INTUITION TELLS YOU TO SHOOT.

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If YOU have participated in a photo project or challenge of your own, please share your success stories below. Let’s get our fellow photog friends pumped up to start their own challenge! 

 

Need more inspiration? Get lost in these posts:

10 Tips to Mastering Your 365 Day Project

Booking Photo Sessions: 5 Tips to Filling Your Calendar

Documentary of a Toddler on a Shopping Spree

Photographing Birthday Milestones My Way

 

 

 

 

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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  • I started one this year, but I quickly lost the drive. I still took a TON of pictures this year, but there were many days where I didn’t have a camera in my hand. I look back now and realize that I was going about it all wrong- I was looking for posed shots, setting up scenes, blah blah blah- it was a lot of work! Getting back into this style lately has been so freeing to me, and I really want to give it another try- from a documenting perspective. January 1st will be attempt #2! <3

  • Amanda K. works with Fearless and Framed. I sent her the link to this post so she could get is scheduled for publishing. She wanted to share her thoughts, but was afraid it was biased since she works so closely with the company. I told her I’m sharing it anyway 🙂

    “On the verge of launching a photography business rooted in storytelling, I often lose my confidence. Why would people want to pay me? I should really know it ALL before I charge anyone. Failure is so not my style. I hope the clients are happy with the gallery. But then I pop over to the latest Fearless and Framed post and I’m telling you I feel like I can do it. This type of imperfectly perfect photography is important. It may not be all over Pinterest, but it is all over the hearts of the client’s viewing their galleries. Thank you, Marie and your new venture for inspiring and building confidence in us newbies.”

  • This is a brilliant post. The dramatic change in your photography is wonderful of you to share. In addition to learning new skills, did you upgrade equipment in that time? If so, what’s “in your bag” now as opposed to then?