Photographing a 365 project is a HUGE undertaking, but one with unimaginable rewards. In the 14 years since first picking up a camera, I have never grown more as a photographer than I have in the last couple of years, when I started using my camera daily. It has forced me to be more purposeful, resourceful and experimental to keep my projects interesting. I have learned so many new skills and these have come in incredibly useful in my work as a full-time wedding photographer. This blog explains exactly what a 365 project is and includes some helpful tips and advice for getting started.
WHAT IS A 365 PROJECT?
The clue is definitely in the title! A 365 project is when a photographer takes at least one photograph every single day for a year and uses them to form a collection. This may seem odd as most people take a photo every day – selfies, quick snaps of the kids etc on their phones – and are unknowingly doing a sort of 365 project. I see a 365 photography project slightly differently. It’s making the time to intentionally take one frame every day for the purpose of the project. This could be with a camera or phone, but the intention is the same.
WHAT IS PHOTOGRAPHED IN A 365 PROJECT?
Anything and everything! You might want to choose to document nature and the seasons, for example, or the area you live in. I started my first personal project in lockdown in 2020 and so the narrative became about our life at home for myself, my husband, our two children and our dog. My 365 projects have followed suit and have been a mixture of documentary and creative storytelling about my family. It’s your project though – you can decide!
WHY IS IT GOOD TO DO A 365 PROJECT?
A 365 project is a unique opportunity to really push yourself in new ways with photography. The first few weeks might seem really easy – after all, it will be the first time everything about your chosen subject will be being photographed regularly. As the weeks go by it will become much more challenging to create new work. I found that after about 8 weeks I was really feeling an intense need to think outside the box. It is in this period in my 365 project, when I really had to persevere in my thinking and execution, that I created some of my best work.
I have spoken to a lot of professional photographers who feel that they now only pick up their camera for work – not for pleasure. My first lockdown project was the first time in nearly a decade that I had attempted a personal project which had nothing to do with my work. Prior to this, I had, of course, done the odd photoshoot with my children, but these were few and far between – and were often to get a nice photo as a Christmas present for the grandparents! Personal projects are SO LIBERATING! There is no one you are working for or trying to impress. These photographs are just about you and your journey and not about anyone else. You can make mistakes and it won’t matter to anyone but you. You can try out ideas and see if they work without having to disappoint anyone when they don’t. What’s more, you will grow as a photographer and that will in turn help your professional work.
WHAT IF I MISS A DAY?
This is probably inevitable unless you are someone who literally never gets poorly and never ever forgets to take a photo-taking device with them. I got pleurisy during my 2021 365 project and had to put down the camera while on some very strong painkillers. Once I was feeling better, I shot some extra photos, choosing to make them relevant to the missed days. For example, I took a photo of a dress my daughter had been making on one of the days I missed. However, as I’ve said before, it is 100% your project and you may choose to approach missed days differently. You could consciously overshoot some days of the month to fill any you know you are going to miss or, as I’m doing this year, aim to have 365 photographs taken regularly across the year without worrying if the odd day is missed here and there.
DO I ALWAYS NEED TO USE MY CAMERA?
No! Anything that takes a photo can be used. Again, it’s your project so you can decide how you want to shoot it. I personally hate my phone camera and rarely use it, but many photographers do amazing work with their phones. Instead, I have a small Sony A6000 and Sigma 16mm lens which I take with me most places (I call it my handbag camera!). I sometimes use my Sony A7III too, but prefer to leave this to professional work. Last year, I bought a GoPro Hero 9 which I love because it’s waterproof. I bought a dome for it too so I can get photographs half-above and half-below the water at the beach.
WHEN CAN I START?
Many photographers wait until 1st January to do their 365 project so the project becomes about a calendar year. However, you can start at any time – there are no hard and fast rules, as it is your project.
THEMES TO HELP YOU STAY CREATIVE
So, you’ve got this far, which is great! I found that the easiest way to keep a project going is to have a brilliant toolkit of photographic skills and methods that I can call on when I need help finding ideas. I have listed some below along with examples of how I used each one. I hope you find these useful.
Light is going to be your best friend on a 365 project. I recommend reading Chloe Lodge’s book For the Love of Photograph to really understand light and learn how to track it. This is what really elevated my work from feeling ‘meh’ to feeling really interesting. There is so much light – direct, dappled, soft – and all can be used creatively once you are able to see it clearly.
When there is no interesting light, you can make your own. Either get out some off-camera flash kit or even just a video light and have a play around.
Leading lines are the lines that lead the eye to a particular part of the image. Leading lines can come from all sorts of things – buildings, trees, bannisters etc.
This is probably my favourite thing to look for. I love bright colours in my photographs and will always have my eyes open for any locations that I can come back to with great backgrounds. I will also ask my children to dress in certain colours if we are heading somewhere that I know has a lot of a matching colour there.
There is so much creativity in shadows, whether they are naturally occurring or whether you create them with some additional lighting.
From above, from below, from behind – move around and see how you can capture a scene more creatively. I love photos from above because it’s an angle we rarely see in normal life, which makes it more interesting.
Prisms are something I rarely used before undertaking my first 365 projects. I now have a set of fractal prisms and a set of Lensbaby Omni and I love playing with them. They’re especially good when we are at home and I am trying to think of something new and different to do as I can use them to add colour, light or reflections to a more mundane scene.
FREELENSING AND LENSBABY LENSES
Again, this is something I really had never played with before because there was never a reason to! I saw a lot of other photographers doing freelensing and gave it a go. I found it very difficult and didn’t always like the results but it was a brilliant process to help me let go of needing everything to be perfectly sharp. I then bought a Lensbaby Sol, which I much preferred, as I found I have a bit more control over what’s in focus. This lens is a bit like a tilt and shift in that the part of the image in focus can be adjusted by moving the front part of the lens. It’s a manual lens which I found difficult with my questionable eyesight but a really lovely little lens to have on hand.
Following on from freelensing, being creative with focus is really simple to involve in your everyday life without any special lenses or removing your lens. Consider purposely shooting out of focus, or having something in focus that is different to what you would expect.
COMPOSITION AND FRAMING
Composition is another really simple but really handy thing to have in your mind daily. How can you make the composition of a scene more interesting? Have you shot it wide as well as close-up? Is there a way you could more creatively fill the frame? You can use the rule of thirds or try breaking it and see what happens. Why not try getting triangles within your composition too?
Until 2020, panning was something I hadn’t done since university in 2011 and was a long-lost memory. I was inspired to try it after chatting to a wedding client of mine who shoots car races. He uses panning a lot and I thought it would be fun to try on moving objects (swings, zip wires, bikes, scooters etc). I start with a shutter of around 1/15 and pop my aperture to around F11. If you turn your body towards the place the subject will end up and then turn your head round to capture them as they move towards you, you can then twist back around as you’re shooting without having to move your feet.
Reflections are one of those things that happen everywhere – mirrors, windows, water etc all have them – so why not use them! You can also use your mobile phone screen in front of your lens to add reflection within the image.
This is most people’s worst nightmare – myself included! Sometimes, though, when I’ve run out of subjects or the children just don’t want to be in front of the camera, I’ll make myself the subject instead. I recommend using an interval timer so you can just leave the camera shooting every few seconds to avoid having to keep getting up. I usually set mine to shoot every 5 seconds for 50 frames and then I can always stop it sooner if I need to.
Why not have a look around the house for things you can put in front of your lens to shoot through, My personal favourites are a slinky and a plastic food bag. It’s also worth ordering a piece of copper pipe from Ebay for about £4 to make a ring of fire.
If you’re struggling to find a bigger scene to shoot, look for the details. Raindrops on windows feature a lot in my work and hands and feet can be fun to feature too.
THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING!
If you are starting a 365 project, please feel free to reach out so I can follow your journey. You can find me at www.instagram.com/thewoodsstayhome or email me at email@example.com.