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Why my failed 365 Project was really a success

by Karen on December 28, 2011

Last year aside from my standing resolution to eat healthier and lose weight (pfft), I resolved to take at least one photo every day. This is known as the 365 Project, and people all over the Internetz and Flickr participate in it every year.

My motivation lasted longer than pretty much any other resolution I’ve ever made. I took a daily photo (skipping a few days here and there) until the middle of July. Even though I only made it halfway through the year, I learned so much. Here are a few things I took away from the project, and why I believe everyone with an interest in photography should attempt to do it.

It made me a better photographer.

When I look at the photos I took at the beginning of the year and the photos I take now, I am blown away at how much better my photos have gotten. At the beginning of the year, I used the terrible built-in flash on my camera for indoor photos, which washed everything out. Now I shoot in RAW, color correct photos in Photoshop, and I’ve learned better angles and techniques for getting the shots I want.

I learned that special occasions aren’t the only moments worth capturing.

I had two goals when I started the project: I wanted to take better pictures, and I wanted to take more pictures. Judah was 5 weeks old when I started the project. I felt like he was growing so quickly, and I wanted to create a permanent time capsule to remember him at each stage. Because I was always on the lookout for a daily photo, I learned to view everyday moments as photo-worthy. Some of my favorite pictures were taken on some of our most boring days around the house. But those are the moments that we most easily forget, I think. That’s why it’s so important to photograph them.

I learned not to force it.

Some of my least favorite photos were taken at the last minute when I said, “Oh, crap. I never took a photo today!” When you’re trying to take a photo each day, there will inevitably be days when nothing photo-worthy happens, or when you don’t feel well, or you’re just too busy to remember to pick up your camera. I don’t regret taking these last minute photos, because it doesn’t hurt to have them, but I learned not to waste my time forcing photo shoots if I’m not feeling inspired.

I learned the importance of editing, deleting, and organizing photos.

I already had a pretty good process in place for editing and organizing photos before I began the project, but when you’re processing 100-200 photos a week like I was at the beginning of the project, you realize just how important it is to delete the doubles and bad photos, edit the good ones, save them in an organized way, and back them up in multiple places.

If you’re dumping every photo you take into a folder on your hard drive, I urge you to resolve to stop doing that in the new year! You are killing your storage space with photos that aren’t worth keeping, making it harder to find the good photos, and the more time passes before organizing them, the harder it becomes to delete even bad photos. Every photographer takes five or ten or even twenty bad photos for every good one. Delete the photos that aren’t worth saving, and organize the ones that are!

I learned that the secret of taking good photos is taking a lot of photos.

I am the first to admit that I’m not a great photographer, especially when it comes to my wiggly baby who refuses to sit still. Most of my favorite photos were taken by holding down the button, and taking 10 photos in a row while Judah runs wild. At the end of many photo shoots, I was convinced that I didn’t have a single good photo. But when I went through and edited them, I was surprised to find a lot of good ones. If I hadn’t taken a million photos, I wouldn’t have gotten those good shots. I am not ashamed to admit that many of my best photos are taken totally by accident. My New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to take more good photos on purpose. For now, I’m just happy to have some of the shots that I took accidentally.

If you’ve never tried the 365 Project, you want to improve your photography skills, or just force yourself to take more photos, I definitely thing you should do it! You will be amazed at how much you learn, even if you end up quitting halfway through the year like me.

You can see all the photos I took this year here. I’ll also have my yearly slideshow ready sometime after the 1st. :)

Have you ever tried the 365 Project? What did you learn?

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{ 3 comments }

1 joanna December 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

You got some great pictures this year! Every year I consider going a 365 project, then decide against it, figuring I’ll end up with too many grainy pictures of random stuff taken before bed because I’ve forgotten during the day.
joanna´s last blog post ..A Year With Elliott Casper, in pictures

2 Karen December 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I think it’s definitely worth trying, even if you do end up with a lot of grainy, “Oops, I forgot to take a picture today” photos. I have my fair share of those. But it did encourage me to start seeing opportunities for photographs in everyday life, and it gave me an excuse to pick up the camera more when I felt inspired. It might change the way you take pictures! And even if it doesn’t, you’re not out anything. :)

3 eemusings January 3, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I’m undertaking Project 365 this year! Now that I have an iPhone, I should be able to make some semi decent images while out and about even without my dSLR. Like you, I don’t plan to force it. I know there will be days when I don’t take a shot of anything, or don’t take anything remotely worthy of posting. Editing will definitely be key – and that reminds me, I’m due to do a cull and backup. My memory card is full and I officially can’t put it off anymore.

It’s definitely key to just shoot lots and lots and lots to get the gems. And it’s much easier now in the digital age. I never really understood the value of shooting the same thing from many slightly different angles when I took (film) photography in school. But it’s immensely valuable – the slightest change in focus, zoom or lighting can really make a shot pop (or not). Tons of the pictures that ended up in my final projects were totally unplanned shots that I simply snapped randomly or took in a quickfire sequence.
eemusings´s last blog post ..Hello, 2012

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