You are not going to fail. You are going to grow. Even if life takes you take a day, a week, or 3 weeks away from your project, you are winning. You are winning even if you hit 264 photos instead of the full 365. How? Photography goes far beyond the camera and technicalities. It is also about growing your awareness in your surroundings and a 365 Day Photo Challenge will be just the ticket you need to help.
Your 365 Photo Project: Simple.
As a Professional Photographer, Blogger & Founder of Fearless and Framed, a wife, a mom of two (a three year old free spirit and a wild one year old), I know all about busy (and sleepless nights). Yet, I’ve kept up with my own 365 Day Photo Project for over 3 years. Here are my secrets to making it happen even when life tries its best to pull me away:
1. Take notes
In any given moment, your heart can melt, your blood may boil, you may fall into a deep laughter, you may want to run away. In these moments, memories are being embedded to your brain. The feelings, etched to your heart. Often, the triggers to your raw emotions are on repeat. The sweet touch of your child wanting to snuggled, the moment your toddler finds his way to playing in the toilet water… again…, the conversations over your monthly girls’ night dinner, the chaos of business and family life all blending together…. that’s pretty much my life in a nutshell. So much so, that I can predict and anticipate the details before they happen (in great part due to maintaining my own 365 project).
Keep a notebook (or hello voice to text email to yourself in your iPhone) to jot down any thoughts or use Fearless and Framed’s To-Remember List. This will help you remember to photograph these details on a moment’s notice. You will become aware over time.
2. Have a camera at arm’s length
Ok, realistically, you aren’t going to have a camera at arm’s length always. But you should be in practice of having a camera central to your home if you want to grab a special moment as it suddenly happens. I am very fortunate to have two DSLR cameras. One is usually at the back of my home, on my office stairs which have a baby gate. The other is central – on my dining table or the kitchen counter that I do not cook on (beware of water or powdery substances!). My cell phone is often in the same room or a room away. If you don’t want to lug around your heavy DLSR while out and about, pick up a cheap point and shoot if you want something better than your cell. You don’t have to use your DLSR always. In fact, I encourage you not to. Why? It’s kind of like using a calculator. When you are in a less than perfect setting, your superior DSLR will take the thinking away and you are lucky to have that rockin’ ISO with little grain (for example). Without your DSLR, you are forced to optimize yourself and what you are working with – it’s a way to challenge you.
My own trick is to grab a camera and plan to go shoot for 10 minutes. I don’t mean plan a mini session, just shoot w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r is happening. Many of my photos happen during these 10 minutes doing whatever my kids are doing at the time – not me running and tripping to grab a camera because they are doing something cute. You can be strategic in choosing your 5-10 minutes by referencing those details in your notes.
3. Date and time
My own personal challenge in my project is getting the photos onto my computer. Sometimes it’s nearly a month later.
Make sure to have the date and time in your camera correct! This is a huge, huge help when trying to organize later. It also helps to jot down a sentence or two in your planner for quick reference if you plan to add text captions to your images.
4. Loading photos onto your computer
You’ll overwhelm yourself if you do this daily. I’ll admit to getting shaky, excited hands that fumble when I can’t get that bada$$ photo onto my computer fast enough. Those are the fun days! Truth: there are many, many days where I’m less than thrilled with how my photos turned out. Maybe the end result was far from the vision when I picked up the camera, for example. On those days, it’s best to just walk away. I can assure you, I have many off days. Everyone does. Everyone shows their very best photos online. You may even think different about me if you saw all my crooked, blurry, I-click-my-shutter-too-much outtakes.
Dump your photos onto your computer once a week at most to keep your sanity.
5. Organizing your 365 day photo project on your computer
I shoot with both Canon and Nikon. Both models dump the photos into one folder (Canon is actually cooler for this as it creates folders for each new date). I work on a Macbook Pro, so these folders are in my Pictures folder. I access them in Finder.
I have a separate folder entitled ‘Kids’ (as they are the general theme for my project). Inside Kids there is a folder for each year. Inside each year, is a folder for each month: January 2014, Feburary 2014, and so on. In each month, there is a date: Jan 1, Jan 2, Jan 3, and so on. Here is a peek into my drive:
In my 3 years of doing this project, this is how I’ve kept organized. The photos add up… quick. If I’m on a hunt for a particular image, I may not always be able to pin-point a date of a photo, but I can generally remember the season or what else was going on around that time. Often, if it’s a photo with meaning, I can be like “oh that was taken when we went to my parent’s house… we were there in July on a Saturday.” It’s not a perfect system, but it’s been pretty darn efficient for me.
My recipe: Folder (Project Name), Folder (Year), Folders (Months), Folders (Days)
6. Back ’em up
It goes without saying, back up your photos on an external hard drive. The biggest problem with a 365 and shooting in RAW (yes, I always shoot in RAW) is that space will be taken up quick on your computer. Aside from backing up just in case your computer crashes, you will want to keep old photos on an external as to not bog down your computer with the weight of that taken-up space. I’m a hypocrite of this one, because all of my 2013-2014 photos are on my laptop. In 2015, I promise to get two externals as to keep them off my main computer. I would rather spend the extra money on another hard drive than to have my computer crash due to being so full. I can tell it’s getting a little on the slow side compared to what it used to be, so better safe than sorry. End of story.
Back all photos on a separate, external hard drive for archival and protection.
Sit down and cruise through a week or two of photos all at once. It’s fun! Or you can be like me and now be editing your summer photos (when it’s winter) and pull up photos you totally forgot about. Kidding. Don’t do what I do. As you learn, it’s important to do this weekly as the environment when taking those images and what was happening is fresh in your head. You need this for learning.
Culling those images can be tough! When you are photographing your cutie pies, how can you say no to just one more?! Limit the ‘keepers’ to one or two photos per day – your strongest images. You are building a killer portfolio here – show off the best. Whatever your subject is, evaluate and analyze your photos as you cull them. Why do you like one over the other? Why do you want to keep two similar images? What could you have done differently? Why did you take the photo? What emotion did you feel? Ask yourself these questions as you cull and decide what to edit, because this is where you are learning. There are no wrong answers – it’s a personal survey. No one is judging.
Take what you learn about yourself and subconsciously it will alter your shooting moving forward. Your awareness is growing!!!!! Yay!
Truth be told, culling takes me little time now that I’ve found a style and passion for documenting. Though, when I love a photo, I do always stop and ask myself ‘why?’ even to this day. I do not delete all of my outtakes. I will trash the ones where a kiddo was blinking or there is an obstruction or in my gut I just KNOW I’ll never edit that photo. I will never trash a photo, because something is slightly blurry, the exposure is a little off, it’s a little crooked, the crop is a little funky, etc. It’s fun to go back to your old photos 6 months or years later and you’ll see how your style changed. You may opt to pull an old, unedited photo because now you see beauty in it – it’s happened countless times to me once I let go of how I thought photos “should” look and I’ve evolved. You will find this freedom too over time if you haven’t already! There is no better feeling.
The old Marie used to over edit. I would layer action upon action on photos and barely lower the opacity. Skin had to be perfect – not a dry skin flake, not a blemish, not a stray hair. Hella time on ONE image. Today, I believe in less is more. I do love the rich, deep tones some photographers produce in post-processing, but I personally stick to quick and easy. I use ACR Presets always. The ones I have are from Colorvale®. They add a film to the photos – something I love love love in my style and brand. 90% of the time, I use these Presets, my own exposure adjustments, and pop ’em into Photoshop for a little sharpening. Sometimes I will run an action to richen the color, but it’s minor. The goal for me is fast. These aren’t client photos, these are my photos. If my child has a messy face, it stays. I will only remove distractions that I can’t live without removing. Your goal in this project is to make it as close to perfect in camera. Editing should be simple – and for me, it is… not because I find it easy, but because I do it so lightly. Less is more.
In part of this project, editing is a part of your 365 project. Don’t be afraid to push those sliders up or down and experiment. Live a little. Try a new action. Do something you wouldn’t normally do just for the sake of discovery.
9. Social Media Prep
Once I save the jpeg image in it’s folder (the day), I will resize for Instagram and Facebook if it’s one I want to share there. Those get saved right in the folder with the date and I don’t change their name – I want them next to the RAW file, xml, and the high res jpg. I like to add FB or IN at the end so I know what it is sized for with a glance and also save Instagram and Facebook photos in png files.
Featured Photos: This is also where I would do any feature prep for my favorite places to share photos. – for example, I post regularly as a Clickin Moms Pro on the Daily Project.
Blog Prep: I will drag and drop all favorites into BlogStomp for quick batch blog-ready photos. Freaking love this software! You can do collages or single photos, so it’s really the best solution for fast blog-prep. The BlogStomp photos get “stomped” into a folder called Stomped. I have BlogStomp stomp them with a title of 365-Day-Photo-Project-June or whatever month I’m doing. This organizes those easily and then they get dragged and dropped into the month folder. As long as you drag & drop into BlogStomp and Stomp in order, they will be in chronological order for you. Easy!
Prepping your favorites as you go along will save you time when you want to grab a photo to share or when you sit down to do your social media planning.
Our large family lives all over the place, so I blog my project by the week (yea, don’t judge, I know it’s behind in posting). I load the photos into a new blog post, add a quick caption for each, and it’s done! If you aren’t interested in blogging, you could pull out your favorites quarterly or yearly to create a photo book. These photos are perfect for your portfolio, because they have your heart in them.
However you plan to utilize your photos, the important part is that these photos are a symbol of your personal growth and development.