“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
I finished my first 365 photography project a few weeks ago and to celebrate, I wanted to share some of my favorite images from the year. Embarking on a 365 project was the best step I’ve taken to improve my photography. No amount of reading tutorials or browsing others’ work online (although I do that plenty) could have taught me more than what I learned from daily shooting.
Just Get Better
When my son was born in 2013, I drooled over all the adorable newborn photos on Pinterest, but was too late to book a photographer. So I thought I’d take some time during my maternity leave to (finally) learn to use my DSLR. I got some shots that are dear to me, but nowhere near the quality I had hoped for. I’d consider doing a 365 project before, but had been too intimidated to commit to one. However, after a few months of frustrating images, I knew that a long-term commitment was just what I needed. So, in February 2014, with a little encouragement from my husband, I decided to go for it. I had no plan or goal other than to shoot daily and just get better.
Always more to learn
I began posting my photos to 365project.org and Flickr and after a few weeks, it became part of my routine. I stopped feeling so self conscious and just posted. Good and bad. Everything was an opportunity to grow and I was surrounded by photographers of all skill levels. It was overwhelming at times, becoming aware of all I had to learn, but there was nowhere to go but better. 🙂
After a couple of months, I picked up a copy of Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure from my library and after reading a few chapters, “it” finally clicked. Peterson explained the exposure triangle in a way that finally made sense to me. I switched my camera to manual, just to try it out, and it’s been there ever since.
I have so so much to learn, technically and creatively, and I always will, but I’m proud of the progress I’ve made this year and especially of the moments I’ve captured for our family. I discovered a passion for documenting my family and found a creative outlet that is challenging and rewarding in so many ways.
Here are a few lessons I learned along the way:
- The online photography community is welcoming, supportive, and so helpful. The friends I made at 365project.org were immensely helpful in keeping me motivated.
- Don’t let rules get in the way of commiting to a 365 project. Sure, the goal is to take a photo every day, but the real objective is to get better. Missing a day here or there isn’t going to prevent that big picture growth. Giving up because you’re focused on perfection will. The best part of a 365 project is that you decide the rules yourself. Commit to what makes sense for you, whether that’s posting your shots daily, weekly, or not at all and shooting every single day or allowing yourself to use a different shot from the week when life gets in the way.
- Shoot for myself. I noticed early in my project that my favorite shots were not necessarily the ones to get the most attention from others. So I try to focus on shooting what excites me and using my interaction online to seek constructive criticism, ask for tips, and identify areas for improvement.
- Don’t compare. It can be discouraging, especially in the beginning, to compare yourself to others and feel like you may never reach a certain skill level. It’s a struggle sometimes, but I try to limit comparison to only myself and focus on my growth rather than flaws in my work. At the same time, I find great inspiration in the amazing work of other photographers. Part of the beauty and reward of a 365 project is watching the compilation of photos grow in quantity and quality.
- Getting love (faves, comments, etc) means giving love. And that takes a lot of time. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not getting a lot of feedback. Learning to give constructive feedback is a great experience. Really questioning what you like about a photograph or what works/doesn’t work is helpful to both you and the person who’s receiving the feedback. Also, everyone has a valuable opinion, no matter how skilled you think you are, so share!
I’ll be starting a new project in April and I’m thinking now about what I really want from my next year of shooting. So far my goals are to:
- Be more deliberate. This year I want to slow down and find more interesting ways to capture my subjects, especially my favorite subjects like family. Bonus if it results in less photos to edit!
- Choose areas/techniques to focus on for growth, rather than taking a shot just to get it done. The latter happened a lot towards the end of my project, and although any shot is part of progress, I’d like to be more committed to honing certain skill areas this year.
- Enter more challenges/contests to step out of my comfort zone and shoot things I wouldn’t otherwise. I recently came across National Geographic’s Your Shot community and am looking forward to participating in their assignments challenges. I also love participating in challenges over at Clickin Moms, including their Glimpse project on Instagram.
Any tips you’d like to share? Have you started/completed a 365 project? How do you keep growing and stay motivated?