Everyday Life

What I’ve learned from doing Project 365

As you may have seen on my Facebook page or on my blog, I have just finished my very first Project 365. Was it hard? Yes. Was it overwhelming? Yes. But it was also one of the very best things I’ve ever done for my photography. I can see how much I’ve grown as a photographer over  those last 12 months and I can see my style of photography emerging. That’s why I wanted to share what I’ve learned from doing this year-long project and tips and tricks on how to make through it until the end.

little boy holding a snail shell in his hand

The thing is, you don’t have to be a photographer to do a Project 365. By all means, you can shoot with your fancy camera, but they say the best camera is the one you have on you. And we all have smartphones now, with built-in cameras, right? So you can do your own project with just your phone, if you want. And below are some of the tips to help you.

You can start your project on ANY day. 

Normally people start these photography projects on 1st January, but I decided I didn’t want to wait and I started mine on 1st November. It really doesn’t matter and you can start whenever you want and whenever you’re ready.

toddler boy reading a book on a sofa

There are no rules.

They call these projects ‘personal projects’ and that’s what they are: PERSONAL. You can tweak the rules, make up your own ones and do whatever you want. You want to shoot in black and white all year long? Fine! Do you only want to photograph nature? Also fine! Don’t compare yourself to others and do what YOU want to do. It’s your project!

It’s OK to miss a day (or two).

I have to confess. A traditional Project 365 means that you take a picture every day for a year. But sometimes life happens, you lack motivation, time, energy etc and you miss a day. I’ve been there. More than once. But I decided that instead of failing and giving up completely, I would take 365 pictures over the course of a year and those would make into my album. So what does that mean? It means that if you miss a day, don’t panic. Take two photos the next day. Or just make it up as soon as possible. Don’t beat yourself up because we know that things get into our way.

There were days that I was completely lacking motivation or inspiration. But I would then make a mental (or physical) list of things I wanted to photograph the next day / the upcoming week and I made sure I took these pictures in the following days.

toddler boy blowing off candles on a birthday cake

Know your why.

Why did you decide to do this project? To document a specific chapter in your life? Are you perhaps getting married, having a baby, or moving to another country? Or perhaps you want to learn and grow as a a photographer, or just improve your photography skills? Whatever made you start this project, will keep you going in a long run. I jumped into this project wanting to challenge myself, learn new skills, improving my techniques but also to find my shooting style and, of course, document our lives at this point in life.

pregnant woman and bump

Go somewhere new.

And I mean it. Take your camera somewhere you’ve never been before. Or take your camera to a place you have been before but never photographed it. Supermarket, pet shop, coffee shop, petrol station etc. You never know what might inspire you whilst you’re out. There were days during this past year when our days looked the same and that’s when my motivation would plummet. But I noticed that as soon as we changed the scenery or went somewhere, I would feel inspired to shoot again. And sometimes we couldn’t go outside (due to bad weather, illnesses etc) and that’s when I would walk around the house and see where else I could shoot. Seeing that most of my photos were taken downstairs in our living room / play room / kitchen, I made an effort to go upstairs and take photos in other rooms. This also meant dealing with different light, shadows and surroundings.

toddler boy in a library reading a book

little toddler boy on a double decker bus

Make a list of things you want to remember.

I am constantly making lists. I have three of four lists at any given time and it gives me great satisfaction to tick things off when they’re done. And that’s another thing you can incorporate into your daily shooting. Make a list of things you want to photograph and remember. Whether it’s your child seeing snow for the first time, carving a pumpkin, having a nap, playing with sprinklers in the garden – make a note of these things and activities and the list will help you on those days when you don’t know what to shoot.

toddler boy playing with a sprinkler in a garden

Reward yourself.

Think of something you can do or get for yourself when you finish this project. A new handbag? New shoes? New camera lens or accessory? My reward was and still is a physical album with all of my 365 photos. I think it will serve as a great reminder of the past year but also holding a tangible proof of my commitment and hard work in my hands will be phenomenal.

little boys in a park in autumn

Like I mentioned, the project was hard and daunting at times. There were moments I couldn’t be bothered to pick up my camera anymore. But I persevered and I am so glad I did. I now have 365 photos I can look at and they remind me what my family and I did this past year. Some of the photos from the project have become my favourite photos ever and looking at them bring memories back to what we did on those certain days.

little boy and his dad cuddling on a sofa

Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t need to take a photo a day AND edit it AND share it on your social media. And don’t expect to create magical pictures every time. Give yourself some grace. Focus on just taking photos. Remind yourself of this one simple rule throughout the year and it will make completing the project less daunting.

Alina Clark - A family and lifestyle documentary photographer based in Essex

A little bit about me

My name is Alina and I am a documentary family photographer based in Essex, United Kingdom. I love capturing everyday life just the way it is – unscripted, a bit messy and extraordinary in the most ordinary way.

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