365 Photo Challenge Lessons- First Month and a Half

Lots of New Year’s resolutions get tossed around on January 1. Losing weight, getting organized, saving more money or really trying to get that dream job. Those are all excellent goals, but I just don’t care enough about them to stay with it. I’m a bit on the chubby side even though I work out, I can never find my car keys, and being a professional manatee bather isn’t a job option in Northwest Tennessee. If failing to achieve a New Year’s resolution was a business, I would be CEO of the company. I’m that bad.

So this year, I picked something new. The 365 day photography challenge seemed like a huge commitment on one hand, but on the other it seemed like an awesome way to get out of my comfort zone and to grow as a photographer. I tend to over think my photography so much that sometimes  I don’t shoot at all. It’s too cold, it’s too wet, I don’t have my camera, my photo won’t be amazing… I could go on.

Day 1. Taken with 120 year old E&H.T Anthony NPA 5×8 large format camera.

I am on day 46 now. I haven’t missed a day yet. I haven’t given up on the challenge yet, which makes me feel like I haven’t given up on myself yet. When I hit day 60 with no misses “I will futterwacken vigorously.”

Some tips for anyone who wants to try the 365 challenge.

1. NO SET SUBJECTS. Don’t set a themes or subjects, because that is adding work to a project that is supposed to be fun. The one time I attempted to do a 30 day photo challenge, I had a subject everyday to cover. That was hard between work and family. Especially when the subject is something “Backlit portrait of a dog in flight” First of all, what the hell? Secondly, we just covered that getting organized is not my cup of tea. I have been failing at it for years. What makes you think I can rearrange my schedule to organize a shoot for one photo to share on Facebook? I don’t need the stress, and neither do you. Even if you are an organized, planning guru. The stress will do nothing but kill your passion and your project.

Day 7. Found this scene on my way home one night. The lights lit this one area up on a relatively dark part of our downtown area. Like a moth, I had to go where the light was.

2. NO STRESS. If you find that you are stressing over what your daily image is going to be, you’re doing it wrong. I was worried over what my photo was going to be for a few weeks when I first started, then I realized I wasn’t getting paid to get worked up. I was also not getting paid to spend hours a day planning this image. Yes, some of my images are better than others. No, I don’t like them all, but I have found that if I relax while I’m hunting for a photo, it’s more likely that I’ll find one. I might even like it.

3. GO MOBILE. If you are a purest, there is really no changing your mind, but here it is anyway. USE YOUR PHONE. When I’m tired, out of time or just don’t feel like dragging out all of my gear for one image, yes, I will use my phone. And why not? I’ve shot some of my favorite images with my phone just because it was the camera I had at the time. Yes, I too love the control my digital cameras afford me. I love the character my film cameras produce. Someone clever said, the best camera is the one you have with you. AND as photographers most of us have complained about people complimenting our cameras and not our abilities when we produce great images. The following scenario never ceases to blow Joe Smoe’s mind. It’s also one of the glorious, golden fuzzy vindication moments.

Day 42. All I had was my phone, so this was taken with my Samsung Galaxy S8. But so far this is one of my favorites because of composition, which doesn’t require a great DSLR to create.

JS -“Wow, what an amazing photograph. You must have a really nice camera!”

Photographer – “Thanks, I do have a nice camera. I shot this with my phone.” -mic drop-

4. SET REMINDERS. Most adult live their lives by alarms. I’m no different. I have one to wake up, and another in the evening to put the kids to bed. What difference could a few more make? For the 365 challenge I set three. The first one goes off at 6 A.M which allows me a couple of hours to wake up and have coffee before it goes off. Another one chimes at 12:45 P.M. The girls I work with know what this alarm is and they will always ask me what my plan is for the photo of the day. I usually have know idea but, it helps get me thinking about what my options are. This is usually the time I look around the office for something too photograph, and find nothing.  My coworkers tend to have ideas too when the alarm goes off which can be helpful if the creative well is running dry. I have one last one at 7:30 P.M when I should, in theory, have an image edited and ready to go. But sometimes it wakes me up after I’ve fallen asleep on the couch. This last alarm is my reminder to post the photo to Facebook. Which brings me to my last point.

5. BE ACCOUNTABLE. Use Facebook to keep yourself accountable. Your friends and family will watch your posts and wait once you get your routine down. They can also be encouraging. If you know that they are expecting you to post an image you will have that much more motivation to post something to keep the flow moving. It’s a lot like telling your friends and family you have quit smoking. They will keep you on the path, offering support and motivation.

Day 32. The people I’ve told about this project keep me on track. All day they asked what my photo was going to be. I had no idea. It was cold and I just wanted to go home. Then these pigeons were huddled on these lights as we walked to our cars.

6. REVISIT SUBJECT MATTER. Not every image has to be an entirely new subject. If you’re in it for the long haul, I would expect to find some of the same things pop up in different photos. Especially if you live in a small place like I do. I tend to find myself looking at the same places and people over and over again trying to figure out how to make a unique photo of something I’ve seen a lot of. I’m also drawn to certain places because of the lights or location. I’m happiest photographing things I like. Which is another reason some of the subject matter for my images has been repeated, but not duplicated.

7. START NOW. Don’t wait for January 1. Don’t wait for an anniversary, don’t plan your 365 project. Do it now. There really is no time like the present. I only started on January 1 because this idea had already been rolling around in the back of my brain. So far the only perk to having started on the first day of the year is knowing what number a day is in the year. I know that February 17 is the 47th day of the year. Not really a perk.

Before you know it you will have lots of new and interesting photographs to add to your website or Facebook or Instagram or whatever. You might even get your photos printed and put them in a journal. Remember, with this project the end isn’t the goal. The goal is to learn and grow while getting to the end!

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