When I started my 365 project on January 1, 2020, I really had no strategy for success, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I was highly motivated to succeed. Other photographers I admire had recommended this project as a way to grow creatively, and I was inspired by Ashley Marston and Chloè Rosser, two photographers who have been doing 365 projects for several years. Having now finished this project, I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to grow in their photography. A question I often see other photographers ask is “how do I find my own style?” If you shoot every day for a year, by the end of that year you will have your own style.
At the beginning of this project, I was taking it day by day. But by the end of March, I realized that I’d be able to succeed as long as I had ideas for photos that I could execute under a variety of circumstances. No light? Messy house? Uncooperative kids? Pandemic? No big deal because I was ready with ideas for pretty much any situation.
Below are some of my “go to” photo ideas that got me through the year, with some tips.
Kids change a lot over the course of a year. I took a few basic “headshots” of my kids during the year to capture the little changes. These shots are easy to take and are really just a function of having your camera on you at all times and taking a moment to stop and take a photo.
Aside from actually finishing this project, what I’m most proud of is that I’m in 60 of the 365 photos I took! Before I began this project, I made a point to take one family self portrait a year, but I never imagined I’d be in a total of 60 photos with my kids in one year! Self portraits can feel very challenging at first but with practice, they become easier and actually fun. Because of the pandemic, we were all at home together more than usual, which helped make these happen.
Most of these self portraits were taken in the same room. I blame the pandemic for all of this repetition! But also with a project like this, you have to work with what you have, and we were stuck at home a lot this year.
A selfie with my whole family is wonderful but I also love photos with just me and the kids.
But not everyone is always up for taking a photo with me. I’ll take who I can get.
Sometimes that’s my daughter.
Sometimes that’s my son.
And there were a few times when it was just me . . .
I made a point to try to get photos of just my husband with the kids.
There were times when no one wanted to be involved in anything to do with my 365 project. I try to be respectful of my family’s wishes on this. But I also know that my kids simply won’t appreciate this project until they’re older and look at the photos years from now. This is what motivated me to stick with it. But to keep everyone happy, I had to find a balance and respect peoples’ boundaries.
When my kids didn’t want to be in a photo, an alternative that I really enjoyed was photographing our baking projects.
Food photographed on Erickson Surfaces.
Another way I mixed up my 365 project was to learn a new skill — drone photography. I had been obsessed with drone photography for a couple years. I decided to just go for it, and I studied for and passed the FAA’s Part 107 exam in July. While I was learning to fly, I took aerial photos mostly of myself but also a few of my family.
Learning a new skill is such a great way to stay excited about such a long-term project. It can be anything that’s new to you — macro photography, double exposures, long exposures, off camera flash, underwater photography. Think about the next new thing you want to learn so you have that ready for when your 365 project starts to feel burdensome or boring.
Here are some of my favorite drone shots from this project.
With a 365 project, not every day is going to be full of amazing moments. Part of the challenge is to document the everyday minutiae creatively. Bath time, haircuts, doctors appointments — this is part of what parenthood is about. While these aren’t the images I’ll be likely to frame and hang on the wall, they will round out the album I’ll be making for this project by showing some of our everyday moments.
I tried to use natural light when at all possible. But there were a few days when for whatever reason, I only managed to take a photo at night using the artificial light available in my apartment. Reviewing these photos now, I’m glad that this project challenged me in this way. The photo of my son staring at the rocket is one of my favorites from this project, and I know for certain I would not have taken it but for this project.
We were stuck at home most of the year due to the pandemic, and shooting at home all the time felt so limiting. I’m admittedly a pretty messy person but I do not like clutter in my photos. Nor did I want to spend all my time straightening up for this project. Here are some examples of how I framed my photos to block out clutter while keeping it creative. In two of the images I’m shooting through chairs at the kitchen table and in the third image I shot through two stacks of books. This is another example of how the limitations of this project — being stuck indoors in a messy apartment — forced a creative result.
One thing I’ve learned from this project is that I need more mirrors in my house!
My kids are pretty much always on the move. Jumping on the bed and playing tag at home is an everyday thing (sorry downstairs neighbors 😬). Looking back over my photos from this year, I love how much movement I captured, even though we were mostly at home. When I looked over my ISO stats for the year in Adobe Bridge, I saw that for almost all my indoor work my ISO was between 1250 and 3200, allowing me a fast shutter speed to freeze the movement.
I also find that if my kids have the freedom to run around, they’re much more likely to cooperate. My son prides himself on being a fast runner. Sometimes we play a game where he tries to “beat” my camera my running so fast that he creates motion blur. It’s win-win!
Another fun way to capture the movement is with motion blur. I like these shots because they’re creative but also easy in that I’m not going for perfection. There were also times when my kids didn’t feel like being in photos and I was also not not “camera ready” but I needed to take a photo for the project. In this situation, a self portrait with a slow shutter speed in front of a mural fit the bill.
This is another “low pressure” type of shot that’s creative yet easy to execute. Because sometimes you just need a photo to keep the project moving. The last photo below was from a challenge by Two Mann Workshops to take a creative portrait in the bathroom of all places 😂😂😬! I found that participating in occasional challenges like this helped inspire my creativity.
Taking a silhouette was a great option for when the lighting was was either too harsh or insufficient. I love the mood and variety they bring to the year’s photos.
You know what I’m taking about, right? 😂 I found that this project made me a lot more observant. And I observed my kids doing some funny/weird/quirky stuff. Don’t forget to capture the weird stuff too.
As much as I would like to have more variety in my year, I allowed myself the freedom to shoot what I wanted, even if it was repetitive. There are so many other ideas for daily photos, some of which I dabbled in but just didn’t repeatedly explore.
Collages of my kids’ treasures. This is another great idea for capturing what your kids are into even when they don’t want to be in a photo.
Studio work with off camera flash.
While these are some of my favorite ideas for photos from the past year, I still see so much more I want to do! I think the best creative projects fuel even more creativity, and I definitely feel that with this one. For anyone contemplating a 365 project, I highly recommend it! It’s hard work, but so worth it.