3 Reasons Everyone Should Do a 365 Photo Project

A couple weeks ago, I started my second 365 photo project—a photo a day for an entire year. After successfully completing my first year of intentional photo documentation of my own life, I am absolutely addicted and thrilled to be starting a second year's worth of photos. It was definitely the best decision I have ever made and I want to share three reasons why, in hopes that you (yes, YOU) will start one of your own.

Here are 40 of my faves from my first year, in chronological order: 

  1. A 365 photo project improved my photographic abilities.
    Like anything else you set out to do, improvement only comes through practice. A 365 project gave me a daily "assignment" and forced me to shoot nearly every single day. I began seeing light differently, anticipating moments more effectively, adjusting my camera for correct exposure more comfortably, framing my compositions more purposefully, processing photos more quickly, and greatly improving my techniques overall. 
  2. A 365 photo project enabled me to create a beautiful record of my entire year.
    I have a terrible memory. When I look back over an entire year of photos, I am instantly transported back to each and every day, being reminded of the activities that took place, funny moments that unfolded, conversations that were had, interactions that took place, scenes I found myself in, lessons I learned, perspectives I had, and details of my life/view at the time that can never be recreated. None of them will win a Pulitzer Prize or be featured on the cover of TIME, and that's fine by me! There is no earthly dollar amount that can adequately represent the value these images hold for me, personally. Each is a moment that will never repeat itself in quite the same way but that has been recorded for a lifetime of enjoyment by me and my family (for generations).
  3. A 365 photo project trained me to see beauty in the everyday moments.
    When I began this project, I thought my life was rather boring. It was just my husband and I—no kids, no pets—working from home in our small apartment. BUT, I recognized that it was a season of our lives that all future seasons would build on, and for that reason, it was beautiful. Every day before photographing anything, I ask myself, "What is the major story of my day today?" or "What detail is 'normal' right now that may change someday?" When it seemed extra mundane, I challenged myself to document it in a beautiful way. For instance, peacefully assembling a jigsaw puzzle on the table, quick trips to the grocery store and quiet mornings of reading the Bible together are all moments that are no longer possible (in the same way) in the current season of my life with an 8-month-old baby in a different home. The image of a casual conversation with my husband's grandparents in the unique living room of their home is priceless since they now live in an assisted living facility. The image of my husband loading the dishwasher while we were renovating our new home during my seventh month of pregnancy will forever remind me of the depth and consistency of his love and dedication to me + remind me what it was like in the days we actually had a dishwasher. Ha! (#1 on our future kitchen renovation list!) Also, the stages of my pregnancy and stages of our home renovations are all documented to remember forever. You get the idea...

Alright, alright, I hear you... "Okay, Amber. Good for you! I could never actually pull this off, though." Well, don't let these excuses get in your way:

  • "I'm too busy to do a 365 photo project."
    Being busy is precisely the reason you SHOULD do one! How else will you remember those packed days of your life unless you document them?
  • "I never remember to take photos."
    This is a habit that you will form over time. Where do you keep your camera? Is it out, within arm's reach in a convenient location, with a charged battery and loaded with a fresh memory card? Is it with you in your purse/backpack/diaper bag/car when you leave the house? If your camera isn't handy, then yes, you'll miss documenting every moment.
  • "I don't have any kids."
    Neither did I when I started! You still have beautiful, significant moments that you'll want to cherish. And if you do have children one day, how beautiful it will be for them to see your "life before them."
  • "I can't commit to that."
    Yes, 365 days can be daunting. Some days I captured only one or two frames from the day, while others I captured one or two hundred frames. Although I did post at least one photo every single day, there were a handful of days that either I wasn't able to shoot something, I wasn't happy with what I captured, or I ran out of time (or I wasn't in the mood!), so I pulled from a little stockpile of extra shots I had made on previous days. If 365 is too many, maybe start with one a week and do a 52 photo project? Another idea is to get your whole family in on it—perhaps your spouse or kids can tag-team with you to make sure the day's image is captured. No one will be grading you—a missed day here or there will be far from a failure.
  • "I prefer to keep my life private."
    That's cool. A 365 project doesn't have to be publicly posted for the whole world to see. Maybe you'll choose to post them to an online gallery for just your family or keep them in a folder on your computer that you'll print out at the end of each month or the end of each year. Maybe you'll keep them until all 365 are done and create an album with them each year.
  • "I didn't start on January 1st."
    Who cares??? I began on the day the idea crossed my mind—it was December 28th. START TODAY! Don't let another day go by, undocumented.
  • "I don't have a nice camera."
    The camera you have in your hand is the best one to capture the moment at hand. On occasion this year, I used my phone to take my photo of the day—and even used an occasional selfie (*gasp*). That's fine! Keep the perspective that you're not out to win prizes for your photography, you're just trying to document your days. Any ole camera or device with a camera will do. Go easy on yourself.
  • "I'm not a photographer."
    You may not be a photographer, but you do have a life worth photographing. An amateur photo is better than no photo at all. Plus, starting a project like this will teach you to think like a photographer and you'll improve your image quality day by day. 365 days from now, you'll thank yourself for putting in the effort!

If you appreciate the concept of documenting your days but can't see yourself actually doing it, or maybe you're a mom or a dad who takes all your family photos and desires to be IN them more often—hire someone to do it for you! [Ooh, oooh, pick me! =D ] My husband and I are both photographers, and although we do include each other in shots many days, we still find value in hiring a professional photographer at least once a year to genuinely capture our season. I'd be honored if you chose to hire me to capture a Real Life Session for your family! Each documentary session comes with a hardbound, custom album. Check out the details here.

Enough from me... Go get your camera ready and get started! Enjoy!