The 365 photography project: what is it and why you should start one

First published:
December 8, 2021
February 14, 2024

The 365 photography project: what is it and why you should start one

First published:
December 8, 2021
February 14, 2024

Cover image by Anete Lusina

Are you looking for a simple way to boost your photography skills and creativity? A year-long photography project might be exactly what you need

A 365 photography project is a yearly commitment to shoot one image a day. It works wonders for your creativity and technical skills in photography, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro.

There are no rules on what or how you should shoot. The main goal is to give you a reason to photograph daily without adding unnecessary obstacles.

All too often, we wait for the perfect conditions or the right mood to pick up our camera and go shoot. During a 365 project, you will have to set aside as little as five minutes a day to focus on your photography.

Creating a photo every single day for a year will give you a boost in your technical skills and cultivate a daily dose of creativity. You will train your eye to look at the world through different compositions and start to see picture-worthy moments in the ordinary around you.

All of this will help you become a better photographer in the long run. As the saying by Maya Angelou goes, "you can't use up creativity — the more you use, the more you have."

Below are some of the reasons why you should consider a 365 project.

1 A constant stream of creativity

Have you ever felt burned out and have struggled to pick up your camera? Many photographers have felt this way after numerous lockdowns. Some still find it challenging to gather motivation and inspiration to shoot.

"There are no rules on what or how you should shoot. The main goal is to give you a reason to photograph daily without adding unnecessary obstacles."

Having a simple project that can take as little as five minutes each day can ease you back into the flow of creative thinking. If you spend a significant amount of time at home, you will start to look at your environment differently. You will begin to notice small details that can contribute to a photograph.

For example, beautiful sunlight suddenly creating playful shadows on your wall can inspire you to get your camera and shoot. Or, you might begin to see your local area in a different light during walks.

If you regularly exercise your creativity, you will find it easier to pick out unique elements to photograph, even in the most ordinary scenarios.

You will begin to notice interesting details wherever you go - f/2 |1/2000s | ISO 640

2 Photography becomes a part of your daily life

The constant reminder to look for images around you adds photography into your day-to-day life. Whether you are a full-time photographer or pursue it as a hobby, things like composition, your camera settings, or editing, will be a constant in your life for a year.

You can take each stage of the photography process as far as you want or keep it to a minimum — the ball is in your court. Either way, you will get to add something new to your photography knowledge and experience every day.

Some days you might feel more creative than others, that’s completely normal - f/2 | 1/240 | ISO 1000

3 Document your life and emotions

You will be fascinated to look back through a whole year's worth of images. Each photograph has an underlying reason why you took it. It could be something that caught your eye, evoked a particular emotion, or it simply was a memory of where you were at the time.

Doing a yearly photographic project can be particularly beneficial if you struggle to express your thoughts in a diary or journal. Instead, you will record your life for a year playfully and enjoyably.

As you look through the collection of images you took, you will be brought back to each day. You will also be able to pick out any patterns of changes in your life that can help you learn more about yourself. For example, if you go through a difficult period in your life, your photography will subconsciously reflect your feelings.

Let your emotions and thoughts guide your photographs. They don’t always need to be technically perfect. Photo by Tomáš Hudolin

4 Helps you learn more about your equipment

Have you got a piece of gear that you would like to learn how to use more instinctively instead of relying on a user manual? A 365 project is a great way to discover the ins and outs of your photography kit effortlessly.

You're not under any pressure to create complex images daily. Instead, shooting simple fragments of your everyday life can help you learn how to use that camera body or lens that you've been meaning to shoot with more.

Equipment shouldn't hinder your photography; it should instead become an extension of your vision and let you shoot instinctively. Step by step, you will see how your kit performs in different scenarios as the seasons change. It's an invaluable experience that will reward you with practical technical skills you can take further into your photography.

Let this project give you a reason to explore what your equipment is capable of during different times of day and seasons. Photo by Rafal Mieczkowski

5 Gives a clearly defined project

Structure and consistency bring results. That is also true for photography projects with a set start and finish. You might not know at the time what you want to shoot each day, but you know to be on the lookout for a photo every day. You also have a clear deadline to aim for.

Suppose you rely on creating photographs only when certain circumstances align, such as the right mood or weather conditions. In that case, you're less likely to remain consistent and hit the goals you have set. Having a clear structure leaves you to focus on creating photographs instead of wondering what the next step in your project should be.

If you haven't done a personal photography project before, doing a 365 one will give you an insight into what it takes to commit and complete a long-term project. The satisfaction of achieving it will likely inspire and encourage you to plan another one in the future!

Adding structure to your creative work will help you see results and achieve goals that will inspire you to keep going - f/5.6 |1/1400s | ISO 640

6 A practical way to streamline your workflow

A long-term project will test your photography process. Suppose you are unsure how to find photographs from a specific date or location or haven't decided how to back up your images. In that case, a 365 project gives you an excellent reason to set time aside to review how you handle your files.

Every photographer has a unique way of importing, saving, naming, and categorizing their photographs. If you haven't found a way that works for you yet, use the year of doing a 365 project as a way to test a method that aligns with you.

Review the process as you import your files and proceed to edit and export. If you don't feel confident about one or all of those stages, consider researching alternative ways to handle them. Finding a workflow that works for you will be tremendously helpful for your photography the next time you shoot or need to revisit past work.

Putting easy-to-follow systems in place will strengthen your workflow and make it easier to manage your files - f/2.5 |1/25s | ISO 500

A few tips on doing a 365 project:

Pick minimal equipment

The fewer obstacles you have, the easier it becomes to shoot. Picking out a simple setup, particularly one that isn't too cumbersome to carry if you head out, will make it easier for you to shoot.

You will spend less time deciding what camera body and lens combination to use. Instead, you will focus on the moment that you want to capture. Also, the less you have to carry, the more likely you are to bring the equipment with you as you go on about your day.

There will be days where you travel or see friends or family, and the last thing you want is to carry a heavy backpack full of equipment. For this project, downsize your gear to a minimum and make sure your camera always has a charge left in it.

Once you get into a habit of checking your camera battery level after each shoot, you will always have a camera ready when the moment calls. The same applies to a memory card — don't forget to put it back into your camera body after importing your images. 

Make the shooting process as easy as possible and choose equipment that is mobile and light. Photo by Alan Jones

2 Use a smartphone if it's more practical

Modern smartphone cameras can produce good-quality photos that you can edit and even print. If that sounds like a more appealing option for you, use a smartphone instead of a camera.

Even if you prefer to shoot with a camera, consider using a smartphone if a photo opportunity presents itself and you don't have your kit at hand. It's better to have the photo in the bag than miss the moment.

You may also find it easier shooting with a smartphone and editing the image right away in an app. After that, you can export the image onto your phone or back it up on the cloud to download on your computer later.

You can create good-quality images with a smartphone if you don’t always want to carry your camera gear with you. Photo by Will Vockins

3 Revise a structure but be kind to yourself

The first few days or even weeks of shooting a 365 project might not follow a particular structure. As you get used to the daily process, you will start to see what works for you.

Perhaps you prefer to set a moment aside each day to import and edit your photograph, or you may find it easier to do it at the end of your week in one go. You can also use the same memory card throughout the project so that you can find all RAW files in one place.

Even if you arrive at a method that works well for you, don't let setbacks knock your confidence. A year-long project requires dedication, and it's inevitable to experience hurdles along the way.

If you run into situations where you're unable to shoot, prioritize your health and wellbeing and pick up the project where you left off when you are ready.  

With the best intentions in the world, there can be times you need to put the camera down and look after yourself first and foremost - f/4 |1/2200s | ISO 400

4 Add extra accountability

Self-imposed tasks and a deadline might not cut it for some photographers. If you need an extra layer of accountability, consider doing the project online with a friend or other photographers.

Likely, other photographers will also consider starting their year with a project like this. If you are a part of any photo communities or groups online, ask if anyone wants to participate. You can then create a separate group or chat to discuss the project and keep each other accountable and motivated.

Whether it is a friend or a fellow photographer online, you may find it boosts your motivation if you share your progress with others. Photo by Steve Meddle

5 Decide on the final product

Although the goal is to create a photograph every day, consider the outcome of your project. You will have 365 photos in a folder at the end of this. Don't let them sit idle! Your images deserve to be seen and even printed.

You could use your collection of images and upload them on Picfair. This way, you can put them in a separate album to share with others and also allow yourself to earn sales from your work.

Also, consider printing your work, whether as a magazine, coffee-table book, a collection of prints, or an individual wall print. This will turn your year-long project into a tangible and tactile product you can view and appreciate time and time again.

Let your work shine by sharing and printing it! - f/2.5 |1/40s | ISO 640

© All images by Anete Lusina unless otherwise stated

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