A Project 365 photography challenge is by far the most effective skills-building process for any photographer, in my opinion. But, don’t be fooled, it’s also a serious photo project that should not be undertaken lightly. Alongside a big dose of commitment, a certain degree of OCD is also needed to ensure that final photo 365 on 31 December, is the last of a complete series.
I know this because Sharon and I have now completed the 365 day challenge three times.
At the end of 2018 our third consecutive, 365 day challenge without missing a single day, was concluded. That’s a photography project spanning 1,096 continuous days.
(Just in case you’re questioning my maths, 2016 was a leap year, to explain that extra day.)
How To Say ‘365’
In this post I’m going to share advice and guidelines on how to do a photography Project 365. We learned a lot along the way, so for anyone else tempted by this intriguing photography project challenge, here are the key points.
(By the way, the phrase, ‘Project 365,’ is said in words as, “Project three, six, five.”)
The 365 day photo challenge | by Darrin Henry
From 1 January, 2016, to 31 December, 2018, one freshly taken picture a day became a non-stop quest to keep our Project 365 challenge on track.
We were slaves to the ‘Groundhog Day’ cycle, striving for that satisfying fix when our one photo a day was in the bag and we could rest easy.
Photography projects come in all shapes and sizes, on social media especially. But the year-long photo a day challenge definitely tips the scale as a ‘biggy.’
What Is Project 365 Photography Challenge All About?
Photography Project 365 is essentially a fun, personal challenge; a commitment to pick up the camera and capture one new picture every day, for a full year. A complete 365 days. A 52 week photography challenge.
But what is 365 for? Why do it?
Photo project ideas and camera challenges, of all types, are designed to motivate and inspire photographers of all abilities. It’s also a great networking tool for a global community of enthusiasts.
The digital revolution has made the Project 365 daily photo challenge much more achievable for everyone, as access to photography is easier than ever.
In the early days (which many of us still remember) we sent photo prints (or negatives) through the postal system in order to enter photography competitions. A painfully slow process now, when we compare the speed and tonne of options the internet gives today.
Easy To Extreme Photography Challenges
Social media photography challenge games are very popular; upload one nature picture every day for a week, for instance, then nominate a friend to go next. This type of goal is fun and relatively easy to achieve.
At the other extreme, I’ve seen time-lapse videos where a parent photographs their child’s face every day for the first 18 years of their life! Now that takes some serious stamina. Amazing results, mind you.
So a challenge covering an entire 365 day calendar is certainly doable, but still, a serious undertaking.
Rules and Themes For Project 365 Photography
As far as I’m concerned there is one non-negotiable, golden rule, for any Project 365 photography challenge. It’s this:
Each photo must be a new image shot during each daily period, from midnight to midnight. Relying on archived images, or pictures taken on a different day, completely defeats the whole exercise – fake news!
You can’t take ten great pictures one day, then spread them over the next ten days of the project. No. It has to be a picture taken on each day of the year.
And that’s the main criteria, a concept that’s quite simple really. It’s then up to the individual how creative they want to be.
Choosing A Project 365 Theme
When it comes to photography project themes over the year, what should you choose?
A full year of a daily commitment to capture interesting images sounds fine, but what exactly should you point your camera at? What Project 365 theme should you adopt?
Good news! Photo project themes are an individual’s choice; it’s up to you. Daily topics could be themed or completely random.
Importantly, when choosing a theme, consider what subject material you have access to for the full year. If you select a specialised topic, such as nature or transportation for example, you could well be boxing yourself in over the course of a year.
How To Stay Fresh and Flexible
Our own Project 365 photos centred on everyday life with an objective to also make it interesting and fresh. This allowed plenty of flexibility.
By keeping the theme open it meant wherever we were, whatever we saw, it could easily become our project picture of the day. As well as trying to keep it interesting we also strived to make it a high quality image wherever possible, ie, paying attention to the technical aspects of photography.
How To Publish A Project 365
Public or private? Where should your one picture a day be stored?
Should you post your efforts online for the world to see, share with friends and family only or should it be simply a private thing?
Again, it’s totally up to you and your reasons for doing the project.
Sharon and I posted our Project 365 online daily as part of What The Saints Did Next’s website. We created a new page for each month, which means we’ve finished with 36 pages after three years.
Options To Share or Not To Share
Uploading a picture a day challenge to a blog, Facebook Page or any other sharing platform is not for everyone. On the one hand, viewers leaving comments can be a great motivator. Constructive feedback and compliments can inspire the creative process.
However, a public audience may just be a bit judgy, which can be off-putting for many photographers. A certain thickness of skin is required. That said, our own 365 project photography adventure, throughout the entire three years, have returned nothing but positive and respectful feedback.
A compromise may be to start a closed Facebook group which allows only those you authorise to view your everyday photo and comment.
365 Photography Project Ideas
The biggest headache of a Project 365 is finding photo challenge ideas each day that are original and exciting.
Soon after embarking on our first ‘Three, Six, Five’ adventure in 2016, it slowly dawned on us that coming up with new and creative photography project ideas each day was not going to be easy.
We have an awesome view from the front of our house, but after we had shot it once we needed something different the next day. And of course, there are 365 image demands over the year to be met.
However, these daily dilemmas soon turned into the greatest learning experience any photographer could wish for.
Here are a few tips for finding new photography challenge ideas every day.
Why You Need To Stay Open-Minded
Sometimes the daily project 365 photo is easy. Going hiking for example, you’re bound to be spoiled for choice selecting just a single picture of the day.
Travelling or going on holiday usually generates plenty of 1 photo a day options; you’re taking pictures anyway, right?
A wedding produces hundreds of pictures.
But it’s those dreary, wintery, rainy days, when you are stuck at home with no desire to go out that become the real test. That’s when you need a photography back-up plan, a project 365 planner to stay on track.
How To Spice Up Your Pictures
Photographing household objects, for us, has been a mainstay of Photography 365 and the kitchen proving to be a treasure trove of ideas. Of course, food is the obvious one. From mince pies at Christmas to tungi fruit in season to Saint tomato paste sandwiches.
Every room in the house though, offers something, if you keep an open mind.
Spice bottles, football boots, clothes pegs, a deck of playing cards, a mobile phone, keys on a piano… it’s a weird and wonderful collection of items we’ve photographed around the house.
Surprise, surprise – the simple can be deceptive, often taking a lot longer to shoot creatively, so be warned. We’ve spent ages fussing over many of our in-house pictures.
Macro Lens Photography and other Creative Equipment
A macro lens is a fantastic tool for the 365 photo a day challenge as it can transform the ordinary into something powerful. It’s all about perspective.
Honey I Shrunk The Car
Toy cars have saved us on a number of occasions. Using a macro lens and some clever backdrop composition, we’ve become quite handy at photographing miniature scenes.
Flowers are a natural subject for the macro lens and, of course, these have been a regular feature over the 1,096 days. Everlasting flowers, which grow wild all across the island, have been our favourite and easiest to find.
Long exposure photography is another of those cool creative photography project ideas to add variety. You can do this easily at night or in low light situations, or by fitting an ND filter in bright conditions. We use the awesome Lee ND Filter system when we want to shoot during the daylight hours.
Another simple but creative piece of equipment is the polarizing filter, which lets the camera see through reflections such as water or glass.
Click Here to see our full list of photography accessories that we use and recommend.
Local Events & History
When compiling 365 photos a year at the rate of one per day, pay attention to the calendar. Annual holidays, seasonal and cultural events are always a great source of material.
Christmas brings its own set of parades, plus, of course, dinky lights, decorations and mince pies to photograph.
History And Time of Year
Quite unintentionally, Sharon and I have created a historical record in pictures by documenting these special moments. We’ve assembled a photo a day journal that’s quite simple in concept and fascinating to look back through.
The Ambassador of France to South Africa, Christophe Farnaud, visiting St Helena in October 2018 was a first for the island. In April 2017 the cruise ship Astor left without landing passengers due to rough seas. The island’s first air medevac took place in June, 2016.
Choosing Different Targets
Break the Project 365 down into a series of smaller targets, or you can easily start to feel overwhelmed.
Think of the month as a 30 day photography challenge or 31 days, which is less daunting.
The first 100 days in 2016 was a huge milestone for us, as was reaching the first six months.
But nothing beat the euphoria we felt when we reached 1,000 days of continuous pictures. That was a very sweet moment. Sorry, I’m getting side-tracked now.
Including The Family In Project 365
Friends and family have been a regular feature for our daily photography challenge.
Kids are always up for performing an ‘action shot’ when we get the camera out. The adults may not be as keen to leap off chairs for us, but otherwise they are all used to having their pictures taken at family gatherings. In fact, most people are more than happy to be photographed for the project as long as we get their best side!
Be sure though, even if it is your family or long-term friends, be kind and respect private moments and personal space.
Technical Data For Nerds
I’m a photography nerd and proud of it. What can I say?
I love casting a forensic eye over a good photograph to figure out how it was produced. Lighting, framing, camera position, lens, focal length, shutter speed, aperture, etc.
Did the photographer use a tripod?
Was this natural or artificial light?
Was the picture posed or candid?
What time of day was it?
My suggestion here is to include some technical data in your Project 365 photography challenge photo captions. Myself and all the other photography nerds will really appreciate it.
Digital cameras already embed technical data into the captured images, which makes finding and sharing this information very easy. At the most basic level, right-click the JPEG, select ‘Properties’ then ‘Details’ tab.
Give Your Picture A Title
Another element of interest and fun to add to the 365 picture project are daily titles.
Regular visitors to our 365 photo album will have sussed the day’s titles are very seldom directly linked to the picture content. Mostly our titles refer to world events of that day although, admittedly, sometimes they’re a little cryptic.
‘The Oldest Swinger’ was the title on Day 47 of 2018, a picture of cruise ship Boudicca visiting St Helena. The caption was a reference to Roger Federer (36) becoming the oldest world No 1 on that date, after he beat Robin Haase in the World Tennis Tournament quarter-finals in Rotterdam.
‘Total Recall’ on Day 246 of 2016 was a reference to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 product being recalled, two weeks after launch, due to reports of batteries catching fire while charging.
Although we’ve tried to keep a balance it’s been hard to ignore the stream of headlines generated by US President, Donald Trump. One of my favourites was ‘Alternative Facts’ on Day 22 of 2017. It was the phrase used by Kelly-Ann Conway to defend Donald Trump’s Whitehouse spokesperson, Sean Spicer’s denial that Obama’s 2009 inauguration crowd was bigger than Trump’s.
Top 3 Tips To Succeed With Project 365 Photography Challenge
Without a shadow of doubt, a 365 day project if done properly will improve photography skills like nothing else. I really can’t emphasise this point enough.
However, to succeed with a Project 365 photography challenge, there are three key elements that I recommend:
- First, learn to take your camera and a few useful accessories everywhere with you. The best photo opportunities are often unplanned so be ready to capture the moment at any time.
- Stay updated and backed-up. Edit and sort your photo of the day asap, catching up is more time-consuming and less fun. Design a template, ie picture size, caption information, etc., for your daily photo and stick with it. Include details on the image itself during editing to make the progress easy to scan and track, as demonstrated on our pictures in this article. And back-up regularly to save the project failing due to images being accidentally deleted.
- Share your project. Even if it’s just with a few friends or family members. By including others in what you’re doing you are less likely to give up along the way.
Take Our 7-Day Photography Challenge
Hope you’ve enjoyed this post and you’ve picked up a few useful ideas.
If so, you may also enjoy having a go at our 7-Day Challenge, a no-pressure set of 7 exercises to do at home to improve your own photography. We designed this series after completing these Project 365 Challenges and realised how setting a daily target can really improve a photographer’s skills.
Our 7-Day Challenge is a Free Download which you can then save to your laptop or phone for later reference. Good luck, let us know how you get on.