Start a year-long Photography Project in 2012!

As a keen photographer, your list of resolutions for 2012 might include an intention to photograph a particular subject you’ve always dreamed of capturing, to learn more about your camera and what it’s capable of or simply to take more photos, more often.

Many photographers choose to embark on a year-long photography project as a result of a new year’s resolution or just from a desire to focus their photographic efforts with a specific goal in mind.

Why?

Personal photography projects can benefit photographers of any experience level – from keen enthusiasts to working professional photographers. Tim Gander is a photojournalist-turned-commercial photographer who praises the benefits of fitting a personal photography project into your schedule. In the past he has undertaken a project to photograph the unique characters and everyday goings-on at an old pub in Bath which has since shut down. More recently he has been working on an ongoing personal project to photograph the bustle of the local livestock market. Previously on the Wex Blog, Tim wrote about what personal photography projects are and why photographers should consider doing one…

Personal projects have an intangible value. They allow a photographer the opportunity to stretch their creativity, try out new techniques without the risk of jeopardizing a paid assignment, or explore a subject which fascinates them.

To find out more about Tim’s personal photography projects, his post Photography: this time it’s personal! is definitely worth a read, or check out his blog here.

The 365 project

A photography project that many photographers choose to get involved in is a 365 project. If it's not obvious already; you take a photo every day for a whole year (and since 2012 is a leap year, you'll need to take an extra photo!) Mark Stephenson completed his first 365 project in 2011 and we caught up with him to find out how he got on...

Congratulations on completing your 365 project in 2011! How did you feel on December 31st when you finished the project?

Thanks! It was a strange feeling on the last day. I had a massive sense of achievement, but also the sad feeling that it was the end of an era. For a short while I toyed with the idea of carrying the project on and doing another year of photos, although for my sanity I decided not to.

This image of a kiwi fruit is one of Mark's favourites from the year

Have you taken the time to look through all 365 of your photos in one sitting yet? Did you notice any significant changes in your photography, whether it be your style, level of skill or otherwise, over the course of the year?

I haven't actually but it's something I will definitely do soon. It will be fun to relive the whole year in pictures and I'm sure it will bring lots of memories back. Personally, I haven't noticed a massive jump in skill level but I've had plenty of comments telling me I've improved a lot over the year.

What are the biggest positives that came out of doing the project?

The biggest positive was that it got me using my camera gear on a daily basis. That was the main reason I took on the project - I felt I wasn't shooting enough. I would find I'd go for weeks with the camera gear sat lonely in the cupboard. Another benefit that's come out of doing the project is I feel myself thinking more like a photographer every day. Spending a whole year constantly looking for interesting shots changes the way you see the world and even after the project I find myself looking for shots where before I may have missed them.

When all else fails, your cat may provide some photographic inspiration

What did you struggle with the most while working on your 365 project? Were there days where you really didn’t want to pick up your camera?

The struggle is the sheer relentlessness of the project. It's the days when you have to stay late at work and just want to go to bed when you get home that I found the most difficult. I found it really helps to have some backup ideas. I'd recommend making an "ideas list" for those days when your creativity is lacking. Failing that, the cat was always a good fallback.

Do you have a favourite image from 2011? We’d love to hear the story behind it if you have one!

I think my favourite image is the kiwi fruit shot. I love the vibrancy of the colours and the simple nature of the photo. I took it quite early on after reading about someone doing something similar. It's a shot I'd like to have printed on a canvas for the kitchen some time. The photo that gets the most attention is the pigeon shot, people seem to love it. Apart from that I proposed to my girlfriend one day using a photo which I suppose is pretty memorable! And now we will always have that picture to look back on.

One of Mark's more memorable photos from his 365 project

Any advice for those considering starting a 365 project or something similar?

Do it. It's a big commitment but if you're even considering it then I think you'd benefit from the experience. Once you're over that initial hurdle of starting and you've overcome all your commitment issues, don't give up. There were many days when I really didn't want to take a photo, but I also found I got some of my best images on those days as I really pushed my imagination and creativity. As I mentioned before, making a list of ideas is a great help, and please just don't give up. For the sake of that one photo on the day you want to throw in the towel you'll thank yourself in the long run if you get through it.

You can find Mark's final set of all 365 images from his project on Flickr.

Tips for completing a 365 photo project

We also spoke to Helen Ogbourn, another successful 365 project photographer who finished her year-long photography project on 31st May 2011. She shares with us some of her tips for getting through the year and finding inspiration when you get stuck…

  1. Take your camera everywhere you go because quite often the best photos come when you least expect it. Try using your camera phone or a compact camera for a change if you usually use a DSLR.
  2. Don’t be too particular, not every photo in a 365 project is going to be brilliant. Some days will be far better than others and some days are just about getting any photo. Don’t give up, it’s worth sticking to it for the better days!
  3. Share your photos online and get people to follow along, then you are accountable to an audience! It’s nice when people enjoy the photos and follow your experience.
  4. Have back-up ideas.  Some days will be full of inspiration and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Make a note of the extra ideas so that you can go back to them on a day where you are feeling less inspired.
  5. Join a photo sharing site such as Flickr. There are many groups out there to join and plenty of encouragement from other 365-ers to keep you going.
  6. Set some themes for yourself or ask others for suggestions. For example, you could spend a week taking black & white photos or a week of street photography.
  7. If you don’t want to think of ideas yourself, websites such as The Daily Shoot will set you a theme each day and can be followed online, by email and twitter.
  8. Take the opportunity to learn more about your camera while you do the project and challenge yourself to take photos using different settings.
  9. Don’t leave taking your photos until the evening. Get used to thinking about them from when you get up in the morning, it’ll soon become a habit and then you won’t have that evening panic.
  10. Go to the library or a bookshop and browse photography books and magazines - you’ll get plenty of inspiration.

Other projects to consider

Taking one photo each day for a whole year will not appeal to everyone, but there are plenty of other weekly and monthly photography projects that may be more practical for some people.  We asked Helen about her photography project experience over the past year and found out a little more about the personal photography goals she has lined up now that her 365 project is done and dusted...

Why did you decide to start a 365 photo project?

Having received a compact camera the year before as a gift, I decided it was time to learn how to use it to its potential and in no time I had caught the photography bug. The only issue was that I had no real idea about types of photographs I wanted to take. It was then that I took on the challenge of taking a photo every day for a year to explore the possibilities.

What is your advice to someone who’s thinking about starting a 365 project or other daily photography project?

365 photo projects are certainly not to be underestimated! They require commitment, imagination and a bit of patience but after a short while the project becomes a part of your everyday life. The challenge of finding a photo opportunity each day can be difficult, however, it’s worth persisting for the satisfaction and rewards that you experience throughout the year.

What are the biggest positives that  have come from working on your various photography projects?

I soon realised I was taking a lot more notice of the world around me and enjoying otherwise mundane activities such as my commute to work! Over the course of my 365 project I got to know my camera incredibly well and used it as an opportunity to shoot with other types of camera, try all different camera modes and use different processing techniques. I've became a much more confident photographer and have started to realise that there are types of photography that I find particularly rewarding.

Can you tell us a bit more about the self-portrait project that you’re currently working on?

Having thoroughly enjoyed my first photo project, I wanted to continue to push myself to learn more about photography and decided to take on another one. I’m currently approaching the end of a 30 day project of self portraits which has been a huge challenge! I don’t love being in front of the camera and haven’t previously had a lot of experience of taking photos of people, so I thought this would really get me out my comfort zone.

Initially I was unsure about what a self portrait should be. 26 photos into the project I find myself in a very different position. I enjoy the challenge of thinking of new ideas, I don’t mind being in front of the camera and I’ve come to the conclusion that self portraits can be anything from capturing the very ordinary to the more creative and posed shots. They’re also a great way to experiment with focus settings as a much more manual approach is required here. Tripods are also very useful for this kind of project, but not necessary if you are willing to experiment a bit more.

Do you have any plans for another year-long photography goal in 2012?

I’ve started to take weekly photos in 2012 to reflect my year, in which all photos must include some part of me and an item that has been significant in the week. I am processing the photos using Adobe Lightroom presets, all with a similar tone, so that they fit nicely as a collection to print in a photobook at the end of the year.

A 365 project isn’t for everyone, do you have any other suggestions for those wanting to embark on a photography project that doesn’t require taking a photo every day for a whole year?

Here are some more ideas you may want to consider for photo projects:

  • 52 week photo project – one photo each week for a whole year
  • 30 day photo project,  perhaps using a particular theme. For example: black and white photos or mobile phone photography
  • A day in the life – take one photo every hour for a day
  • Work your way through the alphabet and take photos of things beginning with the letters A-Z
  • Photograph the seasons throughout the year
  • A self portrait project
  • A time specific project, for example, taking a photo at 3pm every day, week, month or year

To see more of Helen's work, visit her blog or Flickr.

So, are you planning on starting a photography project in 2012 or have you already begun? If so, let us know in the comments below - we'd love to hear what you'll be focusing on photographing this year!