How 365 has changed my life

“A moment lasts all of a second, but the memory lives on forever.” ~Unknown

I think most people that know me know I’m just a tad bit obsessed with taking photos…and have been for many years. Though I only began pursuing photography seriously in the last three years, I’ve always found photography an outlet to help me really capture moments that were just too important and ones I never wanted to forget. As I began learning photography more in depth three years ago I learned of a project that most refer to as 365. Essentially this means you take a photo every single day of the year. The constraints are quite simple…you take a photo each day…the topic or theme of your 365 is up to you. It’s very common that many photographers challenge themselves to do self portraits and some focus on their families. Other photographers focus on a concentrated them such as flowers, pets, macro, or highly conceptual work. I decided to take on 365 for the first time in 2009 and it’s definitely changed my life and the way I work as a photographer. Okay, so you all may not be quite as obsessed with photography but I thought after taking a stab at it since 2009 that it was worth sharing some useful things that might intrigue you to try it. And if you do try 365 perhaps some of my advice my help spare you your sanity because it can be a draining challenge.

Reasons to try 365

  • You want to learn more about photography and/or your camera. Trust me 365 will help you master your camera and all it’s controls.
  • You will likely learn how much light affects photography. Taking photos at different times of the day and indoors vs. outdoors certainly helps you become better with your camera and photography in general.
  • You want to find a reason to be in pictures. For me this was certainly a goal. As a photographer I’m almost always behind the camera, not in front of it. 365 gave me an excuse to be in photos. I hate having my picture taken and admit I’m quite self conscious when I see photos of myself. I quickly learned that I almost always take better photos of myself than others might take of me.
  • You want to concentrate on photographing something important to you. This could be self-portraits, photos of your family, photos of locations, flowers, your pet. Really it’s up to you to come up with the theme of your 365. It’s always more interesting and easier to be inspired if you find a theme that will interest you and keep you inspired.
  • To keep record of important moments in life. For me my 365 has always been centered around my family…the most important thing in my life. As I reflected back to old family photos or photos of some of our loved ones who have passed away I always found myself wishing there were more photos to help me remember all the memories I never wanted to forget. I know many people live with the philosophy that some things are best to keep in your own memory rather than in photos, but for me the photos always help trigger the memories, many of which are easy to slip away from you. Just before I began writing this I looked back to our 2009 365 family project and quickly I recalled the first week of 365 and moments like taking the kids to lunch or a trip to home depot. Yes, simple moments that really are more memorable because of 365.

365 will inspire and challenge you
With my first attempt, I found 365 to be something I often dwelled on trying more creative ideas. At first it was super fun and a great challenge. It didn’t take long for the challenge to feel like a burden or just one more thing on my to do list. If you attempt 365 just know that those days WILL most certainly happen and you have to find a way to get through them. There will be days you may be sick, you just don’t have energy or the desire to take photos (or be in photos), and days where you may feel too busy. It takes all of a second to take a photo…even a quick lazy photo is better than no photo at all. You will likely find 365 to be a roller coaster where some days you feel super inspired and others you do not. Just have faith that if you stick to it, in the end the reward is being able to reflect on all the moments captured and realizing just how much you’ve learned along the way.

But trust me, there will come days over the course of a year that you don’t want to take pictures. And if you’re doing self-portraits this is inevitable. I looked back to 2009 and perhaps the one photo that still stands is the photo taken of Hope and I the day I learned I had miscarried for a third time. I found myself totally heartbroken and realizing that we couldn’t just use it as an excuse to give up on 365, but how do you take a photo of yourself when you just lost a baby and had to tell your oldest baby the news? Like this…

275/365: Our Loss is Heaven's Gain

We didn’t give up on 365 at all…in fact, it became a way for me to cope through that entire chaotic month. Rather than hiding during such a sad moment in my life I used my 365 photography and my blog to help me get through it all. there was a time when I feared that month was something I would just want to forget completely, part of me still does. But looking back on all the photos it only reminds me of just how strong my family is. Some of my most moving photos came in 2009 thanks to 365, including this self-portrait taken that same month…

277/365: The calm before the storm

Don’t leave your camera behind
I brought my camera just about everywhere. The grocery store, home depot, the park, the pool, school. I learned that some of the best moments came when I least expected it and that even some of the simplest moments out and about were worthy of capturing. And to think if  had never tried 365 I wouldn’t have photos like this after a trip to publix. They give free cookies to the kids and as you can see, my son loved them so much he’s wearing half of them on his face. Yes, unforgettable…but more so because I have this photo to reflect on.

Waiting for me to unload groceries...

I’ve been known to torture some of my students with my 365 antics. Something tells me if you chatted with any of them who took a class with me that they found the experience humorous. In this class I let them take photos with my remote as I began teaching. The wireless remote was a bit buggy so I had to go test it. Several photos later that I merged together and you get this hilarious reflection of that day.

13/365: OMG...the day my remote died.

It’ll help you capture unexpected moments
I admit when we started 365 back in 2009 I never intended to torture Jason with it but he joined in on day one, so on day two I attempted to take his photo. He’s such a silly guy that it was tough to take a portrait…so yes, I let him be silly and ended up with a photo like this…one of my favorites of him. It’s just hilarious and a side of him I’ll never forget.

2/365 - he complies for day two!

Don’t just take one photo.
Though the challenge is to take a photo a day, don’t just take one. Take many and pick the best one. In 2009 I named one as my “best” photo for each day. Because I did 365 for each person in my family it meant I took tons of photos! Well, when you’ve got a little girl who just learned how to blow bubbles with bubblegum that makes for lots of great photos…

The bubble shot in the making...

Don’t give up, even if you forget a day.
You will get busy and you might forget a day. I did. In 2009 I believe I forgot 2 or 3 days. Obviously some 365 gurus might say you never succeeded but I couldn’t disagree more. Find it in yourself to pick up where you left off. In 2009 I forgot for the first time in September. Yes, it totally sucked that I made it 9 months through the year and then forgot. Really I got busy with things and woke up the next morning heartbroken that I had forgotten. It seemed to be totally perfect timing to take the kids photo the next day when it was raining. They were coming in the house from the rain and we ended up taking this photo…every time I see this photo I remember it was the day after I forget to take their picture. Don’t they look forgotten?!

245/365: The day after I forgot their 365 photo

The biggest challenge has nothing to do with taking photos or coming up with ideas
Really taking photos was the easy and fun part of 365 for me. The hard part was how to keep up with all the files. I easily took 30-40k+ in 2009 and I quickly learned how essential it was to stay organized from the start. Hopefully you will find a workflow that helps you manage your photos. For me I find saving files by date to help me. So I thought I’d give you all a little insight because if it weren’t for my organization of my files I’d have given up in the first few weeks.

So here’s the deal – I take far more photos than I ever share. Taking a few hundred in a day is a breeze and well…365 days later that’s a nightmare if you aren’t organized from day one. I’ve learned that by saving my files I take by date on my computer that I can easily refer back to them. These are all the photos that are never edited and directly from my camera. Here’s a quick screenshot of the photos I’ve downloaded since the start of the year. I use lightroom to name all images with the date and the image number from the camera but really how they are named is up to you.

Since starting 365 back in 2009 I’ve begun a little bit of an obsessive photography journey…I’ve now gotten into a workflow where my favorite photos, not just the ones I picked for each day of 365, are edited and then saved. To stay organized I have a folder for each of us and so I name the files with the date, person’s name, and if I edit more than one photo per day I’ll add a number after their name. This makes it easy to go back and find photos months or years later. Here’s a glimpse of one folder…

The great part about staying this organized is not only does it make it easy to find photos but you can then reuse these edited photos quickly and easily for what you need them for. It makes it easier to find your best photos you might want to print, put in a book or photo album, or share with family and friends. For me I also upload all these images to flickr as a secondary backup which makes it even easier to reflect on the photos. Yes, 365 really truly changed the way I think about organization and helped me be that much more organized.

My approach changed in 2010
I did take another stab at 365 in 2010. I wouldn’t say it was nearly as successful but given my experience with my 2009 365 attempt it was a much needed change and break. I started the year with the same ambitions but feeling very drained by 365 and by how much I had going on in life. 365 was something my family had a lot of fun with in 2009 but there were definitely moments where everyone said “do we have to today?” or “hurry lets get it over with fast”. Those types of days are inevitable. So in 2010 when I sensed my family was feeling that way I stepped back in the first few weeks and really you could say I gave up. What is absolutely hilarious is when a day passed that I wasn’t pleaing with my family to take photos Hope came to me and was asking for me to take her photo for the day. Yes, it was a little shocking because though they all had moments that they whined or weren’t as cooperative as I liked…they proved early in 2010 that they really wanted to have their pictures taken and they actually enjoyed most of the moments.

So this lead me to a different approach. I still refer to it as 365 because that’s just how I now keep my photos organized, but I really took photos when I was up to it. Some days there were no photos. Some days there were tons of photos. In the end I kept with the same workflow so that months or years from now I’d still have tons of memories to work with. Obviously I challenged myself far less, but it became a way for me to keep taking photos, without torturing myself quite as much.

In 2009 one thing that drove me crazy was numbering every picture and picking the best one. After January ends it’s so easy to lose track of what day you’re working on. So on 2010 I found that wasn’t necessary. I wasn’t doing 365 to impress others…it was a project I took on for my family and so I could improve my photography. I did make sure that as I posted photos in flickr that I always dated them. It just makes it easier to reflect on when the photos were taken.

It’s 2011…and here we go again…
And yes, I’m crazy enough to take on 365 again. I’ve chosen not to number or select photos as the photo of the day, instead, I take photos…edit the favorite ones and keep them organized and share them on flickr. The goal remains to take a photo of each person every day but realizing that some days I may not meet that goal. It’s easier to do with the kids and I, however, Jason and I do work polar opposite schedules so if that means I only get a photo of him a week then that’s perfectly fine. He’s gotten use to having my camera follow us all around and thankfully he continues to put up with the torture of being photographed occasionally. I’m sure the year will be busy with all we have going on but something tells me this is the year to do my best to stay on track because I can already sense it’s a year I won’t want to forget. Thanks to 365 in 2011 I have a few photos like these…


Me & my love

Registering at Babies R Us

Hope playing the piano

Me & Jaylen

Me & Jaylen

A few final tips…
If you’re crazy enough to attempt 365 here are a few final tips that will hopefully help you stay sane along your journey.

  • You will have creative and not so creative days. You will feel lazy some days. You’ll want to give up other days. Just keep taking pictures and you’ll find a way to balance your 365 goals.
  • Pick a theme and stick to it. Think about ways you can capture your theme from different perspectives and to capture a variety of moments. If you get stuck just go with the flow and keep taking pictures.
  • If you think 365 is too daunting consider trying 52 weeks (a picture a week) or perhaps just try doing the picture a day for a month goal. Nothing says you have to take on the whole year as a goal…you make up the goal and find a way to achieve your goal.
  • If you miss a day don’t let it stop you…help it drive you to take better pictures the next day.
  • Use your timer or get a remote for your camera and put your camera on a tripod. If all you do is hold you camera and take photos of yourself you will quickly get tired of it and the creativity will halt quickly. If you’ve got kids it’s an awesome way for them to have fun…that remote will bring lots of laughter to children and they’ll get excited about taking photos.
  • Try to do something different every day. It’s easy to find the easy way out of taking photos…but when you are up to it think of different ways you can capture your theme.
  • Experiment with light. Take photos during different times of the day. Learn how to use your flash or get your hands on external flash/light sources to help you learn new things.
  • Open up a book or look up a web site to help you learn new things about your camera or photography.
  • Don’t let it drive you crazy. If you’re having an uninspired day…just realize those days will happen. Find a way to have fun with it but it’s okay to have days that you just want to take a quick photo and be done with it so you can have a break.
  • Join flickr. I promise they don’t pay me to say that. I’ve been using it since 2006 and swear by flickr. It’s a great way to share photos and offers a secondary archive. Rather than looking through all my backup files that take forever to load I always look through flickr. It’s a great way to stay organized and if you’re taking on 365 there are lots of 365 groups that may serve as inspiration for you.
  • You can start 365 whenever you want. Some start it on New Years day. Some begin it on their birthday. Others just take it on whenever they’re ready. It’s never too late to begin the challenge.

I hope that helps you all

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
January 8, 2011 - 9:42 pm

Nichole Shortridge - Thank you so much for sharing. I am doing my 365 project this year for the 1st time and I loved reading this and thank you for the tips. I have posted 2 of my photos frommy 365 project on my webpage lmk what you think of them :)

January 8, 2011 - 10:14 pm

Joanna London Tucker - Thanks for this blog and all the tips you provide! I originally planned on doing 365 this year as a way to improve my skills, but due to a crazy work schedule, I scaled back to a “Photo of the Week” goal. This year I vowed to carry my camera everyday, as last year I experienced so many moments of missed opportunities. I am happy to hear that I am not the only one that carries a camera on a daily basis- I don’t feel so odd now. LOL. Look forward to reading more of your blog this year!

January 21, 2011 - 1:29 am

Erica Carrero - Love this blog post! I tried my luck at a project 52 in 2008. My goal was to bring my camera everywhere but if a moment came around and I didn’t have my Canon, my cell phone camera would work just fine. In my facebook I have the first few weeks of it before life distracted me and I stopped.. Im feeling inspired to start it up again! Thanks!

January 9, 2011 - 12:48 am

Tweets that mention How 365 has changed my life » Amanda Kern — - [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by amandakern. amandakern said: How 365 has changed my life: [...]

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *



There was an error submitting your comment. Please try again.

F a c e b o o k   f a n   p a g e
T w i t t e r