2015 has been a really great year for me photographically. I started the year really wanting to see more growth in my work and also really wanting to keep the business side of my passion from taking over and destroying the reason I originally fell in love with photography, which is documenting the life of my family. If you aren't a photographer, that may sound odd to you but when your passion is also your business, it's easy for the lines to get blurred doing what I love, and before I realized it, I looked back on our images from 2014 and I just didn't see "us." Don't get me wrong, I had taken lots of photos but most of them were just at events, birthdays and holidays, or me trying to wrangle us all up for a posed shot when we were all decently dressed. Ha! But I didn't feel like, when I looked back over the year, that I could see our story, the real Sams fam. So, on New Years Day, January 1st 2015, I decided to do a project 365. I decided I would document my family every day and be committed to it. I have heard photographers over and over say that they think that's one of the main contributing factors to their growth and that was another one of my goals for the year so I figured why not! I won't lie though, I was super skeptical going into it. I had attempted a project 52 before, which is ONE photo per week, and I gave up after about 4 weeks. So, I gave myself a starting goal of 100 days. Once I made it there, I had fallen in love. Fallen in love with shooting for myself again, fallen in love with the images I had captured of my children and felt truly refreshed as a creative. I was beginning to study the light in my home, seeing things in a new way, and feeling energized to shoot client work again as a result. I have had such incredible feedback throughout the year that I wanted to share some of my tips to successfully complete your own project 365.
1. Don't follow rules
This may seem odd to a lot of people because I know following a themed 365 or even project 52 can really push you creatively, but ultimately, it's the reason I never completed my first project 52 years ago. I have 3 small children, run a small business and homeschool our oldest so my plate is pretty full. So for me, from the get go I knew I couldn't follow a theme or place too many rules on myself. I knew if I had to follow rules for each picture I would never get it done. When I started, I had no theme for my overall project. In the end, I do think it evolved into our beautiful everyday but sometimes I included a landscape or even client work. I do think weekly themes can be really beneficial for a project 52 but for a 365, I would leave it open to whatever comes your way so you don't feel overwhelmed daily with an extra task. Sometimes it's enough to just take one photo, much less follow a theme. So for me the only real rule I had was: take a picture every day. :)
2. Use your phone
I'll admit that my goal was definitely to complete this project with my DSLR but from the beginning I told myself it wasn't against my rules to use my phone. (Again with the "no rules") After all, it's almost always with me and editing is fast and easy. Plus it's so much easier than lugging around a huge camera with you. I know lots of people who complete their 365 completely on their mobile device and they are fabulous! So that's also a great idea as well especially if you don't own a DSLR.
3. If you miss a day, don't throw in the towel
Like I said before, I was really skeptical that I would even make it to 100 days in the beginning, so I told myself, I wouldn't give up if I missed a day. And I did. (hangs head in shame) I missed 3 days. I didn't miss my first day until about 6 months in and the other two were during my busy season when I was also in my first trimester and very sick. But! I didn't let that stop me. I kept going and even though I missed 3 days, I still consider this 365 day project a total success. I mean don't you remember ^^^ I have THREE small children with a 4th on the way. Sometimes life is just busy and if there is anything I have learned as a mother it is to have grace upon myself and others. So, if you do miss a day, don't give up!
4. Share your photos somewhere
I really think sharing my photos with others really encouraged me to continue the project. Now, I'm not saying I place value on an image based on the amount of likes or comments it gets, in fact probably most of my favorite images got very few likes or I may not have even shared them, because I know the story behind each one, so they all have their own personal significance to me. But, the words of encouragement I've received throughout the year have really helped me to press on when I didn't feel creative or even have the energy to continue. Things like (these are direct quotes) "your children will cherish these", "When she's fully grown you will still hear her sweet voice at this very moment in time. I love all your pictures BUT these dailies they're ordained by GOD.", "Bethany my work environment is, um, oppressive. Yes. Oppressive. You have no idea how much I look forward to your pictures. The innocence of their beautiful faces brightens my day. Really." I mean seriously. These words encouraged me SO MUCH. I heard over and over that my children and I will cherish these and nothing could be more true. When I started, I thought I would share every photo on my Facebook account and instagram but life got busy and although I was shooting, I didn't always have the time to edit every day and I fell behind on sharing so I just started sharing my favorites when I had time. So, again, I didn't place a big rule over my head that made me feel like a failure (and ultimately make me quit) if I didn't get a chance to edit and share every single day. There are lots of places to share...Facebook, IG, Flickr, even emailing a loved one privately. You choose and you can make it as public or private as you want. Just share with someone so you will receive encouragement along the way to continue and complete your project.
5. Know that every image you take will not be portfolio worthy and that's ok
Whether you are a professional photographer or not, when you take on the task of completing a project 365 every image is NOT going to be compelling, creative or even interesting. Ha! But just remember the ultimate goal here is to document your life and experience growth as a photographer. Well, those were my goals and if those aren't your goals just keep YOUR goals in mind and know that every day won't be perfect. In fact most days won't be. But remember that Rome wasn't built in a day. Growth takes time. But I promise that if you stick with it, you will see growth and you will be so grateful to come out on the other side and see where you came from and where you are at that point and ALL those beautiful memories you made a long the way.
So, in conclusion, I encourage you to start a project 365 this year. You won't regret it. If you do, and want some encouragement along the way use hashtag #BSP2016365 and I'll be looking for you and your images on IG. I'd love to even regram some images weekly on my account to help encourage one another. I hope this encourages you guys and you go for it this year! As a result of my 365 this year and the interest I've had from other mothers, I've also decided to teach some basic photography classes for moms who want to learn to better document their every day. The details are still in the works and I'm currently writing my teaching materials but the class will be one full day and will be focused on using a DSLR in manual mode, basic editing in Adobe Lightroom as well as lighting, composition and how to tell a story with your images. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter for details when they are available. I hope you guys have a great New Year in 2016!