project365: A Year In Your Life, In Pictures

Earlier this year I embarked on an interesting endeavor I had been reading about online, a project365, which is basically a photo essay covering a year.  I would like to share with you my experience and offer some tips on getting started, in case you feel inspired to try one yourself.  The rules of the project are fairly simple, take a different picture each day for a year and post them online for others to see.  You can work around a theme (i.e., a year in the life of your kids) or just go with the flow and find something interesting to photograph each day.  You can start at any time, though many people do start on the first of the year.  My goal was to learn how to use my new camera and hopefully learn to take better pictures along the way.  However, my learning was not restricted to photography.

My first lesson was learned rather early in the project when my new camera needed to go in for repairs after about thirty days of pictures.  That lesson was to go with the flow, cope with whatever happens on any given day, and always have a back-up plan.  In this case, I learned some new tricks with my old camera and decided not to sell it since it still takes a good picture and saved me from killing this project in the first month.  I also did not feel too guilty about taking a picture of a box of tissues on a day when I had a really bad cold and did not feel too creative.

The goal is to take a picture of the bird, not get attacked.  However, if the bird does come at you, cope and hopefully get a good image before you turn to run.

Another lesson learned is that even when you feel uninspired, something or someone may happen by to change your perspective.  I ended up with many pictures that were unplanned but turned out to be some of my favorites because they were lucky or random.  This was a good lesson to learn since it brought with it patience and made the project easier to do since I found, as the year moved along, I was more likely to be open to new ideas and calmly wait for a photo opportunity to come along instead of stressing over what to take a picture of each day.

Be inspired by the unexpected - I was taking a picture at the Princeton Battlefield and was trying to frame the open field from the behind the columns at the back of the park when someone sat down right in between the columns and started to meditate.  Instead of thinking my photo was ruined, I just took the shot and, looking back, think the unknown student adds a lot more to the image than an open field would.

The project was also Zen-like in the way it revealed a new perspective on the world in general.  I often found myself taking pictures of things I would normally see every day or frequently, but never really noticed or recognized for their aesthetics.  Or it made me look at something that may seem ugly or bland in a new light.  I was only about a quarter of the way through the year when I realized there is something to the stop and smell the roses concept, you do notice stuff more when you take time to look at it or think about it.  In the end, despite taking all of the pictures in New Jersey with a few in Pennsylvania, I was surprised to see how many things I thought I “missed” since I was limited to one photo to post per day.  I actually ended up creating a second folder called the B roll!

Traffic on Rt. 1 is so much more interesting when you look at it from a different angle, such as from the pedestrian bridge on the D&R Canal towpath.

There was also a lot to learn about human nature and it was good to find out people are still pretty easy-going and willing to help.  I am not a cynical person, but was concerned when I started this project that I would encounter many people who would object to the camera or find the project weird.  I was surprised that no one really thought it was odd to see me taking a picture in the middle of a busy Kohl’s parking lot, of their kid giving the Phillie Phanatic a high-five, or of a co-worker’s shaved head.

I have to say I was intimidated by the project at first, but once I got going it was easy to incorporate taking pictures into my daily routine.  So much so, I may miss it come January 1.  Or, I may just decide to keep going and try a new goal for 2014.

Here are some tips if you want to do your own project365:

Your friends and family will likely find the project interesting and either offer critiques of your work or even make suggestions for good photo spots.  This is especially true if you share your work on Facebook, twitter or another social media outlet.

Looking back on the pictures brings back memories of almost every day of the year and what you may have been experiencing, feeling or doing so you may want to consider also getting photo books or prints made of the project.  I found that I was getting a lot of coupons for photo books during the year, so I took advantage of that and made 5 photo books of my work (365 divides by 5 to give you an even 73 in each book).

The best camera is the one you have with you.  If you see something and it looks interesting, but you only have your phone, use it to take the picture.  It is better to have a less than perfect picture of something that has meaning to you or is unique than a boring picture of something that was in front of you when you had your camera.

At first, you may find yourself taking a lot of pictures just to get an idea of what to look for in a good shot, this is normal and you will take fewer as the year progresses.

If you have a day when you see a lot of opportunities or think of neat pictures, write the ideas down so you can have something to fall back on if you are really busy or uninspired at a later date.

Consider joining groups on a photo sharing site if you need some ideas or want an extra challenge.  I joined the Flickr Friday group so that one day a week I was given a theme to work with and really think about.

And the number one tip – take your camera everywhere and have fun!

- Laura N.


  1. great blog post! I loved the bird picture. Can we have a display at the library of all your books?


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