Project 365 - A Retrospective
Most photographers attempt one at least once. It’s a massive commitment, but you can make it easier on yourself and get a lot out of it if you approach it the right way.
At the end of 2014 I made the decision to dedicate 2015 to completing one of these projects.
Before the project I wasn’t shooting nearly enough and needed an excuse to throw myself into my photography and force myself to get out more.
It was exhausting at times, but incredibly rewarding. I feel like I progressed a lot in my personal style and discovering the type of photographs I like to make and why I photograph.
Throughout the year I made notes on my thoughts on what I found helpful along the way.
1. Challenge what you (think you) know
A 365 project is a great time to experiment and challenge what you think you know about photography.
Going against the grain and trying things for yourself is incredibly important.
For instance, “Don’t clip your blacks or whites!” was ingrained in me and is a widely taught principle in order to preserve a flat/easily editable image without data loss and to ensure a greater tonal range in your photograph.
However, some photographers use the exact opposite of this to their advantage.
Trent Parke produces extremely strong black and white imagery using pushed FP4 film. This results in images with strong contrast, deep blacks and blinding whites. Daido Moriyama also uses strong contrast to great effect in his street photography.
Don’t do something because someone told you it was the right way. Experiment for yourself.
Shake it up. Break out of your comfort zone and challenge what you know.
Only shoot with 35mm? Try a telephoto. Only shoot colour? Shoot only black and white for a month. Branch out into different types of photography; wildlife, street, landscape, macro. Try film!
You’re going to be shooting a lot so it’s the perfect time to do this and challenge your pre-conceived notions about photography and process.
2. Social media is not the best feedback mechanism
Initially I was excited to share my photos on social media and expected that it would be a rewarding part of the project. I thought about the comments I would get and the number of likes, favourites and followers.
I believe most people are programmed to seek attention and recognition. I know I initially craved this type of response from my work. As the project went on though, I cared less and less about receiving this type of response.
Do you want people to like your photos, or do you want to make good photographs?
These aren’t necessarily always the same thing.
I initially got the most attention from Flickr. Photographs would get explored. People would tell me they liked certain photos, which is great. But why? What about it did you like? What didn’t you like?
I found it invaluable to have a small group of people whose work I respected to share work and seek input from. All the thumbs up and OK hand emojis won’t help you progress or be objective about your work.
I promise you that criticism in this manner is much more useful than gauging your success by likes and comments.
3. Search for and learn light
Photography is entirely about capturing light. During the year I gained a much better understanding of how light works and what constitutes good and bad light (to me at least).
Great light can make a dramatic difference to a scene. However, this doesn’t mean you need to only shoot in golden hour. Find what is interesting to you.
Clouds can turn into giant softboxes in the sky on an overcast day. Bright mid-afternoon sun can make create long, harsh shadows and make colours scream.
If you learn to adapt to different lighting conditions and are always searching for captivating light, you've won half the battle.
As you progress you will learn how to shoot in all types of light. Embrace it. Find what is interesting to you.
4. Spend more time shooting, less time editing
At the beginning of this project, I felt like I was spending too much time post-processing. It can be a total time-sink if you aren’t careful. In the beginning I’d labour over the tiniest detail of an image, sometimes spending hours in Lightroom.
At some point I realised I was probably spending more time in Lightroom than actually making photographs.
I recognise, depending on your style, it may be completely unavoidable. If you want to be a fantastic landscape photographer, chances are you’re going to spend a lot of time in Lightroom and Photoshop.
I'd also agree that it's great to have a focused sense of attention to detail, but try not to let this take over and bog you down.
Towards the end, I only uploaded once a month. This allowed me to distance myself from my work see my work more objectively and let me get my editing done in one fell swoop.
Don't process your photos every day. Do as much as you can in camera and distance yourself from your work.
Photography is about images. Go out and make them.
5. Your best photos will come when you don’t expect them
Your best photos aren’t going to necessarily come when you’re on holiday or somewhere new and exciting.
The unexpected photographs are the best ones and many of them will happen when you’re in a seemingly “boring” area or even on a rainy day.
Don’t be disappointed when you can’t get to somewhere new to shoot that day, you never know when the unexpected will happen.
This project really forced me to focus on the little details that make something interesting, and recognise things that I would normally just walk by.
There are many dynamic variables that will make a static shot more interesting. Different times of the day, weather, people, events. Even if you live in a "dull" area. 90% of photography is being in the right place at the right time.
Don’t go into a shoot expecting to get nothing. Expect the unexpected and you won't be disappointed.
If you're struggling, get in the car and drive for 10 minutes, park, get out and walk around for half an hour.
You will definitely find something you wouldn't normally see.
Get out, shoot more, edit less, learn light, experiment!
If you can commit to it you won't regret it.