365 Project: 10 Things I Learned

I completed my 365 Project on July 2, 2016 - technically a 366 Project since this was a leap year. One photo a day for a year! I started with no real expectation that I’d finish, but I broke through the finish line - and kept running - yep, I seem to still be going. I'm on photo 479 as I write this. I learned quite a lot along the way: about photography, about myself, about where I live. Here are the Top 10 Things that I Learned.

Photo taken at the Watershed in Edwardsville, Illinois (yes, this is me). Sony DSC-HX90v 4.1 mm 1/25@f7.1 ISO 100.
#1 Photo Opportunities are Everywhere
Once I started looking for photo opportunities, I found them – everywhere – walking down the street, driving home from work, even in my own home. Because I woke up knowing I’d need to find a photo, I was on the lookout. Composing photos in my mind’s eye became a habit. I began really looking at the world around me.

#2 Very Few Photos are Found Sitting on the Sofa
Because I’m in essence a travel photographer, I became a tourist in my own back yard. I drove down random roads and got a hold of tourist publications. I found out more about the area where I live in one year than I had in the previous twenty. But I had to get up off of my sofa, away from my computer and my TV, and go get the photos – they weren’t coming to me.

#3 Not Every Photo has to be Epic
I took a lot of good photographs over the last year – but I also took some very average ones. But these weren’t failures. I was still learning about my camera, photography, and my world. Sometimes I only had time for a quick pic on the way to my car, but I still stopped – however briefly – and captured the moment. Even if it was an average moment – life’s full of them. See my favorite photos of the year.

#4 Learn New Techniques Only When Ready
I learned many photographic techniques this last year, but I learned them when I was ready – not all at once. When I wanted to make photos with blurry backgrounds, I figured out DoF, when I was ready to tackle night shots, I figured out long exposure. There was no hurry – I had 365 days. So much information is available online that it can be overwhelming. Find the information when you need it and when you are ready to practice that technique.

My first attempt at light trails taken for a DPS photo challenge. Sony DSC-HX90v 12.4 mm 10sec@f8.0 ISO 100.
#5 Look at the Work of Others
I wouldn’t have known about shallow depth of field had I not seen other photographers using this technique and I would have never discovered minimalism, street or macro photography. Photos that attracted me became inspirational. I’d practice the technique or perspective or post-processing style. Some were not for me, but I embraced others and became a better photographer.

#6 Be Social
I’m not an overly social person, but the online photographic community is huge and generally very supportive. I initially underestimated the importance of sharing my work with others, but art is for people. If even one person liked (faved) a photo that I had made, I’d given someone pleasure – even if just for a moment. That got me through some down days.

#7 …But Not Too Social
I like the local photography club meet-ups and photo walks, but photography as a creative endeavor needs concentration. I often photograph alone or peel off from the group for a time. My husband sometimes accompanies me, but he always brings a book. He likes my photos, but it’s boring to watch me photograph rusty door handles for 20 minutes. I learned to give my self time to create.

Ok maybe this didn't take me 20 minutes to photograph, but I do love a rusty, textured door! Sony A7II 56mm 1/20@f16 ISO100
#8 Make Own Rules
It’s a 365 Project – one photo a day for a year. But it was MY project – I could make any rules I wanted. I could set a theme for the week, revisit photos that I’d initially rejected. I could even have said that I’d post only 3 photos a week or only on weekends - it was my project, I could set the rules. Some people post photos exclusively of their children – or cats. One of the photographers that I follow on the 365 webpage captured only orange photos for a month. The Project is flexible.

#9 Find a Niche
In photography, there’s a niche for everyone. Like to photograph rust? No problem! There are groups of photographers who like rust, too. Don’t worry about being commercial or photographing what’s popular. If I liked to photograph something, chances were others liked to photograph it, too. But to find my niche, I had to try many different types of photography and follow the web version to Rule #6 - Be Social.

#10 Artistic Photography is Seeing the World Differently
The trick to making an epic photo is to see something that no one else sees; find the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is the difference between snapshots and photographs. This is why some of my best photographs are taken within 10 miles of my home and not in some epic location. This is why 365 doesn’t seem like a lot of photographs. It's a big world out there and every day it looks a little different.


I love to photograph this bridge and visit often, but on this morning the sun shown perfectly on the concrete foundation - not the most attractive part of the bridge. This was the first time that I really understood how light could change something ordinary into something extraordinary. Sony A7II 96 mm 1/15@f19 ISO 100.
I’m not sure how long I'll keep going with my 365 Project – maybe I’ll do a 730 Project – or not. But this year has taught me to see the world differently and that will stay with me the rest of my life.
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