The Project 365. It’s the holy grail of personal projects for many photographers. Every photographer that I’ve known to do this has experienced a life-changing transformation as a result of taking on such a feat. Recently, Bill McCarroll contributed a magnificent article on the benefits of undertaking a Project 365. There are tremendous rewards for those of us who are prepared to tackle such a laborious endeavour. As we learned, many considerations that factor into play beyond the time it takes each day to shoot, transfer, post-process, and (maybe) share our daily photographs. It is a wonderful journey of self-discovery, but it’s not for everyone – and here’s why.
There are two simple truths that cannot be understated: One – yes, in order to make better photographs, the single most important thing you can do is to get out and take as many pictures as you possibly can. Two – if you’re trying to photograph a different subject every single day, you’re not going to learn all that much, nor master anything (yes, I’m generalizing a bit here).
To truly make compelling photographs, the first step is to understand the workings of our camera and how each setting affects one another. The best way of doing this is to experiment with one setting (aperture, shutter speed, or even ISO for that matter) for an extended period of time – not one day here and there. It’s far easier to gain a deeper understanding of the relationships between f-stops, shutter speeds, and sensitivity when we have ample opportunity to explore these settings over an extended period. Then at some (magic) point, they become second nature to us.
Once we’ve mastered our camera with a full understanding of functions, that’s when the real fun begins and we can start to explore things like colour, texture, light, contrast, and subjects. Imagine how much more you would begin to “see” if you spent 30 consecutive days shooting clouds. Or 30 days shooting only 2-second exposures. This is when we stop looking, and really start to “see”.
When we gain a deeper visual understanding of the world around us, that is the moment that we begin to create stronger, more compelling photographs. Once you reach that point – where camera functions coupled with an understanding of how to visually communicate – then a Project 365 is a great way of discovering new ways to spark creativity and boost your passion for this craft even further.
If you are still in the learning / beginner phases of your journey, consider a project that will actually make you a better photographer. Many photographers find great benefit in a Project 52 (creating one great photograph per week through daily exploration of a single subject), or even a Project 12 (one photo per month under the same premise). It takes just as much effort as a Project 365, but for those of us who are still finding our photographic stride, taking the time to fully explore a single objective will lead to a lifetime of infinitely stronger images.