If someone told you, you’d be taking photos every single day for half a decade, would you believe them? I wouldn’t. First - I can’t do it. Second - I don’t know how to take photos. Third - who even needs that?
Those are the top three excuses I hear when I invite people to join Tookapic and start their 365 project.
I now know that if 5 years ago I focused on excuses instead of the new challenge, I would’ve been a very different person and in a very different place. And I have many reasons to believe that without my 365 project I’d be worse off.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about - 365 project is a simple photography challenge. You take photos every day. You save one of the photos in a separate place, so that after one year you end up with an album of 365 photos - each one taken on a different day of the year.
This article is not my first summary. I’ve already posted one after my first year. I also published an ultimate guide to 365 projects that will help you start and finish this awesome challenge.
Today, I’m not summing up just one year, but half a decade. I will tell you how daily photo taking influenced my whole life.
Here’s my story.
The only habit that stuck with me for so long
Along with Charles Duhigg’s „Power of Habit” the global trend of changing your every day behavior started. Recent premeiere of „Atomic Habits” by James Clear has sped up the trend even more.
We all want to be better versions of ourselves. We all want to get rid of the bad behaviors and take up positive ones.
But we all know, that you can read a hundred books about that very topic, and yet developing good habits and getting rid of the bad ones will still be one of the most difficult challenges you can take up.
Changes are tempting. A quick boost of inspiration after reading a book, a blog post or watching a motivational vide on YouTube will give you a push. But you’ll probably give up quickly. You’ll give as soon as it turns out that developing the new habit will actually require some work.
365 project is no different. Developing a habit of daily photo taking takes work. You need to find the time in your life for photography. Just like you need to find time for reading, exercise or healthy eating.
I’ve been taking photos for 5 years. Never missed a single day. It’s easier for me now, because my 365 project is a real habit. It’s easier for me to take the daily photo than to skip it. But still, there are days that I really don’t want to do it. I force myself, because I know that good change requires discipline.
But it is worth it.
365 project is a source of self-confidence.
Whenever I take up a new challenge these days, there’s self-sabotaging thoughts like „I can’t do it.” How the fuck could you not do it? You’ve been taking photos every single day for 5 years straight. Retouching and publishing the pics the same day. How could you fail at, say exercising 3 times a week.
Walks with my family, my dog, waking up at 5 am, healthy eating, daily exercise - all of that came from my 365 project. The daily photo taking challenge gave me confindence and inspired me to try more. To change for the better.
I created a beautiful photo album that I really want to browse
Browsing the whole album with 5-years worth of photos takes 10 minues (I know, because I browsed it again while I was writing this article). Now just think how long would it take to browse your photo archive, day by day.
I assume it wouldn’t take 10 minutes. Or even half an hour. Just finding the photos from last couple of years would probably take you half a day.
The self-imposed requirement of retouching and archiving photos every day made my photography life so much easier.
The hard drives are neatly organized and I have no trouble finding a photo from lets say July 27th, 2017. Staying on top of my photo archive takes me less than 10 minutes every day.
I learned the art of selection and switched to photographic minimalism
Do you remember how you reacted the last time someone told you „Come, I’ll show you my vacation photos.” The first thing that comes to mind after hearing that sentence is an unorganized folder with 18GB of unsorted, and not-yet-retouched photos, 95% of which should never be shown to anyone.
It’s not like I bring just 7 photos from a 7-day vacation. But that’s exactly the number I leave after I’m done with culling. And these 7 photos are the ones I come back to regularly. I haven’t seen the remaining 8493 since I came back from vacation (And I’m pretty sure I won’t see them ever again).
One photo a day is enough to illustrate my day. I don’t need 24 pics of my breakfast or 18 selfies in the bathroom mirror.
Thanks to the habit of selecting just one photo a day I created an album filled with only the photos that are worth coming back to. Significant photographs that I value.
And thanks to taking photos every day with no exceptions, I created an uninterruped recording of my everyday life. Day by day.
I shot couple of really good photos
Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop. - Ansel Adams
Here’s a secret. It’s much easier to get those 12 good photos if you actually work with your camera every day. If hadn’t forced my self to take photos daily, non of my best photographs would’ve been taken.
Photos you see in this articles are my favorites selected from 5 years (almost 2000 days). All of them were taken with a cheap (less than $1000) camera. Not a single one was taken with a DSLR.
Of course, it’s impossible to take amazing photos for 365 days straight. And if it wasn’t for my 365 project I wouldn’t have to publish some really crappy photos. On the other hand I wouldn’t have captured some really extraordinary images.
I’m still just an amateur. But just like years of driving gave me the confidence behind the wheel, years of taking photos made me a confident photographer.
There are no professional photographers on Tookapic. And yet, significant part of the photos look suspiciously professional. Those were taken by amateurs who have been following the process for few months or years.
You really don’t have to graduate from photography schoold or pay thousands of dollars for workshops with a famous photographer. All you have to do to become better is spend few moments with your camera every day.
And it doesn’t have to be an expensive camera either.
I learned my camera inside and out, learned new techniques and boosted my creativity
Many times, my 365 project forced me to experiment with the light, framing, exposure, color and movement. When it’s 11:30 pm and you remember you haven’t taken the daily photo yet - you start to think creatively. You have to.
I tried almost every field of photography. Landscapes, portraits, product photography. I did all that. I had to. If I stayed in the same category for 5 years, I would’ve gone crazy.
I stopped buying cameras
I cured myself of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) - which is compulsive purchasing of new cameras, lenses and other accessories in hope of improving your photography. My 365 project made me realize that the best camera is the one I have with me.
I sold most of my gear. I kept just the things I actually use. It’s not much. The set I’ve been using for ~2 years now (camera body + lens) is less than $1000 (brand new) - which is less than half the price of a professional lens.
By not bying any new gear I save around $2000 every year.
I learned to appreciate the mundane daily life
One of the biggest value of a 365 project is the sentimental one. It’s a diary. A diary that reflects reality pretty accurately. It’s not Instagram, where the goal is to celebrate only the highlights of your life.
365 project is life. Unfiltered.
Sure, there are some staged photos in my project. There are many heavily retouched images. But you can’t pretend to be awesome every day for 12 months straight. And it shows in my 365 project. And that’s ok. During the last 5 years I took some really shitty photos.
If the day sucked, so did my daily photo. If my whole month sucked - the last 30 pics are not eyecandy either. That’s life. 365 project is not a portfolio.
I took photos at parties and on vacation during which we all had awesome fun. But I also took photos when our kids were in hospital, when our house got flooded and when we found tumor on our dog’s chest.
365 project is not a „the best of” set.
I shot some really good photos of my kids
Not just some snapshots with a vintage filtered plastered on top, but real photographs. Images that every day become more and more valuable for me and my wife.
Every year we do a birthday photoshoot for each of our kids. The photos are always staged the same, the only thing that’s different is how the kid looks in comparison to the year before.
365 project is an awesome way to track how your kids grow up. How they change and how the world around us change along with them.
When I started my first 365 project, my wife wasn’t even pregnant. Now we have two sons, and our parenting documented on photos.
I notice changes
The one thing that stops people from keeping their resolutions is the lack of visible and tangible changes. If you can’t see your progress, the motivation disappears. Thanks to documenting our life, I can track our progress very clearly.
When I browse through photos of our backyard from 5 years ago I can see how much work we put in and what a great result we got.
Planting our first trees, having our first barbecue party in the backyard, first lawn mowing and tomates we grew ourselves.
We went from a big pile of weed covered dirt to a beautiful lawn. From muddy puddles to polished driveway.
I look at the world differently now. Everyday, mundane life can be beautiful. It’s important to learn to appreciate the slices of life. To notice extraordinary frames in ordinary situations.
5 years is just the beginning
I’d be a fool to stop taking photos now. I owe too much to my 365 project. Daily photo taking is part of me now. It’s a habit. I can’t imagine going to sleep without taking my daily photo.
If 5 years ago I left the camera in the drawer, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. And I like who I am.
How to start a 365 project?
I know many of you want to start. If you’re one of those people, you’ve probably went through a whole list of excuses.
- I can’t do it. - every person who completed the 365 project had the same thought. The only difference between you and them is that they actually started.
- I don’t know how to take photos. - Good. The less you know the more you’ll learn along the way. 365 project is not a portfolio. Nobody expects you to be perfect. And that’s not what you should excect from your 365 project. The key here is discipline.
Where should you publish your photos? It doesn’t matter. Instagram, Facebook, Flickr or even separate folder on your hard drive is fine. You can run your 365 project anywhere you want.
But if you’d like to use a dedicated platform, I strongly encourage you to try Tookapic. The site was designed specifically to help people manage their 365 projects. Our goal is to make your photography journey as fun, engaging and satisfying as possible.
Tookapic is a community of people focused around the same idea of taking photos every single day. There’s more than 10,000 of us at the time I’m writing this article. Every week new people join.