The common advice for new and aspiring photographers is to take as many photographs as you possibly can – every day of the week if possible. For many, that means starting on a photo-a-day or 365 project. This is wonderful advice, but I don't necessarily believe that it is limited to beginners only. Even professionals can benefit from something like a photo-a-day project. Especially professionals, since I think that the tendency to become involved in the business side of photography means that we don't always make time to create images each day.
The best part about photo-a-day projects (aside from the ability to polish your skills even further) is that they don’t need to be a yearlong commitment. And, you don't need to wait until January 1 to start your project. You can get started right now! If you're having trouble settling into a daily photo project, I'll show you some of the benefits that you could be missing.
When you have to take at least one photograph each day, you'll quickly realize that you don't have time to wait for the exact right moment to come along and you'll discover that bursts of inspiration are often few and far between. I realize this sounds bad; after all, who would want to create art when not inspired? Isn’t photography all about the pursuit of the perfect moment?
Those two points have their merits, but the simple truth is that as a photographer, you’re going to run into scenes or subjects that aren't exactly the way you want them to be. By tackling a photo-a-day project, you'll learn how to be more creative when things aren't perfect. You’ll then be able to apply that on-demand creativity to other stressful situations, like a photoshoot with a client in which you only have an hour to create something magical – even if the weather, your inspiration or the model isn’t cooperating!
We've all had days where we just can't find something interesting to photograph. For whatever reason, nothing stands out and all the little details that normally make fascinating subject material remain hidden. Daily photo projects help you get past those blockades. When you know that you’re going to take a photo every single day, you'll start to look at life a little bit differently. Rather than just glazing over your everyday surroundings, you’ll start to actively search for all the little details that make life rich.
How many times have you missed an amazing opportunity simply because you didn’t have your camera with you? Probably more times than you’d care to admit! A daily photo project helps you build good habits, not only in regards to creativity and perception, but also when it comes to always having a camera ready. For some photographers, this means carrying a small camera bag with their DSLR and a couple of choice lenses. Other photographers invest in small DSLRs, high-end smartphones or point-and-shoots. However you choose to go about it, once your project is over, you may find that you continue to take a camera everywhere you go because without it, you're missing too many golden opportunities.
One of the greatest benefits to photo-a-day projects is that the project forces you to explore a multitude of different subjects rather than just focusing on a couple of your favorite things. Sometimes it’s hard enough to find time to visit a favorite location once a week. It’s unlikely that you'll be able to visit your favorite natural area or photograph your favorite subject day after day. As long as you place no limits on your subject material, you might find yourself doing street photography one day, macro images the next and nighttime photography the day after that.
Most photographers do daily projects to polish their skills, but you may choose to do your project as a way to build a large and diverse body of work. There are several benefits to building a large portfolio: First, you'll have plenty of images across a variety of genres should you ever need to show them to potential clients or art buyers.
The other – and arguably larger benefit – is that you'll have a progression of your own work to study. Compare the first images in your project to your most recent images, and you'll be able to see how you've grown or how your style has changed.
Daily photo projects give you endless ways to learn and grow as a photographer. Start a project today, and whether you continue photographing daily for the next month or the next year, you'll see improvements by the end of the project.