When I first set out to undertake a 365 Project, my primary goal was to document our daily lives, but I also hoped the act of picking up my camera every single day would help me consolidate and build on the skills I’d learned during the Click Love Grow Advanced course.
I had recently finished the course and was keen to keep up the momentum of regular shooting, so when I joined the Grads group and saw posts about a Project 365, it seemed like the perfect challenge to tackle next. I didn’t realise then just how transformative the next 365 days would be!
Heading into it, I didn’t do a lot of planning. After all, how hard can it be?! It’s only one photo a day! Oh boy, did I have a lot to learn!
The first day of the new year felt like a good time to start a new project, and I also figured it would make it easier to keep track of which day I was up to because if I ever got tangled up in the numbers, Google (or my phone calendar) would set me right.
I planned to keep track of my Project 365 on Instagram by sharing each day’s picture in my feed. (This would turn out to be another learning curve!)
So on January 1, I picked up my camera and took my first shot…
In fact, I took a lot of shots! I took so many shots that first few weeks that some days, it was hard to choose which one would be THE photo for the day.
In the first couple of months, I concentrated on documenting my kids at play. It was easy – first it was summer holidays so they were home all the time, and even after they went back to school, daylight savings meant there was enough evening light to take a picnic to the park for dinner or play with the water table in the back yard.
I was also taking the Click Love Grow ‘Macro Flowers’ Creative Workshop, so when my kids weren’t around, I always had flowers to practice on.
Each day, I posted the day’s image to my Instagram feed, then shared it to my Stories and saved it to my Highlights. Fairly early on in the project, I realised that it was going to work better aesthetically if I stuck to taking shots in landscape orientation as that allowed me to create a nice, tidy collage at the end of each month to catalogue my images.
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Things were ticking along nicely, I was still shooting multiple images most days, and editing and posting them religiously. Then, just as the evenings were becoming cooler and the days shorter, all of a sudden, quite abruptly, life changed on a dime – COVID-19 hit Australia. It was literally that quick – on the Friday afternoon, we sat in the park and watched my then-eight year old run in her school Cross Country, by Monday, we were in lockdown.
And so suddenly my Project 365 took on a whole new significance – not only was I documenting the mundanity of our everyday lives, I was now documenting this strange new normal that was life in a pandemic, complete with distance learning, Easter via Zoom and 14 days of strict self isolation after we flew my 17-year old home from New Zealand to sit out lockdown with us.
In some ways, keeping on track was even easier during lockdown because we were all home together All. Day. Long. My camera was never far from reach, it became my sanity-saver during those looong days of fighting my youngest daughter over doing her schoolwork, trying to get my toddler to take a nap with all his big sisters around making noise, and lying awake at night worrying about whether we were going to run out of toilet paper.
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Towards the end of lockdown, I was beginning to seriously struggle with mojo. I had shot pretty much every single corner of my dark house, I had hundreds of photos of my toddler playing with puzzles and almost as many of the kids running round the oval across the road (Seriously. In April, I edited nearly 800 photos!), and it was all getting a bit same-same.
While we were in lockdown, I went on a bit of an online shopping bender and added a 35mm lens, a Lensbaby Sweet 35 and the Lensbaby Omni system to my kit to give me a bit more room to flex my creative muscles.
And then on June 1, my big girls finally went back to school after 12 weeks at home, and it was back to being just the toddler and I at home during the day. I signed up for the Click Love Grow ‘Documenting Family Life’ Creative Workshop to give my mojo a kickstart, and kept plugging on with shooting every day, but it was definitely starting to feel like a chore.
June, Days 153-182
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It was becoming clear that if I had any hope of seeing my Project 365 all the way through, I was going to need to tweak the way I was doing things. It was time to do some problem solving.
Problem number one is that I was bored with my subject matter. I had maxed out my bribe credits with the older kids, and I’d run out of different angles to shoot the little guy building Lego from. I needed to look more broadly. I needed to diversify.
So I began looking a little further afield, initially to the world around me in the form of nature and macro flower shots, which was also a great way to spend time with my 13-year old who had started taking the Click Love Grow Enthusiast course to learn photography herself.
This was also around the time I first started including myself in the frame from time to time. Self-portraiture had always terrified me, but interestingly, I found when I shared my self portraits on Instagram, they seemed to be my most popular posts! In fact, in the end, three of my top nine Instagram posts over the year were self portraits.
Related: Contemporary Portrait Ideas
In the second half of the year, I gave myself a little more grace with posting to Instagram – I kept up the daily posting to my feed, but ditched the adding to stories and highlights which was far more manageable.
I was still struggling with another issue as far as Instagram goes though – I had become involved in several Instagram ‘loops’ and becoming more and more conscious of wanting my feed to look aesthetically consistent and appealing, but some days, my photo of the day either didn’t fit the theme of the loop, or I didn’t feel like it was strong enough to take up an all important space on my grid. That was something I hadn’t considered when I first started out all enthusiastic and starry eyed – that sometimes the growth process doesn’t necessarily look the way we want it to.
Related: 10 Gorgeous Water Play Photos
There were some honeymoon patches in there – we spent a week away at the beach in mid October which reignited my creativity and gave me a whole new colour palette to work with, and then, of course, the lead up to Christmas was filled with fairy lights and family moments to capture, but in between, mentoring the Click Love Grow Discovering Photoshop creative workshop really put the pressure on in November as I really struggled to make time to shoot even just one picture a day.
So again, I gave myself grace. This time, it came in the form of allowing the odd cell phone pic to sneak in there every now and then. I worked on the theory that while, yes, the whole point of the project was to strengthen my camera skills, a cell phone pic is better than no pic at all, plus I could still concentrate on composition and perspective even when shooting with my phone.
As the weather warmed up and daylight savings began again, I also allowed myself to indulge my love of shadows and dramatic light a little more often.
And then, finally, day 365 arrived and I was done!
Over the course of the 365 days, I saw my photography skills grow exponentially. I refined my editing process and finally settled on a consistent, cohesive style. I grew to know – and love (and sometimes loathe) – the light in and around my house and how it varies with the time of day and time of year.
I learned that perfect is overrated, and that the true beauty of creativity is in the process not the product. I learned that overshooting doesn’t always make life easier. I learned that in the absence of a human subject, there is equal beauty – and importance – in documenting all the other glorious elements in the world around me. I learned that light can be a subject all on its own, as can shadows.
And as I anticipated when I started out on January 1, I watched my girls grow and change, and my toddler sprout up before my eyes…
Well, I’ve decided to stick at it and tackle another Project 365 in 2021, but I am taking with me all the learnings I’ve gathered throughout my first Project 365 and this time, I’m going to do things a little differently…
So tell me, will you join me for a Project 365 in 2021?
Emma Davis is a CLG Advanced Grad with a background in journalism and photography, a Kiwi ex-pat based in Sydney, and mum to six gorgeous muses who indulge her love of hunting and capturing light.
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