After finishing my first 365 project in 2010, I had discovered a new love for photography and my eyes had been opened to a world I never knew existed. After finishing my second 365 project this year, I've learned a lot more about photography and how to be successful at the 365. I wanted to share with you some of the things I've learned from this project so that you can get the most out of yours! I think everyone should do a 365, despite whether they are a photographer or not. It's a wonderful way to look back on a year and see just how much you've grown.
1. Decide right off the bat what kind of project you want the 365 to be. My first one had strict guidelines: I was only allowed to take self portraits. This stretched me to produce creative images and explore myself and learn a lot about who I was. The second time around, I gave myself no guidelines, which caused me to be lazy and not grow as much as I could have. So decide right away what you want to gain from the project. Do you just want documentation of a year, or do you want to learn more about your camera, or do you want to create 365 pieces of art? If I had a chance to do my second 365 over again, I would have constrained myself to only shooting portraits, mostly conceptual, so that I couldn't be lazy and take photos of random objects, and so that I could also branch out from self portraiture and into the modeling world. (Also, some photographers, when they skip days, continue numbering their photos as if they didn't, so they finish their project several days or weeks past the literal year mark. For me, when I skipped days--which I don't suggest doing--I skipped numbers, because I was more concerned about finishing in a year than necessarily producing 365 images. So decide which approach to numbering your photos you want to take.)
2. Don't underestimate yourself. You've really got to believe that the photos you take are amazing. If you continually mope around thinking that your photos are no good, then you'll eventually become so discouraged you'll quit. There's a fine line between not liking your images because you're no good and not liking your images because you want to improve. There's always room for improvement and you have to be pleased with what you produce, but also be looking for those ways to improve.
3. Post your photos online. Be it via flickr or facebook, post your photos somewhere so that others can hold you accountable. If you're wanting to become a better photographer, I HIGHLY suggest you join flickr. I didn't join flickr until halfway through my first 365 and I wish I had done it at the beginning. Flickr is a wonderful community of photographers that are there to encourage you along the way. If you join, I guarantee you will make some amazing friends and gain a ton of inspiration which will in turn help you move forward with your own 365.
4. Don't let your limitations be limitations. I completed my first 365 using a $75 point and shoot camera and old photoshop software I found in a box. My very first photos were shot with a camera that only shot video, which I print screened on the computer and edited in paint and picnik.com. I was doing the most primitive things when I did my first 365 and I didn't let them limit me. I instead used them to my advantage, to create things people didn't think were possible to create with the tools I had. Never think the camera makes the photographer. The photographer makes the camera. I've seen awful photos shot with fancy DSLR cameras, and fantastic photos with point and shoots. Don't think you have to purchase tons of equipment in order to be a good photographer. (But at the same time, if you are serious about it, there comes a point where your skill exceeds your equipment, in which case you should invest. But my point is that equipment doesn't equate to talent.)
5. Don't give up. This is obvious, but trust me, there will be days or weeks or months where you'll want to give the 365 project up, I guarantee it. DON'T DO IT. You'll be too tired, too busy, too uninspired to do anything. But take a photo anyways. There were days where I hated my camera and I didn't ever want to think about touching photography again. But you just have to fight through those feelings. It's okay to create images that you hate. It's okay that you're too busy to take a decent photo. When I finished my first 365, after two weeks I went back and put all the photos I didn't like on private. The important thing is that I took those photos. It was in the failures that I grew the most. And the important thing is to recognize what you don't like about a photo and then fix it. Just don't give up. Even when there are photos you don't like, when you look back at the end of the year, you'll be proud of the entire project.
As for the technical side of the 365 (ie, editing and whatnot) I am completely self taught. I learned everything I know from pushing random buttons and looking things up on the internet. A really awesome resource for anyone who takes photos would be phlearn.com. They make awesome tutorials that I often go to and there is a lot that they teach in their episodes. Definitely go check them out.
I hope these tips will help you out a little bit. If you are doing a 365 project for 2013, let me know! I would love to be your cheerleader. And whenever you hit that bump and want to quit, seriously don't be afraid to talk to me. You will not regret doing a 365. Even though it is a challenge at times, it's one of the most gratifying feelings to look back on a year's worth of images and be proud of who you became.