25 January 201222,760 views23 Comments

Start a year-long Photography Project in 2012!

by Natalie Williams, January 2012

As a keen photographer, your list of resolutions for 2012 might include an intention to photograph a particular subject you’ve always dreamed of capturing, to learn more about your camera and what it’s capable of or simply to take more photos, more often.

Many photographers choose to embark on a year-long photography project as a result of a new year’s resolution or just from a desire to focus their photographic efforts with a specific goal in mind.


Personal photography projects can benefit photographers of any experience level – from keen enthusiasts to working professional photographers. Tim Gander is a photojournalist-turned-commercial photographer who praises the benefits of fitting a personal photography project into your schedule. In the past he has undertaken a project to photograph the unique characters and everyday goings-on at an old pub in Bath which has since shut down. More recently he has been working on an ongoing personal project to photograph the bustle of the local livestock market. Previously on the Wex Blog, Tim wrote about what personal photography projects are and why photographers should consider doing one…

Personal projects have an intangible value. They allow a photographer the opportunity to stretch their creativity, try out new techniques without the risk of jeopardizing a paid assignment, or explore a subject which fascinates them.

To find out more about Tim’s personal photography projects, his post Photography: this time it’s personal! is definitely worth a read, or check out his blog here.

The 365 project

A photography project that many photographers choose to get involved in is a 365 project. If it’s not obvious already; you take a photo every day for a whole year (and since 2012 is a leap year, you’ll need to take an extra photo!) Mark Stephenson completed his first 365 project in 2011 and we caught up with him to find out how he got on…

Congratulations on completing your 365 project in 2011! How did you feel on December 31st when you finished the project?

Thanks! It was a strange feeling on the last day. I had a massive sense of achievement, but also the sad feeling that it was the end of an era. For a short while I toyed with the idea of carrying the project on and doing another year of photos, although for my sanity I decided not to.

This image of a kiwi fruit is one of Mark's favourites from the year

Have you taken the time to look through all 365 of your photos in one sitting yet? Did you notice any significant changes in your photography, whether it be your style, level of skill or otherwise, over the course of the year?

I haven’t actually but it’s something I will definitely do soon. It will be fun to relive the whole year in pictures and I’m sure it will bring lots of memories back. Personally, I haven’t noticed a massive jump in skill level but I’ve had plenty of comments telling me I’ve improved a lot over the year.

What are the biggest positives that came out of doing the project?

The biggest positive was that it got me using my camera gear on a daily basis. That was the main reason I took on the project – I felt I wasn’t shooting enough. I would find I’d go for weeks with the camera gear sat lonely in the cupboard. Another benefit that’s come out of doing the project is I feel myself thinking more like a photographer every day. Spending a whole year constantly looking for interesting shots changes the way you see the world and even after the project I find myself looking for shots where before I may have missed them.

When all else fails, your cat may provide some photographic inspiration

What did you struggle with the most while working on your 365 project? Were there days where you really didn’t want to pick up your camera?

The struggle is the sheer relentlessness of the project. It’s the days when you have to stay late at work and just want to go to bed when you get home that I found the most difficult. I found it really helps to have some backup ideas. I’d recommend making an “ideas list” for those days when your creativity is lacking. Failing that, the cat was always a good fallback.

Do you have a favourite image from 2011? We’d love to hear the story behind it if you have one!

I think my favourite image is the kiwi fruit shot. I love the vibrancy of the colours and the simple nature of the photo. I took it quite early on after reading about someone doing something similar. It’s a shot I’d like to have printed on a canvas for the kitchen some time. The photo that gets the most attention is the pigeon shot, people seem to love it. Apart from that I proposed to my girlfriend one day using a photo which I suppose is pretty memorable! And now we will always have that picture to look back on.

One of Mark's more memorable photos from his 365 project

Any advice for those considering starting a 365 project or something similar?

Do it. It’s a big commitment but if you’re even considering it then I think you’d benefit from the experience. Once you’re over that initial hurdle of starting and you’ve overcome all your commitment issues, don’t give up. There were many days when I really didn’t want to take a photo, but I also found I got some of my best images on those days as I really pushed my imagination and creativity. As I mentioned before, making a list of ideas is a great help, and please just don’t give up. For the sake of that one photo on the day you want to throw in the towel you’ll thank yourself in the long run if you get through it.

You can find Mark’s final set of all 365 images from his project on Flickr.

Tips for completing a 365 photo project

We also spoke to Helen Ogbourn, another successful 365 project photographer who finished her year-long photography project on 31st May 2011. She shares with us some of her tips for getting through the year and finding inspiration when you get stuck…

  1. Take your camera everywhere you go because quite often the best photos come when you least expect it. Try using your camera phone or a compact camera for a change if you usually use a DSLR.
  2. Don’t be too particular, not every photo in a 365 project is going to be brilliant. Some days will be far better than others and some days are just about getting any photo. Don’t give up, it’s worth sticking to it for the better days!
  3. Share your photos online and get people to follow along, then you are accountable to an audience! It’s nice when people enjoy the photos and follow your experience.
  4. Have back-up ideas.  Some days will be full of inspiration and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Make a note of the extra ideas so that you can go back to them on a day where you are feeling less inspired.
  5. Join a photo sharing site such as Flickr. There are many groups out there to join and plenty of encouragement from other 365-ers to keep you going.
  6. Set some themes for yourself or ask others for suggestions. For example, you could spend a week taking black & white photos or a week of street photography.
  7. If you don’t want to think of ideas yourself, websites such as The Daily Shoot will set you a theme each day and can be followed online, by email and twitter.
  8. Take the opportunity to learn more about your camera while you do the project and challenge yourself to take photos using different settings.
  9. Don’t leave taking your photos until the evening. Get used to thinking about them from when you get up in the morning, it’ll soon become a habit and then you won’t have that evening panic.
  10. Go to the library or a bookshop and browse photography books and magazines – you’ll get plenty of inspiration.

Other projects to consider

Taking one photo each day for a whole year will not appeal to everyone, but there are plenty of other weekly and monthly photography projects that may be more practical for some people.  We asked Helen about her photography project experience over the past year and found out a little more about the personal photography goals she has lined up now that her 365 project is done and dusted…

Why did you decide to start a 365 photo project?

Having received a compact camera the year before as a gift, I decided it was time to learn how to use it to its potential and in no time I had caught the photography bug. The only issue was that I had no real idea about types of photographs I wanted to take. It was then that I took on the challenge of taking a photo every day for a year to explore the possibilities.

What is your advice to someone who’s thinking about starting a 365 project or other daily photography project?

365 photo projects are certainly not to be underestimated! They require commitment, imagination and a bit of patience but after a short while the project becomes a part of your everyday life. The challenge of finding a photo opportunity each day can be difficult, however, it’s worth persisting for the satisfaction and rewards that you experience throughout the year.

What are the biggest positives that  have come from working on your various photography projects?

I soon realised I was taking a lot more notice of the world around me and enjoying otherwise mundane activities such as my commute to work! Over the course of my 365 project I got to know my camera incredibly well and used it as an opportunity to shoot with other types of camera, try all different camera modes and use different processing techniques. I’ve became a much more confident photographer and have started to realise that there are types of photography that I find particularly rewarding.

Can you tell us a bit more about the self-portrait project that you’re currently working on?

Having thoroughly enjoyed my first photo project, I wanted to continue to push myself to learn more about photography and decided to take on another one. I’m currently approaching the end of a 30 day project of self portraits which has been a huge challenge! I don’t love being in front of the camera and haven’t previously had a lot of experience of taking photos of people, so I thought this would really get me out my comfort zone.

Initially I was unsure about what a self portrait should be. 26 photos into the project I find myself in a very different position. I enjoy the challenge of thinking of new ideas, I don’t mind being in front of the camera and I’ve come to the conclusion that self portraits can be anything from capturing the very ordinary to the more creative and posed shots. They’re also a great way to experiment with focus settings as a much more manual approach is required here. Tripods are also very useful for this kind of project, but not necessary if you are willing to experiment a bit more.

Do you have any plans for another year-long photography goal in 2012?

I’ve started to take weekly photos in 2012 to reflect my year, in which all photos must include some part of me and an item that has been significant in the week. I am processing the photos using Adobe Lightroom presets, all with a similar tone, so that they fit nicely as a collection to print in a photobook at the end of the year.

A 365 project isn’t for everyone, do you have any other suggestions for those wanting to embark on a photography project that doesn’t require taking a photo every day for a whole year?

Here are some more ideas you may want to consider for photo projects:

  • 52 week photo project – one photo each week for a whole year
  • 30 day photo project,  perhaps using a particular theme. For example: black and white photos or mobile phone photography
  • A day in the life – take one photo every hour for a day
  • Work your way through the alphabet and take photos of things beginning with the letters A-Z
  • Photograph the seasons throughout the year
  • A self portrait project
  • A time specific project, for example, taking a photo at 3pm every day, week, month or year

To see more of Helen’s work, visit her blog or Flickr.

So, are you planning on starting a photography project in 2012 or have you already begun? If so, let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear what you’ll be focusing on photographing this year!

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  • http://www.markproctorphotography.co.uk Mark Proctor

    I just started my 365 project at http://365project.org/markaproctor/365 . I prefered this to flickr as everyone is a committed 365er. Some great images on there. It can be a struggle but the tips you’ve included above I can see will help.
    Really enjoynig it though.

  • http://www.clairepenn.com Claire Penn Photography

    I have started a ‘366’ project using just my phone camera – actually more of a challenge as you’re pretty limited to what you can do. Wanted to start with the phone camera thought as it’s always with me, see if I can do a year with that, then move on to my ‘proper’ camera if I get through it in one piece. Pics so far are on my blog.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/iankendall/ Ian

    Like you Claire, I started a 365 project with just my 2 megapixel iPhone 3GS! Very challenging indeed. It really makes you think about composition when you have no other control on exposure. I post every day to Facebook…
    Take a look and click ‘Like’!

  • http://www.willblack.co.uk Will

    I am currently into my 2nd Year of publishing a daily photo, along with an inspiring quote that goes with it. I find it very liberating… I suppose it’s very similar to someone who keeps a daily diary. Perhaps a 5 Year photo blog/diary should be the aim of every keen photographer! Having now created this daily blog, it has now inspired me to put a book togethor entitled “The power of quotes.”
    Daily images and quotes can be seen under the news section at http://www.willblack.co.uk.

  • http://anncourtney.com Ann Courtney

    It’s interesting to read the views of others doing these lengthy projects. I started my year-long Photo a Day project on 5th June 2007 and am still going strong – I love it. I do a self portrait every Friday just to add to the challenge…can’t imagine what I would do if I stopped. It’s much better than Prozac too!
    My advice to anyone thinking of starting this type of project is 1. keep a camera with you ALL the time 2. If you find it’s not for you then so be it – if you don’t try you can’t fail but you certainly can’t succeed!

  • Neb Willmore

    I am 90 years old and have been taking photos from about 1936. And still taking them, but on days out like flower shows , Old houses,& Cathedrals,and take over 100 photos, not one every day. So I am
    starting from today 26th Jan to 26th Jan 2013, that will get me out every day to take a photo .
    I was in the RN so I took photos of action on convoys,in the Med, on the HMS Ajax, and more .Now I must go out every day to find action or something and get a photo. Thank you from an old man that is sitting indoors to much. NEB

  • Dave Stewart

    Blipfoto is the ideal “venue”, or host for such a project, and more. You’ll find more about it at:


    Great community spirit too, if you want to take part in that side of things.

    [I use the site, but am nothing to do with the running, or organisation!]

  • chris spencer

    Great article: great ideas.

    I’ve just bought a small camera, so I can carry it everywhere with me for just such a project.

    Sadly, the Daily Shoot website is discontinued – it would have been a good source of inspiration for someone lazy like me. Perhaps WEX should have a section like this, on their website: think of the OTS that would generate and the potential income.

  • Peter Gibson

    I too started a project last year http://365project.org/pete21/365 and I’ve decided to go for a second year as this site has become part of my daily life now. The forums are a wonderful place to go for ideas, tips and suggestions.

    If you are considering a 365 then I say GO FOR IT :)

  • http://365project.org/sburbidge/365 Steven Burbidge

    I did a 365 in 2011, made it through the year. What an amazing experience!
    Don’t underestimate the task involved, but marvel at the way your outlook changes, you’ll be seeing photo opportunities everywhere. And then on the odd occasion you go out without a camera it’ll feel as though your arm has been chopped off!
    Heartily recommend 365project.org

  • http://www.pfg-photography.com Fiona Johnston

    I did a 365 photo project last year but set myself a criteria of the photo being of something I’d either done that day or a photo I’d taken that day. It’s almost worked as a diary for me and it is lovely to look back on. Creativity wasn’t my aim (probably just as well), it was more the discipline of seeing and thinking about photos every day. I’m pleased with the fact that I managed to keep it up and it really got me using my camera on a regular basis. I am going to revisit it in a few years time and try to take a “creative” photo a day but this year I’ve set myself a themed project – my theme is feathers, both on and off birds. I’m hoping this will allow me to be more creative and really push my boundaries. If you’d like to keep up to date with my progress on this then feel free to visit my website at http://www.pfg-photography.com/page11.htm

    Good luck to you all on your projects – it’s such a good way to keep your photography alive (especially during these dark winter nights!)

  • Helen Anthony

    This is a great idea – I started project through this website – http://www.p365.org/
    You can see several completed projects here too.
    The discipline of taking one photography a day encouraged me to look at possible picture more often. I also played with the idea of setting a theme for a week. The first few days are easy, but when you get to the end of the week it becomes more of a challenge!!!

  • Dave Barber

    I didn’t realise so many others did it !! I started with film cameras many years ago then moved on to digital compacts (usually on auto). Just before christmas the taxman gave me some money for a camera (well he didn’t say it was for a camera but that is what I decided to use it for ) and realised I was so out of practice that I would take a photograph every day of 2012 and publish them on my facebook account.

    I agree that so far the hardest thing has been finding something different everyday – I’m guessing the choice of topics will be better when it is warmer – but I’ve managed everyday so far and used some features of the camera that I wouldn’t normally think of using. I also tend to pick up the manual at night and read about a different technique or function – which I then use the following day.

  • Pat Salter

    What a brilliant idea. Read all the comments and am truly inspired. Will start immediately. Last year I did “just one day” and managed about 99 shots in that day – it’s amazing what you can see if you look.

  • Pat Salter

    What a brilliant idea to take at least one decent shot a day for a year. Read all the comments and am truly inspired. Will start immediately. Last year I did “just one day” and managed about 99 shots in that day – it’s amazing what you can see if you look.

  • Dismas Wibisono

    Those pictures and explanations are amazing!
    Speakless mode: ON


  • Steve

    Reading peoples comments and Helen’s article has really inspired me to start and complete a 1 year photography project. I am starting this on Wednesday February 1st and do hope to set up some form of site to track it. This should be an interesting record to look back on in years to come!

  • Clive Ormonde

    I congratulate everyone who has completed a 365 project and from what I have seen the standard of photography is very high.

    I had a go in 2007, carrying a compact around with me and just shooting anything that happened to catch my eye. When I completed that I was happy to move on, but having a professional interest in meteorology I had always thought about doing an illustrated daily weather diary for a calendar year so I used this as an excuse to repeat the exercise in 2011. The challenge I set myself was to take outdoor photos in as many different locations as possible close to my home in Berkshire, either directly showing the weather or in days of uninteresting weather still giving some hint of what the weather was actually like. I used it as an excuse to walk as much as possible (an average of over 14,000 steps per day throughout the year) and each day I wrote a brief weather log for the place I happened to be staying at the time. On completion I turned it all into two books through the Blurb online publishing company. They can be purchased, but I wouldn’t recommend buying them due to their cost and that’s without making any money out of them myself. However, each of them can be browsed in their entirety for free on http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2581745 and http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2923903. They are just a little bit of self-indulgence on my part!

    The advice everyone gives anyone thinking of trying it is to go for it. I would say the same as long as there’s a good chance you’ll be able to finish it. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to complete, say, 11 months of very hard work and then for whatever reason have to give up. I was very lucky that on both occasions I steered clear of illness and injury and there were no other major crises to deal with. Think too about how much time it will take up, not just in taking the pictures, but also in planning, post production, archiving, documenting and so on. The rewards for me included the benefits of fresh air and exercise, learning so many new things about my surroundings and meeting so many friendly, interesting, helpful and encouraging people on the way. For each picture taken there was usually a story behind it. I only wish I had kept a daily log as well.

  • Angela

    My 365 starts today. I took the first one this morning – the date ‘scratched’ into the ice on top of my car. Really looking forward to it – and I think I will try to keep a daily written log also, even if only on the calendar.

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  • Amy

    I read this article in December and was inspired to start My Big Year in 2013! I had thought about doing the 52×52 or 26×26 challenge which are similar; 26 or 52 photos in 26 or 52 weeks with certain criteria/tasks but decided I would try a year long project. I am hoping to develop my photography skills and get to know my camera better. I have tried Flickr but prefer using my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Vint-Photography . Today was my first day and so far I am loving it, walked to the top of a hill to get a landscape photo. Would love top hear from anyone else who is doing something similar. Amy