In my last post, I shared my goals for the year ahead including my commitment to a photography 365 Project: a simple goal to get my camera out everyday and take at least one photo. I tried this last year, but quickly got discouraged when busy working life took over and I missed a few days without taking any photos. This year, I'm more determined to keep up the practice, but I'm also being kinder with myself if I miss a couple of days. When this happens, I remind myself what the aim of the goal is, essentially to make photography a part of my daily life, to really get to grips with how my camera works, to get quicker at changing my camera settings to catch the shot I just don't want to miss and most importantly, to track my progress and visually record how my skills are developing and my practice is changing.
Now that January has been and gone and we're half way through February already, I thought I'd share my thoughts on my own 365 project and if you're considering a 365 project yourself, how to prepare and make the most of it. Here goes!
- Shoot in RAW. It's only in the last few weeks, that I've really begun to appreciate why photographers advise this. For anyone taking photography seriously it's the best way to capture all the image data from your camera's sensor and means that you can easily correct under or over exposed images in Lightroom. For those of you still doubting, this blog post sums it up perfectly.
- Keep track of the daylight and golden hour. Thankfully, the days are ever so slightly lengthening and it's beginning to get lighter in the evenings. Being aware of the daylight hours and paying attention to the weather can help enormously for photography. In January I would often take my camera to work to get out at lunchtime, making the most of the daylight hours. Many photography sites recommend checking online or using an app but I'm yet to find something that really works for me so if you've found a golden hour app you love please let me know in the comments!)
- Pay attention to the weather. This follows on from being a lover of light when suddenly frosty, foggy, snowy winter days will make you leap for photographic joy! Some of my best images from January were shot on some of the coldest, frostiest days. The light was clear, everything was covered in icy sparkles and the world was a beauty to capture. Set-up those seasonal Pinterest boards for inspiration and be ready to capture mother nature at her best.
- Have your camera to hand at all times. This means no hiding it away in that camera bag or box upstairs. Have it with you and in view at all times. Sometimes, you never know when that perfect shot will be. Be prepared. If you're worried about your camera getting damaged invest in a camera case. I have this one which protects my lens and LCD perfectly though the strap isn't that comfortable so I'm saving my pennies for something more comfy like this (*wish*).
- Alternate between unplanned 'grab and shoot' days and more pre-planned sessions. So, most days I might have a spare moment to photograph the woodland trail at work or the cup of coffee I'm drinking and I'm starting to get quite good at these kind of shots (it's mostly static objects where I can take the time to set-up). However, this year, I really want to push myself to learn new skills and explore other genres of photography. I'm hoping to have a weekend shoot with my friend Jen in Morecambe at the end of the month (I love the seaside!) and I've done a call-out on my Facebook page for some willing volunteers to help me build up my portrait skills (if you're interested I'd love to hear from you!).
- Learn to shoot Manual. So there are lots of different reasons to do a 365 project, some people want to record their daily life, others want to build up a beautiful album of images. For me, it's all about the learning this year. I want to really know my camera and be more confident using the Manual setting. It's all still a bit new, but articles like this really help to understand the basics. As with shooting in RAW, I'm confident that in 12 months time I'll never look back to any other setting as this will give me the full creative control over my images.
- Get organised: learn Lightroom. Taking photos every single day is rapidly going to fill-up your photo library and hard drive so it's important to get organised from the start. I've set-up a simple filing system and have been learning the beauty of photo organisation using Lightroom with the lovely Kim Klassen. If you've never used Lightroom before and are a bit unsure where to start, I would really recommend Kim's FREE Leap Into Lightroom online course to get you started. I'm delving in deeper to the photo-editing process with Kim's Lightroom Essentials course and I can't believe how much this software has helped my organisation and post-processing.
- Use Auto White Balance. Prior to shooting in RAW and using Lightroom, I used to try and modify the white balance for different lighting situations. Whilst this can be a good thing, I would sometimes forget to amend the setting and end up with images shot on the wrong setting. Using Auto White Balance takes the pressure off getting the setting right and altering it every time. Once the images are imported to Lightroom and provided you shoot in RAW, you can amend the white balance to suit. Win!
- Learn from the shots that didn't quite work. Since starting this project I've learnt the most about my strengths and weaknesses as a photographer. My current strengths are shooting still-life, lifestyle shots in natural light. I need to practice my portrait skills and knowledge of shooting in low light conditions. This infographic on low light photography is a good starting point and something that I'm going to print out for my camera bag.
- Challenge yourself. Last year, I shot every image using my trusty 'nifty fifty' lens. By the end of the year, I really knew how that lens worked and how far I could push it to get great shots. This year, I've invested in another prime lens (85 mm f1.8) with a low aperture to capture more portrait shots. In the past, I've also taken part in a 30 Day Photo Challenge using an instax instant camera. Challenge yourself to do different things or place creative restrictions on your practice to really test the boundaries. Above all, have fun!
I've come sooooo.... far with my photography, from the days where I had no idea what White Balance, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO really meant to now when I'm piecing it all together. I still have so much to learn, but I'm so excited by this and can't wait to see how my skills develop.
Check out my journey with photography so far through my past photography posts and if you really want a laugh scroll back to the early days on my Tumblr account (*cringe*).
Are you doing a 365 project this year? How are you getting on? I'd love to hear your tips too...