How to Stay Motivated with a Long Term Photo Project
So, you've decided to take on a long-term photo project. Good for you! Me, too!
It's great, isn't it? You start off all motivated and excited and you just KNOW you are going to shoot the best pictures of your life and it will be awesome and you are going to finish it. I admit, I have never finished a 365 photo-a-day project and I don't feel bad about it. Each year, I have the best intentions of starting what I finish. There shouldn’t be guilt for missing a day of a challenge. Instead, you move on to the next day and document the moment. After all, the documenting is what is really important.
To help you and me get closer to finishing our project, I have a few tips for long-term success:
PLAN FOR SUCCESS
- Shoot at the same time every day. Set an alarm on your smartphone to remind you to take a picture at the same time everyday. This is an interesting way to document your day and see what you do at that particular time each day for a year.
- Plan ahead. Join a monthly photo challenge and look ahead through the prompts so you can plan creative shots. If you know you are going to shoot at the same time every day, it gives you time to gather your props before you take your photo.
- Make it a habit. Try to take a picture for 21 days in a row. If you shoot at the same time everyday and plan your shot ahead of time, you are well on your way to making picture-taking a habit.
PARTICIPATE IN PHOTO PROMPTS
- Find monthly prompts to follow. There are a ton of photo challenges on Instagram each month or you can find others by doing a simple Google search.
- Search the #PhotoADay hashtag. On Instagram, there are upwards of 2 million images tagged with the hashtag #PhotoADay. Following the hashtag is a great way to connect with other people who are taking pictures daily and you will find a lot of inspiration for your own photos.
CREATE MONTHLY THEMES
- Black & White Only. If you want to truly challenge yourself, shoot in black and white for an entire month. It will completely change the way you see. There are details in black and white photos you would not see with the distraction of color. So, consider this a welcome challenge to enhance the way you see and compose a photograph.
- A month of portraits. I am known for my self-portraits. I take lots of them to learn how light works on the human face.Try your hand at shooting portraits of yourself for a month.
You are your muse and only you for one full month.
Here’s why: Until you learn to love the way you look in a portrait, you will not be able to convince someone else that they look good when you take their portrait. As the photographer, your subject is trusting you and your vision. You have to help your subject feel confident by being confident. If you can do this for yourself in your self-portraits, you can do it with others.
- Camera phone only photos. If you shoot a lot with your DSLR or point & shoot, switch it up for a week or a month and shoot only with your camera phone. If you are primarily a camera phone shooter, pick up another type of camera and experiment. I love the images I create with my Mirrorless and DSLR cameras, but I don’t always have them with me. My camera phone, on the other hand is always with me. Commit to shooting with yours and mastering the "limitations" to kick your pictures up to the next level.
PRINT YOUR PHOTOS
- Print your favorite three images at the end of the week. I admit, I don’t often print my images, but that is changing this year. Your pictures mean more when you can physically see them in your hands. I recently printed a bunch of pictures from my travels last year and I was struck by all the pictures I had taken with my friends. I don’t get to see many of them that often, so these pictures are a treasure for me. I created a wall of friends and I look at it daily.
Print your pictures. Please. Just do it.
- Print all the pictures you took for the month and make a book. Here are a few places you can use for prints or books:
FORGIVE YOURSELF AND MOVE ON
- Don’t panic if you miss a day. It's not that serious. Start again the next day. The point of a photo challenge is to grow creatively. You are not in competition with anyone. You are not suppose to shoot like me or anyone else participating in the challenge. Instead, trust your eye, commit to honing your skills and keep shooting. Choose to be an active learner and participant in the challenge community.
- Have fun. Remember why you are doing the project in the first place. If you go back to your why, you are more likely to stick to the project. Commit to having fun commit to shoot every damn day!