A 365 Day Photo Challenge in Retrospect

Take a Closer Look

Taking one photo a day for a year is no small undertaking. I mean, sure, you can make it as easy as you want and take pictures of your feet everyday just to say you took a picture, but that isn’t the point of the project is it? No, the point is to force yourself to think creatively everyday, and to use your camera everyday. Are they all going to be winners? Nope. There will be plenty of days where you’re at a complete loss for subject matter, or your schedule just doesn’t permit much more than a quick photo of the dinner you barely have time to eat. There may even be a few days that you’d rather use your camera as a blunt object against yourself than take a photo. But like anything, practice makes perfect. Those tough days just force you to look at your surroundings even more differently than before, and this is when you really start to grow as a photographer. Constantly seeking your next photo subject will change how you look at your world forever. You’ll see in contrast, geometry, and compositional elements. It will become reflex. That’s the hope anyway.

Besides polishing your craft as a photographer, you will also learn more about yourself and what direction you want to take your photography. Do you enjoy shooting people, landscapes, or objects more? Do you love shooting weddings? Maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe you’ve learned that there are things you don’t like shooting at all! Perhaps you’ve discovered you’d like to pursue a full time career in photography? You’ve just loved the idea of shooting every day so much that you can’t possible imagine your life any other way now! I learned quite a bit about what I like to shoot, and whether I thought I could ever go pro.

Throughout the photo challenge I shot far more places and things than I did people. I wish there were more of a mix, but with shooting on the fly, I had to shoot what was readily available. So after a year of photos what do I like shooting the most? I think the things. When it comes to product photography, for the most part I have total control of the photo. I can rearrange, add, and remove elements until my heart is content. I never have to worry about my model becoming impatient or losing interest either. I enjoy landscape photography, but I don’t really find my locale very scenic so I’m usually left less than inspired. Had I done a fair amount traveling to deserts, mountains, and forests, there is a good chance I’d have more to say about the genre. People photography is still kind of tricky for me to decide on. There are aspects that I like, and aspects that I don’t. I think a lot of my indecision is due to lack of experience in this realm. Despite my limited experience, I’m pretty sure I have absolutely no desire to become a wedding photographer, or be a senior picture/baby/family photographer. I just don’t get excited about that stuff. I like shooting couples and engagement photos though. Getting to know two people and trying to capture that unique spark between them is a fun challenge. It’s a lot less formal, and most of what I call the “in-between moments” are priceless. I don’t really know how I feel about fashion photography, or typical model photography. I like that it’s a mix of product photography in some ways, but I don’t have any grand schemes for interesting set themes or shoot ideas. One area of the people photography spectrum I would love to focus more on is street photography. It’s probably my favorite type of photography from an appreciators standpoint, but I find it extremely difficult to consistently produce interesting photos. Maybe I’m using this as a crutch, but this is another instance where I blame my location. St. Louis just isn’t a pedestrian city. There are a few busy areas, but the city just isn’t alive like Chicago, or some of the other cities I’ve been to. Now that I’ve talked a bit about my likes and dislikes, do I have the desire to go pro?

When I began the challenge I was seriously considering the idea of pursuing photography full time. I’d hungrily consume any inspirational story, and think of ways I could get my name out there. I think the fact that I was a jobless recent college graduate had a lot to do with my ambition. I’ve had plenty of jobs that I’ve been less than thrilled about, and that advice about turning something you love into a career and you’ll never work a day in your life was buzzing through my head. I figured that even if I did land a job as a field or wildlife biologist it would cater to my future career as a photographer. It would be perfect! My adventures as a biologist would lead me to interesting locations to photograph! Well, I never landed a job as a biologist. I, like so many other people, am working outside my field. I probably should have seen the writing on the wall back in May of 2011 while hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail. We ran into a couple of section hikers at an overlook and got to talking. Discussion of the local flora revealed that one of the gentleman had a background in biology. It also revealed that he never found a job as a biologist, and that he’d gone on to manage a construction company. Talk about way out of your field! I stayed optimistic though, and thought for sure that I’d find something. Long story short, I didn’t. I’m not complaining though. I love the career I’m in now, and I’m very thankful to have a job regardless of what it is in these precarious economic times. Honestly, I think things turned out better than I could have ever even imagined. One of the reasons for that, I get to keep the hobby that I love as just a hobby. I’ve never taken as strong an interest in anything as I have photography. It’s really the only hobby I have ever truly stuck with too. If something were to make me hate my biggest passion I’d be lost. When I go out looking for a photo my brain slips into a different mode where time stops and all troubles slip away. I feel like a kid again, just being curious and exploring the world around me. The moment you start shooting for others and what they want, I feel like that all starts to slip away. Since my livelihood doesn’t depend on me making my big break, I’m not going to risk changing the way things are.

With all that being said, what does 2013 hold for me photographically? Not another 365 day photo challenge that’s for sure! I found it very rewarding, but I’ll find other ways to push myself as a photographer. Short term, I plan on putting a book together with the resulting photos, and making that available to anyone that wishes to purchase one. I hope to have that done in February. Long term, now that I do have the frame of mind to always be looking at my surroundings for a possible photo, I think I’m going to try and put more time and effort into actually planning photo ideas. Jot down locations, determine what the best light conditions would be for them, and maybe even figure out how to turn it into a portrait shoot. I also hope to play with more street photography, but that opportunity probably won’t present itself as often as I’d like. This blog isn’t going anywhere so I’ll be sure and keep you all updated. I look forward to everything come from this wonderful blogging and photographic community : )




4 thoughts on “A 365 Day Photo Challenge in Retrospect

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more! The photo a day challenge was great for me most of the time, too, for all the reasons you stated. It sure tips us off as to our preferences for photography, doesn’t it? Best of luck to you in your further endeavors. I’m still a fan 🙂

  2. Congratulations on making it through! I echo so many of your sentiments regarding the discipline of shooting and producing every single day. I found out I really do like shooting people, even if I don’t get as much opportunity to do so. I found out I really like manipulating light and plan on honing my skill. Here’s to 2013!

  3. I really liked reading this post, usually I don’t read when there’s too much text.. but you got my attention! Great post!

    And great quote: “If something were to make me hate my biggest passion I’d be lost.”

    I understand what you mean when you say you feel that the moment you start shooting for others you stop shooting what you want. Maybe the trick is to find clients who will hire you because they love what you do and respect your work in a way that you will keep having control on the photographic decision. After all, the photographer is YOU not them! 🙂

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