I’ve had a couple weeks to reflect on my Project 365, so I’d like to share a handful of things I learned:
1. Being observant is key to a Project 365–and photography in general. Fortunately, I naturally became more observant when I had the responsibility of taking photos every day (and carried my camera everywhere). Anything was a potential photo subject. When you’re observant, photo ideas come more readily.
2. Even seemingly insignificant, everyday items can make good photographs. Or they have to do in a pinch when it’s 10 p.m. and you realize you haven’t touched your camera! You can really get creative if you push yourself to make something ordinary seem interesting.
3. The best times of day to photograph outside are sunrise and sunset. The “golden hour,” or the first and last hours of sunlight, casts a beautiful glow on just about everything. Compare this to the bright sunlight of midday, which creates harsh shadows and high contrast. Don’t refuse to shoot outside if it’s not during sunrise or sunset; just be aware of the lighting conditions and how they might affect your photography. To plan ahead, try using the Golden Hour Calculator or the Sunrise Sunset Calendar.
4. Looking at other people’s work is educational and inspirational. Simply browsing Flickr is a great source of ideas for your own photography. Seeing others’ work gets the creative gears moving in my head. If you’re out of ideas and lacking motivation, look for photographers who do the kind of work you’re aiming for. My favorite photographer on Flickr is moaan.
5. You don’t need fancy equipment to make good photographs. I’m not saying you shouldn’t invest in good equipment. Rather, you can improvise and make do with items found around the house, or cheap items from a craft store. The light box below is a great example: cardboard box, scissors, masking tape, glue stick, ruler, white Bristol board, white muslin, and a desk lamp (mine is clamped to a tripod). Also, I lit this St. Patrick’s Day shot with a small LED flashlight.
6. New skills. I learned how to make tilt-shift images and how to photograph water droplets. I learned how to improvise (see #5). I refined my Photoshop skills. I learned that my cell phone camera is an acceptable substitute to my DSLR, in certain situations. I stopped relying on automatic settings and now refuse to go back–manual settings are the way to go!
7. I learned what kind of photography I enjoy the most: close-up/macro images of food and nature. I have worked as a photojournalist, but always found myself seeking out an artistic close-up. I was seriously peeved when I discovered I broke my 50mm 1.8 lens, and overjoyed when Ian bought me the 50mm 1.4 for Christmas. I’m an introvert; I prefer photographing things over people, and I’m in love with shallow depth of field (DOF) and bokeh.
If you’re thinking about starting a Project 365, I highly recommend and encourage it! It doesn’t matter if you’ve missed the first two weeks of 2011. You can start at any time. Try sharing your photos through Mostly365.com, a new site by Mostly Lisa that makes it easy to share your 365 photos.