Last Updated on 09/25/2023 by Lara Carretero
Believe it or not, by the time 2020 was coming to an end, I was a total mess. I had just moved to a new city with a couple of contacts, not enough money to live on, and virtually no prospects. What I had, though, was my computer, my phone, my trusty Sony A7RIII, and a bunch of lenses. That, and some reliable memories of how much good Shutter Therapy did for my mental health. Taking all of this into account, I decided to kickstart the new year by shooting a picture every day for as long as I could manage.
Nine hundred and sixty days, six residences, and a few intercontinental flights later, I still haven’t stopped. Do you want to know what I learned? Keep on reading because I’ve got pictures and ideas to share.
Practice may not make perfect, but it will get you close enough
In 2008, a journalist named Malcolm Gladwell wrote a sentence that has permeated popular culture; ”Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness. Though long since debunked, it still has a modicum of truth at its core; the more you practice, the more you dedicate to your craft, the better you will be at it.
Of course, we’re talking about photography here. Something most of you won’t shy away from working on, not even thinking of how much time you need to put into it.
After all, it was never about the destination. It was about the journey.
Beauty is everywhere when you know how to look for it.
The photographer who made me dive headfirst into photography told me something that has stayed with me since the first splash.
Taking interesting pictures is easy when you’re in an exciting environment. Doing so in a place where nothing happens, not so much.
When I’m walking through downtown Madrid (population 3.2 million), it’s almost impossible not to come back with a dozen pictures to choose from. There’s an immense variety of people walking around. There’s plenty of unique architecture, old and new. There are street performers, buskers, drag queens, and more.
When I’m strolling through the empty streets of Belleville, Illinois (population 70K), where no one walks anywhere, and the closest coffee shop is fifteen minutes away, it’s somewhat harder to find anything to bring back home.
When I lived in a certain Andalusian town (population, 6.5K), with its dusty, dry, arid climate? That was the hardest, and even then, I found something every time I got out.
It just meant I had to look harder and, sometimes, a bit longer. Don’t get discouraged. There’s always a new texture, a play of light and shadows, something to play with, even if you need to move something out of the way.
Editing is good. In-Camera is better.
Since the beginning of photography, editing has always been there. Experiments with chemicals, under and overexposure, solarization, double exposures, paint, ink, cropping, etc. The camera may not lie, but we’ve always been able to convince it to distort the truth.
Having said that, though, editing is not something you should rely on if you plan on taking a picture every single day.
Looking for that daily shot will take time and effort enough. Adding processing and editing will be overkill.
Trust me on this.
Beware of social media
One of the things I wanted to achieve with this little project was to have a personal diary. My long-term memory is a bit messed up, and saving pictures you can look at is simpler, cheaper, and less painful than going the route of Memento.
Right now, I can look at my Telegram channel and browse through everything I’ve done, everything I’ve lived, and every place I’ve been to since January 2021.
Of course, it is a double-edged blade. Being a public channel means that you can see it as well as I.
Personally, I don’t care much about people knowing what I do, but some people may not want their location, habits, or other personal information to be known.
Consider if this is your case. If OpSec is important to you, keep your project locked up for those you trust. Or even just for yourself!
Shoot now; upload tomorrow.
For the first thirty months, I’ve been pushing myself to take the picture, edit and upload it before midnight of the same day.
After all, I managed to accrue some followers who wanted to see what I was doing, and I didn’t want to fail them!
Of course, what I failed to take into consideration was that I was failing myself.
I was denying myself access to some exciting parts of life, stressing over the time of publication. Beaming pictures from the camera to the phone just so I could add the watermark and upload them in time to not fail. Feeling like a failure the days I couldn’t make it for whatever reason. Feeling guilty about losing myself in a conversation with friends or strangers. Stressing even more when I was at weekend-long parties —Pride in Spain is like that— or riding an intercontinental plane.
A few weeks ago, I started uploading the next day. Giving myself time to rest, to choose what I wanted to upload, to write the text I always add.
And let me tell you, this has done wonders for my mental health and my social life.
Shooting outdoors will help you keep in shape
On most days, I hang the strap off my neck and head out, camera at hand. Sometimes I’ll go the easy way, taking the FE 50mm f/1.8 lens. On other days, I’ll head out to the park with my Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 and try to capture pictures of any critter I can see. Some days, I’ll go to social events —like Pride— carrying a few lenses just to be able to swap.
At the start of any project like this one, you don’t need to walk that much to find that new image. As the days go, you’ll have to walk longer and look harder to find that new picture.
And let me say; this will do wonders for your step count!
Just grab some comfy shoes and a bottle of water to ensure you’re hydrated enough, and head out looking for That Picture. Both your physical and mental health will thank you for it.
Shooting indoors will exercise your imagination
As challenging and healthy as it is, going outdoors every day to hunt for that elusive photograph is not the most achievable of goals.
It may be your health, the weather, or the varied pressures life puts on us; sometimes, going out is just unfeasible.
On those days, you’ll have to look inside your place for inspiration. You can take pictures of your jewelry, clothes, or food. You can go for some creative self-portraits, exploring yourself and your environment. You can even take a look at our Round Up about Home Photography Projects.
A piece of advice? Take a piece of paper and jot down some ideas for the future, so whenever you can’t afford to go out, you don’t have to waste time thinking.
Cutting yourself some slack
This is a lesson I found a little bit hard to accept. More than a little, in fact, as illustrated by the picture straight below this paragraph.
I shot this picture just after tripping in the street and breaking two of my ribs, right before I had someone call the ambulance to take me to the hospital. Fun times!
We’re human. That means we will need rest sometimes. Shooting pictures can do wonders for your mental health, but sometimes your brain needs to give up for a couple of days. And that’s ok.
In the first two years, I didn’t fail a single day. This year, I had to give myself a little vacation after a few days of being unable to summon the energy to pick up the camera. And you know what? No big deal. I come first. You come first.
Keeping it safe
Another sentence that has wormed its way into the collective subconscious is that old saw, “The Internet is forever.”
Let me assure you; it’s not.
This is not to say you shouldn’t keep in mind what you post and where; after all, taking screenshots and saving embarrassing pictures of other people is as easy as it ever was.
You need to remember that most of the Internet is not yours. Your Instagram account can be flagged down and banned. Your Facebook account can be shut down for an accidental nip slip. Your Twitter —sorry, X— account can lose all images before 2014, thanks to Elon’s latest brainfart.
Remember that on most websites, you’re not the client; you’re the product. Make sure to keep a backup of everything you don’t want to lose, especially if you’re one of those people susceptible to having their accounts targeted.
A quick recap
When I started doing this, back on that January the first two years ago, committing to such a project felt at the same time overwhelming and life-saving. If you told me back then that by now, I would’ve taken more than a thousand pictures, I would have laughed.
This oversized 365 Photography Project has improved my skills, my ability to find and capture beauty wherever I look, and my willingness to try and find new places and experiences. So far, I’ve done it without a script. Who knows what I will do next year?
You’re welcome to keep an eye on it.