You are coming to the end of the year 2023, a year where you made an international decision to document your life in photos. You may have taken a few photos throughout the year. You may have taken one a week. Or, you may have been one of those who jumped in with both feet on January 1 and have taken a photo of your life every single day since then. However your project happened, honor it. Whatever photos you created, treasure them. Whatever “unphotographed” memories from 2023 that linger, savor and protect them. Your participation in this project, regardless of the level of that participation, changed you in ways you’ve already seen and perhaps in others that have yet to reveal themselves. Though this year is quickly coming to an end, the experience of your 365 Picture Today adventure is “the gift that keeps on giving”, to borrow a phrase from advertisers.
It may seem a little cliche to do a yearly review of your year-long photography project, but, it’s a valuable exercise. It may also be the inspiration and/or motivation you need to commit to another 366 photos (It’s a leap year!) in 2024! So much more than photographs lives within our 365 Picture Today projects. I suspect that many of us embarked on this journey as a means to improve the technical aspects of our photography. I hope that as you look back over your images from this year and reflect on your place in this community, you will see not only that improvement in your photography skills, but you will see the changes that have happened in you as well.
Here are A FEW questions to ponder as your 365 Picture Today 2023 comes to a close.
1. Think back to the moment when you chose to undertake a photo a day in this year. What was the catalyst for that decision?
We all undertake this kind of project for different reasons. All are valid. Maybe your reason was to better your photography, or to document your family’s growth. Perhaps it was a desire for a personal discipline, or a path to healing. Your hope may have been that taking a photo a day would help you slow down and see the world around you from a different perspective. And maybe back in January, you had no idea why you were inspired to take a photo a day. If that’s the case, do you now have insight into why this project became an integral part of your life this year?
2. What have you learned from your 365 Picture Today experience this year?
This question is really twofold. What have you learned about the art of photography? And, perhaps more importantly, what have you learned about yourself?
It is almost impossible to pick up a camera and take a picture every day and not learn something either consciously or subconsciously. Did you learn how to operate a new camera? How to shoot in manual mode? Did you find all the amazing things that your phone camera and apps can do? Do you now know what the exposure triangle and white balance are? Maybe you realized the extraordinary beauty of the blue and golden hours. How about the Rule of Thirds and when it’s OK to break this rule? Did you discover that sometimes it feels like there is no shutter speed fast enough to capture energetic kids and pets? If nothing else, did you become a seeker of light?
If you have not learned about some of the things mentioned, hopefully you will join the 365 Picture Today community in 2024. After eleven years of taking a photo a day, what I have learned is that there is always more to learn!
At the end of each year I love going back through my photos and notice the stories of my life that I didn’t even realize were being written one photo at a time. We all have days when we feel like our photos are uninspired and have no real significance. Those feelings may have been real on that particular day. As you look back, however, and look at your photos collectively, individual photos may take on new meaning, meaning that has been revealed over time rather than in the instant in which it was taken.
My “go-to” shot on many of the days when creativity was not on the schedule was photos of my coffee. Along with a photo, coffee is a part of my every day. As I look at these photos now, I realize that not only do they confirm my coffee addiction (not that that was in question), they tell the story of the many simple, quiet, intimate moments that my husband and I share in the early mornings as our day is beginning, in the afternoons after work when we unpack our day together, in the evenings as we release the stress of the day. These images are not so much about the coffee cups themselves, but rather the stories of circumstances in which they were enjoyed.
I also love looking back at the hourly where I stand photos from the year all in one place.
Even the dreaded days when the prompt encourages us to put ourselves in from of the camera take on new meaning after the fact. Many of us are the family photographer. That means that often we are not in the shots. If it weren’t for self portraits, no photos of me would be taken. Is this true in your family as well? Looking on the bright side, when you are taking your own photo, you get to choose the angles to get your best side. You also get to delete all of the goofy pictures of yourself before anyone else sees them. Remember this as a monthly self portrait again makes its way into the 2024 prompt lists.
What themes do you notice in your photos from this year? What piece of your story do they tell?
3. What is your favorite photo from 2023?
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am terrible about making choices about most so things. I know that trying to select one photo from 365 as “the one” is no easy task. Most of us can name a favorite book, or, movie, or song without much thought. Those favorites are often based on a meaningful association or an emotional appeal of some kind. As you look at your photos from this year, listen to the one that speaks to you deeply, the one that touches you in some way at the very core of your being. Keep in mind that this is your favorite photo. It does not have to speak to anyone but you. Your choice may be technically superior, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s meaning may be clearly realized by all who see it, but it doesn’t have to be. This is your favorite photo and in this case, no one else’s opinion matters.
The important thing about your favorite photo from this year is to ask yourself ?what is it about this particular image that earned it this title?” How does it fit into the story of your year? How will you honor this particular photo in the years to come?
For that matter, how will you honor your entire 365 Picture Today 2023 project? There are many options - prints, books, on your hard drive. No choice is right or wrong. It’s all about what works for you.
4. Will you embark on another year of 365 Picture Today in 2024?
There is no doubt that taking a photo a day is a huge commitment. How many things, other than the necessities of life, do you gladly agree to do every single day?
For me, improving my skills as a photographer and having an image of every day of my life has kept me coming back willingly year after year. But if I am honest, the greatest gift of this project is not my photos, but the gift of being part of this amazing community. The relationships here go far beyond sharing camera settings and equipment choices. Those things are merely an entry point to the sharing of our lives, of ourselves. The daily photos posted in our private Facebook group or on Instagram are those of successes and failures, births and deaths, sorrows and celebrations, struggles and triumphs, the sacred and the mundane, silliness and seriousness. It’s all here every day in photos and in words. Also here every day is support, encouragement, compassion, joy, and genuine friendship. I mean it when I say that to lose this community in my life would be like experiencing a death in the family. I feel confident saying that I am not alone in that sentiment.
If you feel that committing to a full 366 day project might not be the best choice for you, consider embarking on a photo a week project instead, 52 photos in 2024. Surely you can find the time and at least one prompt a week that speaks to you. Modify your project to a photo a week and still feel a part of the community. If taking a a photo every now and then, with no specific commitment, fits your current lifestyle right now, go for it! That works too. Know that whatever your photography journey looks like, we are all here to support and nurture that adventure.
If you are happy with how your 365 Picture Today year has gone, celebrate that and keep doing what you are doing. If you’d like to make some changes, if you want it to be something different, here is one more question to think about as you finish this year and contemplate the next one:
5. What do you think would make your photo a day project “more you,” more fullfilling, more creative, more authentic?
You are a different photographer and a different person than you were on January 1, 2023. Being a part of this community has changed you, presumably for the good. My hope is that you will continue your journey towards goodness and light with 365 Picture Today in 2024!