I have a confession.
Some days, I don’t leave my apartment. A lot of days, actually. I work from home, so some days I just don’t get outside.
I have a small apartment and no yard. I don’t have a lot of room to store photography props, or a lot of space to get them out to play. It would require moving our dining room table, and some days it’s just too big a hassle.
I’m well aware my photos aren’t always perfect, or even great. And I’m not being self-deprecating. It’s a simple truth. I know they aren’t magazine-worthy most days, and I am 100% okay with that because that is not my goal.
Some of you have the talent, the time, the creativity to produce magazine-worthy photos every day and I applaud and admire you. However, I think a lot of us struggle with this. And maybe the most professional of you have these days too, where you’d just rather not put in the effort in the same way.
And I say that’s A-Ok! We would never compare someone else’s worst to our best. So why compare your worst to anyone else’s best? This is your journey.
What’s Your Goal in Taking a Photo a Day?
It’s never too early or too late to reassess your goal, or goals. If your goal is to produce portfolio-worthy pics every single day, this blog may not be for you. Or it may just help to take some of that pressure off of yourself.
Here are some of my goals:
I absolutely want to improve my photography. I think everyone here does, whether you’re just starting or have years of experience and a professional career in photography to back you up. There’s always more we can learn, more we can try.
If we hide all of our mistakes, all of our flaws away, how can we recognize them in order to acknowledge and improve them?
Connect with Like-Minded People
There is no denying that this is probably the most supportive group in the world. Our worst days are made easier by sharing with one another, and the best days are made even better. We get inspiration from each other, but we also get so much joy (pardon the pun) from being a part of each others’ lives. I’ve received so many photo tips, and even recipes and travel recommendations.
This goal has nothing to do with the quality of my photography. It has everything to do with just showing up, here. Real and relatable.
Document My Daily Life
This doesn’t mean the life I wish I was living. I have never been about showing only the highlights. Life isn’t like that. Especially when you’re showing up 365 days a year, year after year. Life gets messy. It gets downright ugly. But as photographers, don’t we have a responsibility to document that?
If there was a bridge collapsing in your area, would you grab your camera to document it? If there was a big protest happening, would you rush to document history?
Well, our daily lives hold the same ups and downs. And if we don’t document it, who else will?
Every day might not be worth documenting, but I promise you can find something worth documenting every day. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. It doesn’t have to be something new that you’ve never photographed before (like my 300 photos of my balcony view!). It’s most important that your photo represent your day.
Your photo can capture a moment in your day, however small, that separates it from all the rest of your days. I am guilty of seeing every day as the same, especially since I work from home.
My days all start to run together. I get down on myself, thinking that my life is boring, it’s not worth documenting. And I’ll be honest, some days that feeling does prevail. I put off taking a photo, praying tomorrow will be more interesting. But more often than not, I find something in my day to photograph.
How I Find Photos in Mediocrity
Of course! Some days the prompts might cause a real head-scratcher, but here’s my strategy:
I read the prompt first thing in the morning, always. If I have plans that day that fit, great. If not, maybe an idea for a spot to visit or a set-up comes to mind, which is also great. However, more often than not, I’m clueless. I don’t have plans for my day or time for creativity (master of bad time management here).
So I take the prompt and I sit on it. I both literally and metaphorically put it in my back pocket (because my phone goes in my pocket..), and I carry it with me through my day, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice.
And it stays at the back of my mind throughout the day. The prompt makes the day different, because the word may help me to see my “boring, ordinary day” in a new light.
This in no way means that my photo will be extraordinary. But it makes each day a little extraordinary, and for me, that’s a bigger accomplishment and success than a million portfolio-worthy photos.
The Sky or Weather
As I mentioned (and as you’ve seen over and over and over again), I have a really nice view from the balcony. And no matter how many times I shoot it, the clouds will stand out to me another way on another day. There will always be a sunset or a sunrise that seems more spectacular than the last.
Even just sitting on the couch, sometimes the light comes in the window like a beacon, highlighting something familiar in an unfamiliar way shouting, “take my picture! Take my picture!” Some days it’s as simple as the shadows on the wall that seem worthy of a photo. I let the day take the lead, using the prompt to shape it, if I can.
In 365 days you have so many opportunities to take magazine-worthy, polished, professional photos. You will have those days and you will have those photos. They may be the ones that everyone else remembers.
But those in-between days, those days that you powered through, days that you hid under a blanket, days that you stopped in awe at the sun shining on the same wall you stare at every day— those may just be the days that you appreciate the most. And this is your project, after all.
And your photography will still improve.
I remember this great quotation from the movie Ever After (great adaptation of Cinderella). Of Cinderella and her prince, someone hearing the story generations later asks if they lived happily ever after. The reply: “the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.”
You can take 365 days-worth of photos for your portfolio if that’s your goal and ability. However, it’s just as important, just as worthy, if what you take is 365 photos to create a photo diary or photo journal of a year in your life. A year you made every day count in ways that are meaningful to you. The year you survived, the year you thrived, the year you fully lived.
The quality of the photo does nothing to improve or distort the quality of the memory. I look back at some of my, “average at best,” photos and often laugh or smile at the memory.
If you feel like your life isn’t worth taking a photo every day, here’s the truth: Taking a photo a day will make your most ordinary days feel more photo-worthy and more worth living. And you will begin, more and more, to see the extraordinary in the very, very ordinary.