One year ago today I had completed the first month of my 365/Photo a Day photography project. In noticing the date, I realized that I never reflected on that project except to various friends and family, and I never fully got closure on this project (I use the word closure, as this project was quite the relationship).

So, the 365 project, started January 1, 2009 and ended December 31, 2009. I took a series of photos every single day, and chose one to edit and upload to flickr as that day’s photo. I never missed a day of shooting, although I did get behind on editing and uploading, and would end up processing 2 weeks worth of photos in a day. But still, I got it done, and now that I’ve had a month to sit and reflect on it, I can tell what effects it has had on me and my work. I tried to summarize it in 4 main points:

1. Because I was shooting every day in roughly the same location, I had to train my eye to look for interesting things in everyday objects and in scenes you wouldn’t normally photograph. It is now easier for me to find a good photograph almost anywhere (and by good I mean aesthetically pleasing, not necessarily meaningful).

2. It’s okay to have some crappy work. In the first couple months of this project I would get so stressed out on the days I had no inspiration or couldn’t find a decent subject. The photos would turn out mediocre, some even terrible. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t make a good image every single day, or why I would run out of ideas so quickly. But I realized that most of the time, out of a rut comes something great. I’m a firm believer in learning from mistakes, in life, but especially in art. Of all the bad photographs I took, I learned what not to do, or what doesn’t work. It’s a constant cycle of learning and making mistakes; I then understood how important it is not to get discouraged by less than perfect work; every artist goes through this cycle repeatedly.

3. I became so comfortable with my camera, that it became an extension of my eye, rather than a bulky box in the way of my vision. Using my camera every day was at first a struggle, since I hadn’t fully explored its technical aspects, and had relied on “guess and check” since then. Making images every day really trains your eye to see variations in the photo based on exposure, depth of field, ISO, etc. rather than “it’s too bright.” I started to see in f stops. Just kidding, but seriously. Anyway, I began to understand the relationship between my vision, the camera, and the actual produced image, which sped up the process of getting my idea realized and opened up the possibilities of things I could do.

4. Once I became more comfortable with the technical aspects of my photography, the real change happened. I started to see improvements everywhere, now that I wasn’t burdened by my lack of technical knowledge. My composition of images improved, and other aspects like that, but more importantly, ideas improved as well. As it became easier to translate my ideas into an image, my ideas began to take a different form. I moved from just trying to create a beautiful or interesting image, into a work of art; I started to see how I could make my work conceptual, evoke emotion and get people thinking. This project brought my work to an entirely new depth; of course I still create images for their own sake, like landscapes and macro and all other neat things, but I now have the possibility of doing something more. Before, I had so much trouble translating emotion and concepts into an image, but the constant photographing and forcing myself to learn new things brought out a new level of inspiration and thinking.

So, that was a longer than I expected, but I guess I didn’t realize until this moment what an impact the project really had on me. I could extend this list into an entire book, but for the sake of everyone who might end up reading this, I’ll keep it short(ish).  A few things I didn’t include in the main list: increased self-discipline, more comfortable in my own skin (way too many self portraits due to lack of friends who like modeling), twenty times more comfortable with Lightroom and Photoshop than I used to be, improved editing/processing skills, and of course, now I don’t totally freak out when I’m in an artistic rut; I know that inspiration is a cycle, and it will come around, probably at 3:35 am on a Monday night.

I urge all artists to do a personal project like this, even if not exactly the same thing. It has its ups and downs, (at times I wanted to chuck my camera across the room) but getting through it and really giving it your best shot has unbelievable effects on the mind and the artistic process.

The set containing my entire photo a day project is here on flickr