Tips for Documenting the Long-term | Northern Virginia Family Lifestyle and Documentary Photographer

"We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle

I started my first 365 photography project two years ago.  I wanted to document our quickly growing son - the milestones and moments in between. My project expanded into telling a daily story of our family's life and interesting things we encountered along the way. Committing to taking and posting a photo a day for a year was intimidating, but now that I'm in my third year, I can't imagine not having these images from our life.

I now consider my 365 projects to be my personal form of daily journaling.  As much as I see value in writing down daily thoughts, photography as a medium comes more naturally and fits into my life more easily.  I naturally take pictures of things I find important or interesting, and when I do have an opportunity to write down snippets about our life, having these images evokes emotion and helps the words come more easily.  

Here are a few tips that keep me going when motivation is lacking or life gets busy:

1. Don't let rules get in the way of committing to a 365 (or any long-term) project.  Sure, the goal may be to take a photo a day, but the real objective is to create a body of work that represents a period in time. Missing a day or two here or there isn't going to prevent that big picture development.  Giving up because you're focused on perfection will.  The best part of a personal project is that you decide the rules yourself, so commit to what makes sense to you.

2. Find a supportive community.  There is a lot of support for 365 projects online - places to post, friendly feedback, and prompts for shooting ideas.  I also love participating in photography community challenges for inspiration, like National Geographic Your Shot and the CM Glimpse project. Facebook and Instagram are also full of groups for challenges, themes, and support from fellow photographers, no matter your skill-level.

3Celebrate your progress.  Whether you decide to post your project online or share on social media, having a place to see your work all in one place is wonderful motivation.  And there are bonus points for social sharing, if you enjoy receiving feedback and inspiration from others.  I use Flickr to keep all my 365 images in one place, but I also love Instagram and the variety of super-easy printing options for making quick prints. Which brings me to...

Print your images.  Having tangible evidence of your project is so gratifying.  I'll be sharing more about how I print and display my personal images in future posts, but I can't say how fun it is to see evidence of my work around my house and office.  I print a yearly compilation of my 365 images in a photo book and also make prints throughout the year for framing, displaying or sharing with family and friends.

If you're considering starting a 365 or other long-term personal project, I highly recommend it. And if you already have one, I'd love to hear about it and any tips you have!  Oh, and these are some of my favorites from April of my 365. :-)

Northern Virginia in home family documentary photographer