Favorite personal images from 2016 + 10 tips for a successful 365 project

This year I saw my work grow more than during any of the previous 8 years of shooting primarily due to my commitment to a 365 Project. A 365 Project is a personal project to shoot daily. If you define a successful 365 by having a folder of exactly 365 beautiful images shot in perfect light in the perfect clothes and in a totally clean home, then I failed miserably. I have thousands of images from this year in monthly folders, a folder designated "365 project" with a few handfuls of favorites, and lots of images of our messy and imperfect life. Not all (probably not many!) of the pictures are jaw-dropping works of art yet still this work was worthy. I look at them and see the beauty and wonder of the world around me. It changed the way I shoot, the way I see and use the light, and the way I tell my family's story. 

If you are a photographer and want to push yourself to a new level of artistry, shoot daily. Here are 10 tips for having fun with a 365 project without making it an impossible or overwhelming feat. 

1. Don't stress yourself out over missing a day.  I made a mental effort to shoot daily, and did so mostly, but without stressing myself out if I didn't feel inspired or feel like it.

2. Don't stress yourself out about getting "THE" most perfect shot for the day. I would have given up entirely if I had been so focused on getting something totally post-worthy every single day. 

3. Don't worry if your kids are dressed in mis-matched PJs or are half-naked and haven't brushed their hair in days. 

4. Don't stress about your messy house, or having magazine-worthy backdrops. Shoot your real life. Not every moment is of your kids frolicking in sun-kissed fields. 

5. Don't stress your kids out about it either. Respect them enough that if they don't feel like being in pictures that day, find something else worthy of your artistic vision. 

6. Edit daily. Upload your card every day, and pick a few favorites. Usually I knew which image was "the" one from that day. Rename the file with the date and export that favorite image into a folder designated "365 Project 2017". Back that baby up! I sadly did lose 2 months of my personal work this year and gratefully had at least the 365 images on a back-up drive.

7. Don't feel like you have to share every single image you create. I started out by focusing on "Day 12/365" for example, and soon lost track of which day I was on, and found it too much hassle. Once I freed myself from these burdens, I just had fun shooting daily and sharing when I felt like it. 

8. Print from your 365 Project folder often. I bought a giant cork board from Hobby Lobby and had my hubby hang it in my office to tack up favorites that I had printed from this year's project. It's fun to see, and my kids love reliving these memories of our year together. 

9. Explore new light and new angles. Shoot in nooks of your home you haven't tried before. If you live in a dark home, find new window or artificial light sources that you haven't relied on before. 

10. Don't worry so much if you have to shoot in less-than-ideal light. As much as it's about creating beautiful art, it's also about documenting your real life, which doesn't always happen in perfectly photogenic light sources and settings. 

Finally, have FUN and relax! I didn't join a group for support because sometimes comparison is the thief of our joy, but I know a lot of people find it helpful to be a part of a 365 online community. I also didn't use prompts for daily shooting because for me, that is just another thing to stress me out and make me feel like a failure when I don't meet the expectations. But for some people, having new ideas of what to shoot is really helpful!