There are 365 ways to waste your time being busy instead of doing useful work. One of those is the popular concept of a 365 photo project. Let’s dive in and see why it is one of the best ways to waste your time.
Note: This article is simply my opinion and that it is geared toward working photographers who are aiming to improve their work and their business — if you are a hobbyist photographer who is simply passionate about photography and are looking for a project to do in the coming year, a 365 project could be perfectly suited for your needs.
With New Year’s around the corner, it is about time to look back and reflect on the past year and make a few resolutions. For most of us, the first half of 2021 was rather quiet, and we wish we took more pictures.
Depending on your genre, you either had plenty of opportunities (such as in landscape or street) or none at all (if you shoot fashion or sports). Regardless, if your resolution is to take more pictures by doing a 365 photo project, you may want to consider that again. Very carefully.
Take a Picture Every Day, Why?
The purpose of every 365 photo project is to have the impetus to take a picture every day. This is a good habit that can train to see, compose, working quickly. Having the “must take a picture” habit in your head every day can of course be great for producing new work and hopefully improving. Doing a 365 project can give you hands-on experience with understanding and using your camera.
There are other benefits to 365 projects, such as showing your daily commitment to photography… as if it’s an unstable marriage that needs daily reassurance it still exists. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is also a benefit, except there is a good chance the project will push you away from your niche that you would like to grow in. And if you’re a working photographer, you must have a niche. I can go photograph cars and street photos all day, but that won’t get me a single job in fashion though.
Some say that a 365 photo project is a great way to be a part of a community of people like you. That is great and you will inevitably make new friends, but mostly a 365 project will likely end up destroying your creativity as well as make photography boring.
Are You Working a Lot, or Too Much?
The evergreen concept of the “American dream”: Anyone who works hard can achieve anything (in the United States). Applied to photography, this becomes: anyone who takes a lot of pictures, wakes up at 5 AM, goes to bed at midnight, and is busy all day will become a professional photographer. Working hard in this way does not afford a photographer the ability to spend free time on anything that isn’t busywork.
This is incredibly dangerous. Seeing photographers posting stories of themselves being in the office at 5 AM and leaving at midnight makes me think “What on earth can you do for so long every day? Are you really that inefficient?”. Of course, what they are likely doing is work for the sake of work.
The problem with a 365 photo project is that it also is work, but rather pointless work. As photographers, we need to focus on the things that matter, not on the things that keep us busy. It matters for me to get test-shoots done, at least once or twice a month. The test shoots I do require a lot.
Doing a productive shoot every day for a year is not feasible for any photographer, as they all require preparation. Simply shooting for the sake of pressing the button and increasing the shutter count is about as productive as not touching your camera at all.
What You Should Do Instead
All in all, a 365 photo project is usually an exercise in not improving, beating around the bush, and never progressing. The only way to progress in your photography is by working effectively and doing the things that matter.
If you’re a fashion photographer like me, shoot fashion at least a few times a month, learn to light, market yourself, and do everything that helps you get closer to the dream job. No art director hires a fashion photographer based on their 365 photo project work. I invite you to instead make a resolution to only do the things that matter rather than things that keep you busy.
And if you have extra time, go for a run instead for your mental and physical health.