In 2017, we set out to do a year-long photo project, taking a family photo every single day of the year. The rules were simple – however we were feeling, whatever we were doing, stop at some point in the day and take a photo of the entire family together.
Of course, this wasn’t as simple to do as you might think. Mark and I both travel a lot for work, so there were times when the whole family wasn’t actually physically together. On those days, we had to use our phones or computers to FaceTime or Skype each other and then screenshot our interaction. It wasn’t perfect, but it got the job done.
Another big issue for us was dealing with my mental health. I have been very outspoken in the past about my own struggles with mental illness, and I have a history of self-destructive behavior that can rear its ugly head at any point. Unfortunately there were days over the last year where I was in a depressive episode and couldn’t cope. But we captured those low moments as well as we could, waiting for tiny momentary breaks where a photo could be captured. Looking back at them makes me sad, but I’m glad we persevered with the project. In the past, I would have used it as an excuse to quit.
It’s hard to admit, but one of these photos was taken only an hour or so after I cut my arm with a pair of scissors in my bathroom. I ruined my favorite white linen dress, covering it in my own blood, which was more of a concern to me at the time than my actual mental health. Thankfully, I have a rock star husband who was able to help me through. In fact, without him, the whole project would likely have been abandoned early.
Amazingly, we chose the PERFECT year to do this photo project. By some crazy turn of fate, we found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant last year! It was a HUGE shock to us both, but it happened early enough in the year that our entire pregnancy journey was captured, including the birth of our fourth son at the end of the year. How lucky was that??
I compiled all of the photos into one video, and I’ve kept all the individual photos in their own folder on my computer. I love looking through them and seeing how we all grew and changed in the course of a year. Feel free to check out the video below.
This year, we decided to continue our efforts to take a photo each day, but 6-person selfies seemed to be more work than we could cope with. So I thought the most logical thing would be to take pictures of the boys, showcasing their growth, interpersonal relationships, and life over the course of the year. We used to take monthly siblings photos of the boys, but we got out of the habit over the years.
I announced the project on Facebook, and I was thrilled to find that several friends decided to join in! We are all tagging our photos with #Siblings365 so we can easily find each other. I specifically left the hashtag simple so that others could join in, even if they didn’t start on January 1st. A year is a year, so it doesn’t matter when you start!
As I have just finished week one, I thought I’d share the first photos here. I plan to use this year to improve my photography and editing skills, and hopefully the photos will get better day to day. Currently I am taking photos with my iphone 7 and editing with the ColorStory app. I plan to start using a better camera soon, though.
If you’re wanting to start your own 365 day photo project (and I highly recommend it!), here are a few tips to help get you started.
- Figure out a theme you want to use and try to stick to it. You can be creative within the theme, but it’s a lot easier to know going in what you want to accomplish with your project. For us, it was getting ALL of our family members into each photo. And this year, it’s making sure to get all four kids into each photo.
- Set an alarm! Figure out what time of day is best for getting your photo. For us, we chose 7pm, as it is the earliest time when everyone is home and fed. I wish we could do it earlier in the day, but with school, daycare, work and other things, 7pm is our current best time of day.
- Don’t get too caught up in making the pictures perfect. If you have time to set a scene or be creative, by all means do it! But sometimes a quick candid snap is all you need.
- Boredom WILL set in – for you as the photographer and for your subjects, as well. Just do it anyway. Remind all involved that it’s a few seconds each day. Don’t give up when the complaining starts!
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Whether others join in your project or not, you’re bound to see other photos that look amazing. Take them as inspiration, but don’t get discouraged or feel like your photos just can’t compare.
- If you choose to edit your photos, don’t worry about making them perfect. Make them look how YOU want them to look. This year, I’ve already been scolded by people for my editing choices. Adding bokeh, colors or filters is a matter of personal choice, and your tastes may change over the course of your project. Just go with what makes you happy, even if your photos look over-exposed or “off” in some way. If YOU like them, that’s what matters. If you want advice, there are TONS of resources out there to help you be a better photographer and/or editor.
- It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have. Use whatever is convenient. I have my phone, an Instax camera, a webcam a DSLR and a point and shoot. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve used all of them at different times. But most of the time, I just grab my phone.
- If you happen to miss a day… just go with it. Don’t give up.
- If you get to the end of the day and realize you’ve forgotten to take a photo, it is totally okay to make a collage of single photos. A few times during the year, we put the kids to bed before remembering to take the photo (this was before we learned to set an alarm!). We would grab the older two boys and take them into the baby’s room and just take a quick photo to get it done.
At the end of the day, taking on a year long photo project is a BIG deal. It is not easy, and it is not something everyone can stick to. But the rewards for doing so are HUGE. I invite you to join in to our #Siblings365 project or start your own!