5 ACTIONABLE STEPS TO OVERCOME YOUR CONCERNS ABOUT STARTING A PROJECT 365

Starting a project 365 – taking a photo a day for an entire year – can be an exciting journey and sometimes feel like a daunting task. In this article, I compiled 5 of the most common doubts and concerns that come with starting a project 365 and I explain in easy, actionable steps how to overcome these doubts, so that you are motivated to successfully begin your year long journey of photography.


Concern: “I won’t follow through with it”

I was never able to stick with something for longer than a few days. But instead of thinking that, tell yourself that from now on you are the kind of person that does something every single day. That you are persistent, despite your past behavior. The thing to remember is this: One thing at a time! First make it a habit of taking photos every day, then raise your expectations and spend time actually improving your photos.

When you focusing on simply getting a shot, regardless of how good it might be you will succeed! My first photo was a random shot of our neighborhood. Another one of the Five Guys burger chain. So what? Focus on improving your shots later on in the project. You have 365 days – so there is plenty of time to improve. No need to try and be perfect within the first week. Oh, and if you miss a day? No big deal. Keep going the next day and add the shot you missed to the end of the project.


TAKE ACTION

Change your mindset to this: Priority one is to take a photo every day. Not producing world changing imagery. Focus on building the habit before asking more of yourself.


Concern: “I don’t have the time”

Taking a photo every single day takes time out of your day – yes. But the benefits (I listed in this article) are so great that spending a little bit of time on your photography make it totally worth it. There are two ways of making time for this project in your everyday life.
A) Create a list of things you spend a lot of time on that are unnecessary. Like hanging out on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest or binge watching shows and use that time for your photography instead.

B) Use time in the morning to get things done that might get in the way of your photography later in the day. You can always use your lunch break too. If you really want to improve your photography and are excited about the project you will find the time – I promise.

TAKE ACTION

Check your daily routine for a slot to take pictures. Reduce time on Social Media if necessary.


Concern: “I don’t know what to take photos of” 

I didn’t either when I started! So the very first thing to do before starting the project is to lower your expectations and make it more about actually taking a photo every day, rather than trying to get the perfect shot of something impressive. The books on your shelf, a glass of water, the tree outside your house – all of these little things you walk past on a daily basis can be objects to photograph. If you change your mind set accordingly, you will be surprised at the things you see as potential subjects. If you still really don’t know how to start, create a list of objects before you start. I will probably provide a list in a future post as well.


TAKE Action

Walk around your house and neighborhood and create a list of things you could photograph. Create a Pinterest board with photo ideas.


Concern: “What if I don’t make any progress?”

Well, one thing is for sure. You won’t get worse by doing the project. Educate yourself through podcasts, books or articles on the internet and I promise you will get better – even if the steps are tiny, they still count. 


TAKE Action

Just get started and lower the pressure on yourself by keeping it a secret for now, until you feel confident sharing it.


Concern: “Even more photography in my life seems overwhelming”

If photography is already a big part of your life there are two options to successfully do a project 365.
A) Pick a completely different topic for the photos of this project. Make a point of only taking photos of still life, architecture or landscape if you usually shoot a lot of people for example. Minimizing editing can be a big help too.
B) If you absolutely can not imagine more photography in your life, start a project 365 in an entirely different creative field to spark your creativity. You can always switch to a photography one if you are ready for it.


TAKE Action

Pick a topic for your project that excites you and sparks your passion for photography if you need a change from your regular photo routine.


5 ACTIONABLE STEPS TO OVERCOME YOUR CONCERNS ABOUT STARTING A PROJECT 365

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this! Do you have things to add or any questions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Your creative companion, 

MAIKE

MY STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CREATE YOUR PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE BOARD

I always found it super important to develop a recognizable style. Probably like you and every other creative. You know, a style that is specifically yours. When I started my project 365 finding my style was one of my main goals, so I definitely know how difficult the process can be and how much pressure we put on ourselves because we want to find that unique voice we’re told we have, so badly.

Honestly, there was really no way around creating many, many photographs to get to the point where my personal style slowly started showing up in my pictures and I am still working on it. But there is one thing that has really helped me out along the way: a photography style board.


What’s A Photography Style Board? – A Quick Look

Imagine a photography style board as a collection of images that represent the feel and style you would like to work towards as a photographer. A bit like a mood board, only that the images in your personal style board don’t have to work together and convey one mood.

They can be completely different in composition, feel and colors – the only thing tying them together is that you find them inspiring. In fact, if you try too hard to match all the images think too much about what someone else might think about it, you will end up with a collage that looks bland, rather than showing a distinct style. Collect images that speak to you because of your experiences and story.

Once you have created your style board, you can hang it over your desk, make it a digital desktop background or glue it in your photography journal and use it as guidance to find your style.



Step-By-Step to your Photography Style Board

1. Choose A Layout

A style board can really look any way you like but here are a few layout ideas to get you started:

  • taping images to your wall in all it’s random sizes and textures
  • a fold-out page in your photography journal
  • a gridded digital file you drop images in
  • a pinterest board

    You can create a separate Pinterest board to collect all images you find inspiring but for your style board limit yourself a bit. We’ll get to that in a second though.

2. Carefully Select Images

Only pick images that excite you or that you absolutely love. Do not question why you love them or restrict yourself because you think someone else might not like them. Treat this as your secret little project no one else gets to see – you can do whatever you like!

That being said, I would recommend narrowing down your selection of images to about 10-15 photos to represent the style you’d like to work towards. Too many more can be overwhelming and might be making it hard for you to stay on track. Just something to keep in mind. 

Places to look:

  • Start with an online search of topics that inspire you
  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Billboards/Posters/Stickers/etc. (capture photo to use)

3. Add Notes


What do you like about the image?

Sit down, look at each image individually and note what you like about it. It can be “the happy mood”, “the intensity of shadows” or “the placement of her hands”. There are so many options but remember that it’s totally fine not to know why you like an image too. One day you might just figure it out.

Take only a couple minutes per image to quickly note the first thoughts that come to mind. If you think of something later, you can always add it but working quickly, you can access pure, real reactions rather than overthinking things.


How do you think the photographer achieved the look?

If you already know a bit more about camera settings, light set-ups, etc. it is definitely worth it to try to figure out how the work you admire was done, so that you have a starting point for your own photographs. Look over the notes for each image and try to find patterns.

Where most images you love taken at golden hour? In the studio? In a foggy forest? Even if you don’t know much about the technical stuff, you can just note simple observations and use those as guidelines to start creating in a way that represents your style.

For example: The images you love are dark and moody. First step to achieving that style is to stop photographing in bright sunlight. It seems super obvious but I definitely needed this reminder sometimes, so I thought you might appreciate it too. ;)


4. Place Board Where You See It Often

Having your photography style board in a place you frequently look at will help you keep the style you would like to work towards present, so that when you go out and take pictures you have a clear vision in mind and can take big steps towards your personal, distinct style.


MY STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CREATE YOUR PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE BOARD

Here a quick re-cap:

1. Choose A Layout
2. Carefully Select Images
3. Add Notes
4. Place Board Where You See It Often

I hope you enjoy creating a style board but remember: don’t force something that doesn’t come natural. You might need to adjust your style board over time if you realize that you enjoy the images you collected but absolutely don’t feel comfortable creating similar ones yourself. 

If you have any thoughts or questions, leave a comment below.

Your creative companion,

Maike

My Top 10 Tips For Your Photography Project 365

1. Shoot Manual

No matter if you usually shoot manual or not, doing it throughout the project will boost your confidence and proficiency with your camera. And while it might be confusing at first it will definitely teach you a lot about photography in general.

2. Set Goals

Setting goals is what drives you through the project. Without goals, what’s the point? Even if the goal is: I’d like to take some time for myself. I wrote a whole article about how to find a set of core goals over here.



3. Keep Editing to a Minimum

I chose not to edit a single photo in my project which really pushed me to take the time to select the proper settings and ultimately taught me much more than if I had just taken a quick shot because I knew I could edit it later to make it look the way I wanted. If you are going for a certain look you will learn to only go shoot at a certain time of day and set the settings accordingly. Of course there are boundaries to this approach but I challenge you to meet those boundaries before taking the easy way out. If you would like to use this project to push your editing skills or create digital art it might be a bit different but getting the best shot you possibly can in camera will make the editing process much easier as well.

4. It's Impossible to Perfectly Recreate a Scene

Something I definitely learned the hard way is that no matter how hard you try – you will NEVER be able to recreate a scene perfectly on another day. You can get close maybe but it's impossible to copy something you have previously done. The reason I'm telling you this is because it will happen that at the end of the day you are facing the decision between two photos. Let's say one you took in the morning of the mountain range you drove through on the way back from a camping trip. One you took that same evening during golden hour in your backyard of a blade of grass. The photo of the mountains is okay, the blade of grass looks killer.  Now you might think: “But I won't be back in the mountains for a while and I can always get a shot of grass another day.” You won't. The way the light hit the blade of grass that day, the fact that a small cloud created a shadow, so the background is slightly darker, making the blade really stand out and another million details I don't want to list now – all of that, you will never be able to recreate the same way you loved in the first photo. So pick the one you love so much, you would hang it on your wall.

5. Share Your Photos

Share your photos no matter what. When a photo didn’t turn out the way you imagined or even if you are sure it really sucks – put it out there anyway. Sometimes how you perceive your images is not at all how others see them, sometimes your photos do suck and you have to get over it. Either way, it makes you stronger. Just get up the next day and try to be better.

6. Establish a Routine

At the beginning it seems like a project 365 is very time consuming. If you actually want to create a photograph rather than snap a shot, you need to take the time to actually take the photo, store them somewhere, pick one, upload it and if you share it on Instagram, find good hashtags to go with it. Which is probably the most time consuming out of all, when you start at zero. Creating a solid routine minimizes the time it takes you from grabbing your camera to posting it online. Don’t worry if this sounds overwhelming. There will be a post on every part of my routine coming up. But until then, try to establish your own.

7. Keep a Photo Journal

Keeping a journal with everything you learn and experience throughout the project is a great way to create your own education resource. I honestly wish I had started one way back when I started the project but I thought I wouldn’t need to write dow what I’d learned because I now knew, so what’s the point? Well, there are so many little tiny things that you learn and might forget until you encounter the same situation again. So get yourself a notebook and keep short, simple notes. A photo journal is good for much more than just the project 365 though. I have written more in depth about it here:



7. Create a Shot List

Write down things in your surroundings you find inspiring or interesting looking. And write down things that might not be in your vicinity but things that you love looking at. Like the ocean or old libraries. This will help you find things to photograph easier than getting up every day and not knowing what to take a picture of. Start on the way to the grocery store, to work or on any other path you take frequently and note what looks interesting to you on the way. You can then go back later and look at that blooming tree or whatever you noted with your camera.

8. Don't Beat Yourself Up

Of course I am always aiming to create the best photograph I can at any given day. But there are limits, like the fact that you can’t spend the entire day on this project or maybe you have forgotten about taking a picture and now it is dark out and you need to work with terrible indoor lighting if you don’t yet have a studio. Long story short, there are always days where the photo you create isn’t up to your standards. But guess what? It doesn’t matter. You still need to post it (see above “Share Your Photos”) and just try to do better next time. Don't beat yourself up too much.

10. Keep Going If You Miss a Day

MY TOP 10 TIPS FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 365 BY MAIKE ARMSTRONG

I used to feel like I failed whenever I didn’t follow through with something as consistent as I had set out to. Apart from our wedding day, I actually didn’t miss a single day of my project 365 but even if you do: Don’t beat yourself up. You can always add the missed photo to the end of the project. You will regret quitting more than missing that one photo. Just move on and keep going.

I have so many more tips to share with you but I don't want to make this one too long. So, these are my top 10 and I hope you find them useful.

Your creative companion,

Maike

3 EASY STEPS TO THE PERFECT WORK MANTRA – A HELPFUL TOOL FOR SCATTERED CREATIVES

When I hear the word “Mantra” I think of exotic temples, meditation, being centered and focused. And if you look mantra up in a dictionary, it is exactly that: a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.

If mantras have the power to help you focus in meditation, why not use them as a tool in your everyday life?

You might have noticed that specific thoughts in your everyday work routine repeat themselves automatically anyway.

For me they can be thoughts like “I should just leave it like that.” – referring to graphic projects that I am definitely overthinking.

While that thought actually helps me, there are definitely more negative ones that repeat themselves over and over in my head too, like “What if no one will like my photos?” or “What if it’s not good enough?”. For us creatives, the list of negative thoughts can be long.

This is where we need to step in with sentences we consciously decided are good for us and counter negative thoughts – short: use mantras!

You can’t help your brain from thinking negative thoughts that influence the way you approach your projects entirely but you can learn to counter them with positive, encouraging thoughts that will ultimately help you be better at what you do because you can act freely, away from the bully in your head.


1. Evaluate Your Thoughts

First of all you need to figure out what your repetitive thoughts are during the day, in order to find the perfect mantra to counter potential negative thoughts. I think “Done is better than perfect” a lot, so I don’t obsess over perfecting something that is already nicely done. There are also some negative thoughts, as I mentioned earlier, like thoughts about failure, questioning my skill, etc.

The Task

Spend a day to a week noting thoughts that reoccur frequently without focusing on it too hard because then your thoughts might not come naturally. At the end of that time period you will have a list of thoughts. Create a table and split them into positive and negative thoughts.


2. Counter Negative Thoughts

In order to become stronger against the influence of your negative thoughts you need to find the core of your negative thought and find a simple sentence you can use to counter it. For example: If I think “I should spend so much more time on this project, it isn’t perfect yet.” but I already spend a lot of time and effort on the project and it is in fact nicely done, I would write this down:

Negative thought
“I should spend so much more time on this project, it isn’t perfect yet.”

Core Problem
Unreasonable Perfectionism

Positive Thought to Counter With
“I have spent a sufficient amount of time and effort on this. It is perfect as it is.”

The Task

Sit down with the list of repetitive thoughts you noted in step one. Look at your list of negative thoughts and figure out the core problem with each one. You can group them in case you have similar thoughts that all have the same core problem. Then use your positive thought list and see if you can use any of them to counter your negative thoughts. Write them down. If no positive thoughts fit, look on Pinterest for motivational or inspirational quotes and use those to help counter your negative thoughts. 

I actually created a board on Pinterest, you should check out for this. There are a lot of valuable quotes and sayings in there!


3. Create A Mantra Collection

In order to counter-think your negative thoughts or generally just motivate yourself and find focus you will need a list of mantras you can come back to and rely on in any work situation. You want to make these mantras as short but powerful as possible, so you can repeat them over and over without stumbling over the sentences.

The Task

Look over the list of thoughts to counter your negative ones you just created in step 2 and transform them into short sentences. For example: “I have spent a sufficient amount of time on this. It is perfect as it is.” can become “Done is better than perfect.” or “It is perfect as it is.” Using your personal list of negative thoughts, positive counter thoughts and motivational quotes from Pinterest you can easily create a whole list of Mantras that will serve you in any situation.


3 EASY STEPS TO THE PERFECT WORK MANTRA – A HELPFUL TOOL FOR SCATTERED CREATIVES

Now all you need to do is practice actually using them. It might seem weird at first to repeat words in your head over and over but you do it automatically, subconsciously anyways, so you might as well take over and guide your thoughts positively, so you can focus and achieve work you are truly proud of.

Here is the link to my Pinterest board again, with quotes that you might find useful.

Your creative companion,

Maike

 

 

 

20 THINGS TO ADD TO YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL

First a quick overview. Below you can read more on each item. Enjoy!


  1. Photo Ideas + Concepts
  2. Settings + Cheat Sheets
  3. Direction of Light at Times of Day
  4. Locations
  5. Objects to Photograph
  6. Tip Collection
  7. Prints Of Your Photos With Notes
  8. Inspiring Photographers
  9. Other Sources of Inspiration
  10. Photo Reviews
  11. Dreams, Concerns + Thoughts
  12. Experiences + Moments Thanks to Photography
  13. Course Notes
  14. Feedback 
  15. Film Settings
  16. Quotes
  17. Exercises
  18. Music Playlist
  19. Goals
  20. Photo Routine

1. Photo Ideas + Concepts

Keeping a collection of ideas and concepts not only keeps your mind somewhat organized it is also such a great source of new ideas. Sometimes I read an old concept I never actually worked on and suddenly I have a whole pile of new ideas and get excited about starting it. When an idea floats around in your head, even if you don’t feel like working on it now, you might in the future. That’s why I like to keep ideas and concepts in my photography journal. 

2. Settings + Cheat Sheets

Photography can be quite technical sometimes, so I really like to sketch or note little reminders for settings and rules like image compression with zoom lenses or where the object and I should be in relation to the light source. Sometimes the simple step of writing it down in your own words solidifies your understanding too.

3. Direction of Light at Times of Day

The direction of light obviously changes at different times of day, month and year and sometimes it’s worth noting what places and objects look best around what time. If you spot the perfect side wall of a building to act as a backdrop for example but before 3pm it gets hit with harsh sunlight, it might be worth it to note, so you can plan the shoot accordingly and can consult your notes for a different project, rather than figuring out the directions of light from zero.

4. Locations

Write down your favorite locations for certain projects or if you don’t have any yet, just start a list of locations you pass during everyday commutes that you find interesting looking and worth checking out with your camera. You wouldn’t believe how many places you forget about if you don’t note them!

5. Objects to Photograph

Keeping a list of objects to photograph makes life easier when you are demotivated and unsure what to photograph for a project. Scanning the list of items or people can help you to new ideas and helps you get unstuck.

6. Tip Collection

These can be tips to yourself, like things you learned through experience and would like to remember or advice from other photographers. Creating an endless pool of tips is so useful, especially because in your personal journal you only keep the tips that apply to you, rather than a book filled with advice but only half of it matters to you.

7. Prints of Your Photos + Notes

Get actual prints done of your photos! It makes such a difference to sit down with your photos in hand and think about what works well and what needs improvement. It’s also a great way to figure out what print finishes and coatings you like. Please make sure to order from a local photography lab or to use one of the services online (I like Nationsphotolab). Do not fall for the prices at Walmart or Walgreens. Yes, they are cheap but so is their quality. It won’t do your photos justice to get a print where the colors are off. You won’t regret paying the few cents more.

8. Inspiring Photographers

Other photographers and their body of work is – apart from gaining your own experiences – what can move you forward. You see the work of another photographer and might think “THAT’S the style I’d like to work towards” or “THAT’S the theme I’m interested in.” Of course finding inspiration in other photographers doesn’t mean that you can or should copy them. It means looking at their work and having a visual starting point of what interests you or where you’d like to evolve in your own personal way. So keep a list of people whose work you admire and write down why you find them inspiring. Sometimes you might not even actually care for the object in the photo but the angles they pick, etc.

9. Other Sources of Inspiration

You can find inspiration in almost anything but sometimes we get stuck and can’t seem to find inspiration at all. So whenever you do find something inspiring, note it in your journal. To me it’s mostly music and well written books. So I write dow the songs I love and note why I find them inspiring. I write down quotes from books, sometimes completely without context. But there is much more to be inspired by – food, patterns, locations, smells, to give you a few more ideas – and you should definitely add your favorites as sources of inspiration to your journal.

10. Photo Reviews

I had to write photo reviews in school, was part of a photo group where we would discuss each other’s pictures and have listened to photography critiques online – photography reviews in any shape or form are an incredibly valuable. Reviewing photos you notice things you wouldn’t have by just glancing at the image once. You learn how others approach photography, really understand what the photo is about and can take away a thing or two for your own pictures. Whenever you come across a photo that catches your eye in any way (bad ones too), sit down and write a quick review like you do for your own pictures. What works? What doesn’t? Why do you like it? Why do you dislike it? What makes it special? Those are very general questions but they are a starting point for you.

11. Dreams, Concerns+ Thoughts

Writing down what concerns you have about your photography, dreaming about a new camera or lens or thoughts on photography topics that interest you is a wonderful way to process and structure your thoughts and helps you keep your mind in order.

12. Experiences + MomentsThanks to Photography

Throughout my project 365 I’ve had so many fun experiences, little and big achievements (I photographed a wedding!) and your journal is a wonderful place to store all those wonderful memories and celebrate your accomplishments.

13. Course Notes

Whenever you take an online course or take part in a workshop, either directly jot down what you learn in your notebook or if it’s too precious to you, write notes on a paper during the class and copy the most important advice and lessons learned in your journal.

14. Feedback

One of the biggest motivators to me is when I receive positive feedback or get suggestions from others to implement in my photography. Make some space for the kind things people have to say about your work because if you are like me, you are beating yourself up too much and it feels good to read nice things about your photos.

15. Film Settings

If you still use a film camera every now and then, create a space in your journal for the settings you used, since that’s not as conveniently recorded on film as it is digitally. That way you can actually learn what settings work best for you. I create little series of the same scene with different settings to get to know my camera better.

16. Quotes

Who doesn’t love strong, important quotes that have the power to motivate or inspire you? Note your favorites in the journal.

17. Photography Exercises

There are so many great books with exercises to train your eye or find your style or really anything else you can think of that you might need to improve or help with. Use the journal to keep the results of your exercises together, so in the future you can see where you came from.

18. Music Playlist

On the top of my head I could name ten songs that I absolutely love and find super inspiring and motivating. Write down a playlist with your favorite songs, collect the music on a disc or your hard drive and listen to it when you feel stuck.

19. Goals

I wrote an entire article about creating a core set of goals for your photography project 365. Use the worksheet from that post as guidance and note the goals you would like to set yourself in your journal.

RELATED ARTICLE: SETTING GOALS FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 365

20 THINGS TO ADD TO YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL BY MAIKE ARMSTRONG

20. Photo Routine

Creating a routine – from having an idea, over taking the picture, to posting it online – can save a lot of time and effort because you just need to follow the routine, rather than coming up with a new process every time. You might find it helpful to first observe how you work and note your observations in the journal. Then figure out where you can improve your natural routine.

I hope have fun adding some of the ideas above to your journal! Let me know if you think of something to add to the list in the comments below.

Your creative companion,

Maike
 

RELATED ARTICLE: WHY I LOVE MY PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL

Setting Goals For Your Photography Project 365

My goals are what motivate me the most. I know that I have a real chance at reaching them if I am persistent and keep them in mind whenever I take a photo. If you go for a run every single day, your chances of being fit for a marathon within a year are higher than if you didn’t train at all, right? Duh!

Because I had an entire year between my first and second attempt of doing the project, I knew pretty well what goals I wanted to set myself. If you have a bit of a hard time establishing what it is you would like to work towards, I have a work sheet for you to create your own set of core goals.

12 Questions to establish your core goals:

  • Where are you in your photographic journey?
    Just starting out/a little experience/hobbyist photographer/semi-professional photographer/ professional photographer
  • How serious are you about photography?
    At this very point in time, no matter what you have achieved yet. 
  • Where would you like to be within the one year?

Examples

  1. I am just starting out but I would like to be semi-pro within the next year. 
  2. I am a professional and would like to be published with XYZ within the next year.
  • What type of photography are you most interested in and are you already working in that field?
    If you are a pro photographer you might shoot weddings but your heart is in landscape.
  • What personal weaknesses or fears do you have and would like to improve or overcome?
    This is not only limited to photography. It might be that you are impatient or afraid to approach people.
  • What do you dislike most about your current photos?
    Even if so far you have only taken pictures with your phone.
  • What strength of yours needs to be nourished?
    You’re really good at XYZ but never get around to it.
  • Do you have a distinct style or does your current one need to evolve?
  • What style/feature/feeling/etc. would you like your photos to convey?
    Brainstorm a few keywords for now. If you'd like to go more in depth, select a handful of images and put them together in a collage, as a mood board or on Pinterest for future inspiration.
  • Do you want to share your photos with others? If so, where? Do these places require you to take further actions?
    i.e. Instagram: set up an account, find hashtags to start with, invite friends to follow you
  • What problems have you previously encountered when sharing photos with others?
    No one comments on your photos on Instagram (= no feedback), etc.
  • What other wishes do you have as a photographer?

Example: EXCERPT OF Maike’s Answers In 2016

  • Currently: Hobbyist photographer
  • I'm serious about photography, would like to use project as starting point to become proficient
  • Most interested in fine art photography but don’t have experience yet
  • Personal weakness: I beat myself up when something isn’t perfect
  • Dislike: Lack of distinct style. Plain documentary rather than evoking emotions. Technical problems.
  • Strengths: Finding unique angles. I think timeless rather than following trends. 
  • Style: No distinct style but I would really like one.

Creating core goals out of your answers

Ask yourself: What do you have to do in order to reach the answers above?

Example

  • I'm serious about photography, would like to use project as starting point to become proficient

> improve my skills by learning to use my equipment to its fullest potential 

  • Most interested in fine art photography but don’t have experience yet

> Read and find inspirational photos, then use project to practice fine art photography and work on portfolio

SETTING GOALS FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 365 by MAIKE ARMSTRONG
  • I beat myself up when something isn’t perfect.

> Do the best work you can and let go of any negative judgements

  • No distinct style.

> Find my style

Maike’s Project 365 Core Goals

  1. Finding my style
  2. Learning to use my equipment to its fullest potential
  3. Being okay with imperfection
  4. Building my portfolio

I hope that with the help of this article you will establish a solid set of core goals you can use as a guidance throughout your own project 365.

Your creative companion,

MAIKE

DEAR CREATIVE, YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ORIGINAL

There is something I would love to talk with you about today and I hope it will motivate you if you need it or give you something to think about if you are already motivated.

You might have heard this quote before but it is so important to me that you look at it again and really think about it this week, this month and forever. It has really been a game changer for me. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said: “I don’t want to be interesting. I just want to be good.”  Or the more popular version:


You don’t have to be original. Just try to be good. 


It is such a simple statement and yet it totally changed my approach to everything I create. Every time I sat down to design something, took a photo, even when I just tried to come up with a birthday gift idea for someone: I tried to be super nifty, original and put all my energy into trying to do something new and different.

But of course everything has already been done before. Now, instead of thinking: “Shit. I guess I can’t do that. I need to come up with the most impressive thing in the world to stand out.” Why don't we think: “That’s a really cool idea. How can I make it my own?” Without flat out copying it, folks. That’s not cool.

Chances are that the person who had the same idea as you, is probably also not the first person to have that idea. So just go ahead, take the idea and make it happen in your very own way to the best of your abilities. 

I’m sure there are at least five million other people that have written a post very similar to this one but my exact use of words, the fact that you are reading it and it influences your thoughts at this very moment make this post unique – regardless of how many times a motivational post on this topic has been done before.

It is the exact same reason there are hundreds of sewing books out there. Stitches are stitches but the way the pages are laid out, the way the stitches are illustrated and explained are unique in every single book. 


You are totally allowed to work on concepts that have been done before and aren’t crazy original.
Just interpret them in your oWn way.


You are totally allowed to work on concepts that have been done before and aren’t crazy original. Just pour your heart into it and interpret the concept in your own way and it will add a bit of our own character to it and give it our very own, unique twist. 

So remember when you go off to take a photo today: only you are taking the picture from that very angle at that very time of that very object and regardless of how many people have taken a photo of the same thing before: you will always be the first one to have taken it in your way.


You are the only one that is taking a photo of this very object, from this very angle, at this very time.


DEAR CREATIVE, YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ORIGINAL

For designing a graphic it might be the way you create each vector curve or the color choices you make.

For painting or lettering it might be your unique brush stroke that will make the design yours.

Every singe detail make your creation unique. Remember that, be the best you can, be yourself and embrace it.

Your creative companion,

Maike

5 EASY TIPS THAT WILL REALLY IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY

1. Clear Guidance of the Viewer’s Eye

• Eliminate Distractions

Make it clear what the prominent object of the image is and eliminate distractions. You don’t want to have a red bike in the background of your photo distract from the person in the foreground. Eliminate distractions, keep it simple and focus on the prominent object in the frame.

• Consider Shapes and Lines

Every object in your photo has a certain shape, outline and direction. Skim over your image and determine wether or not you have lines and shapes intersecting in inconvenient ways, like a tree “growing” out of someone’s head. In order for your photo to look clean, you need to consider creating clean shapes, angles and lines throughout the image. 

• Know Your Eye Catcher

When you take a photo, what is it that you want your viewer to notice first? Make sure to know what it is, place it in a prominent spot of the frame and have it in focus!

2. Straight Horizon

A straight horizon shows your attention to detail, makes the scene look clean and sorted and therefore shows that you value clarity and take your pictures with care. An image with a crooked horizon will subconsciously unsettle your viewer. So unless you are going for that, make sure to straighten the horizon.

3. Focus on One Object or Idea

It can be so tempting to try and put several great ideas in one photograph. By doing so however, the viewer will not be able to focus on the main object or idea and might be overwhelmed and unable to focus on any one of the objects. Imagine multiple strong elements in a photo like loud voices in one room. You will not be able to hear what any one of the voices have to say if they are all talking loudly at the same time.

But if each person speaks individually you will be able to focus on their words and message. So instead of adding several strong visual elements and have them compete, try to think about what the main idea of your photo is and leave it at that. Just remember the good old rule: less is more!

4. Consciously Placing Objects

Taking a photograph means to really think about where to place objects in a format. Consciously placing yourself and the lens in relation to the object you are photographing will help you place them where you want them to be, rather than taking the photo from the angle you just happen to be at. If you decide to take a photo of the moon in the corner of your image for example, you want to make sure the moon is actually placed the same distance from the top of the frame as it is from the side. This might seem unimportant or minor to you but (and I know I’m repeating myself) it can really show how much you thought about your composition.

5 EASY TIPS THAT WILL REALLY IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY

5. Even Spacing

By now you might be able to tell that I am all about details. ;) Details are what makes a solid composition stand out. Another one of those details to worry about is even spacing between repetitive objects and proportion in symmetric photographs. It might mean to move around until beautifully planted trees are perfectly spaced out or you are sure you are placed perfectly in the center of a symmetric scene. I guarantee you that taking the time to focus on even spacing will make your photos appear clean and more professional.

Your creative companion,

Maike


By the way, the lovely photos on the top part of my Pinterest images are not mine – I wish! I got them over at unsplash.

HOW I STARTED MY PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 365

On my birthday in 2015 I decided to start a project 365 and it lasted all of 3 days. THREE! I clearly wasn’t ready at all. I wasn’t committed and other things seemed more important at the time. I still loved photography, I still took a lot of photos throughout the year but every single day? No thank you.

Then a year later we moved from Mississippi to California and one evening I got up, grabbed my camera, went outside shot a mediocre photo of our new neighborhood and decided that this was the first photo of my project 365. And this time it worked. As I am writing this it is day 298 out of 365 and the only day I missed taking a photo was our wedding day – which everybody told me was okay but I am still a tiny bit upset about.

HOW I STARTED MY PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 365 BY MAIKE ARMSTRONG

When I started the project for real this time, what had changed was not only my location but more importantly: my mindset. I had been thinking about this project for a whole year before actually taking it on and I had subconsciously prepared for the commitment. I had gathered bits and pieces of information and worked up a certain kind of courage.

But everyone is different. I am apparently the kind of person that needs to breed over an idea for a year before tackling it, you might be the spontaneous type and get to it right away. And the very reason I am writing this is, so that you can prepare your mind sufficiently and don’t have to breed over the idea for as long as I did.

Regardless of what kind of person you are though, you need to start in order to find out. I knew within the first week that this time I was following through with it and I believe that you can too. Just do it – no one is watching. ;) 

Your creative companion,

Maike

9 WAYS PAPER AND PEN IMPROVE OUR CREATIVE LIVES

Yes, we live in a digital world. Everyday we write, create, communicate and overall spend a big chunk of our precious time working digitally. There are many perks to that but with this article let’s focus on the benefits of our good old analog friends: paper and pen.

Using Paper and Pen Benefits Us in ...

1. … layout flexibility

Using paper of any size and shape we can use the space available in any way we like. Without a character limit, lines or columns we are able to layout our thoughts, ideas and sketches freely.

2. … getting beautiful handwriting

We would never have beautiful handwriting if we didn't take the time to practice it and experiment. Handwriting changes and develops over time and it's a beautiful process. Why not make it a project? Write down your own alphabet, decide how to write each letter, find inspiration and practice, practice, practice!

3. … showing individuality and personality

If two people both wrote an essay in Times New Roman, 12 pt, it’d obviously look the same. Often that’s beneficial because we aren’t distracted from the content but it also seems less personal. Our handwriting is unique – what a waste it would be not to use and show it!

4. … showing emotions

Writing by hand gives our mind and body the opportunity to show the emotions tied to our thoughts through our way of writing. It gives us the chance to be impulsive. If you write while you are angry for example you will be likely to press the pen harder and leave darker marks. If you are in a rush your handwriting will look less neat et cetera. The so called “ductus” is something unique to our handwriting and emotions and can’t be copied digitally.

5. … remembering grammar

Oh, autocorrect. I think everybody has a love-hate-relationship with it. Writing by hand is a way to make sure you are still on top of your (not you’re) grammar game because you aren’t automatically corrected. 

6. … slowing down & enjoying the moment

Sitting down with a piece of paper and favorite pen is a way to live in the moment. I often feel disconnected from my environment when I stare at the screen for hours, working digitally. Suddenly a lot of time has passed and I didn’t even notice. When I sit with paper and pen I slow down naturally since writing by hand takes longer than typing and I notice the world around me.

7. … distraction free creation

We won’t get notified on paper that we have a new e-mail, someone liked our post on social media or or or. Working solely with paper and pen means to have a clear focus – just you, your thoughts and maybe a Chai Latté. ;)

8. … relaxation

9 WAYS PAPER + PEN IMPROVE OUR CREATIVE LIVES BY MAIKE ARMSTRONG

Doodleing, sketching, mind dumping – they all do the same for us: they set us in a meditative state, relax your muscles and help us to mindfulness. Listen to your favorite podcast, audiobook, nice music or simply nature and get doodling!

9. … compatibility, space & availability

Paper is so awesome. You can get it anywhere, it never needs an update, the battery can’t die suddenly and it fits in any pocket!

How often do you use paper and pen? What other benefits do you think there are to these lovely analog tools? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Enjoy writing, drawing or doodling today!

Your creative companion,

Maike

WHY I LOVE MY PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL

I wish I would have started my photography journal right when I started the project 365, or really even before then. Here are a few reasons I love it and recommend you start your own!

  • it’s a resource geared towards my personal needs + interests

There are so many places you can get information from and it can be quite overwhelming who to listen to or what to focus on first. Keeping a photography journal you can select the information you like and make it easier to tune out the noise of other sources in order to stick to your personal needs, style and interests.

  • it helps keep knowledge and ideas organized in one place

It’s easy to loose a random piece of paper you scribbled down a concept for a shoot you’d like to do or notes from a tutorial you watched. If you keep your ideas and bits of knowledge you gain in one central place it’s easier to find them and refer back to when needed.

  • it's a place to record experiences + celebrate achievements

Throughout my project 365 I’ve had so many fun experiences, little and big achievements (I photographed a wedding!) and your journal is a wonderful place to store all those wonderful memories and celebrate your accomplishments. But even during the best of experiences there is always something you can do better and the journal is a place to note that too, so that you actually learn from (even the smallest) mistakes and improve as a photographer.

  • it's a treasure chest of inspiration + motivation

I love to keep magazine clippings and quotes I can come back to and draw inspiration from. Collecting snippets of colors I enjoy, textures I like, photos I adore help me spark my inspiration and imagination and help me in see what style I’m drawn to in the big picture.

WHY I LOVE MY PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL BY MAIKE ARMSTRONG
  • it helps me reflect and stay on track with my goals

I think it’s super important to set goals for your photographic journey (I wrote a whole post how to establish your own over here) and keeping a photo journal you can see where you started and where you are now and make sure you’re moving in the right direction. You can glue a photo in your journal every month that you think represents your progress and write a few notes about it.

If you like the idea of keeping a photo journal, I also wrote a post with 20 things to add to it!

Enjoy!

Your creative companion,

Maike

UNDERSTANDING WHAT A PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 365 CAN REALLY DO FOR YOU

What is a project 365?

A project 365 is a project where you tackle any kind of task every single day for an entire year – in our case: taking a photograph.

I’m not talking about snapping a phone picture of your cute pet rolling on the sofa. I am talking about intentionally grabbing your camera and carefully selecting a moment and scene to capture.

You can either see this project as a kind of journal where you capture your daily activities for a year or it can be a place for you to creatively express yourself without a connection to your everyday life. Over the course of my own project I found that it’s a balance between both.

It is up to you to decide if you would like to stick to a certain topic throughout the year – but I will get to that in another post.

Let’s first take a look at everything a project 365 can do for you.

Why you should start a photography project 365

Doing something every single day will give you the practice you need to become really freakin’ good at whatever it is you want to become really freakin’ good at. When you decide to create a photograph every day for an entire year, photography will always be on your mind – consciously and subconsciously. You learn more about yourself, how you approach tasks, how creative you are when it comes to capturing a moment or composing a scene, you figure out what works for you, what doesn't, you see the world a little different every day and create images to expand your portfolio.

Handling your camera every day will make you more comfortable with it, you might learn about features you didn’t even know it had, you get better and faster at selecting settings and lenses, you will develop an eye for the best light situations, objects to photograph you are most excited about and how to best frame the shot. 

Short: It gives you the practice you need to become a better photographer.

But even when you are at the point in your photographic journey where you show in galleries or have five million weddings under your belt: a project 365 gives you the freedom to create something just for yourself, to experiment, grow, push yourself or get back to who you are and truly want to be as a photographer if you got a little lost in the wild world of client shoots.

It teaches you about commitment, motivation, pushing your own boundaries and gives you something to accomplish every day. You discover so many wonderful places, meet people and overall gain experiences you would never have had without the project 365. 

AMAITHING · UNDERSTANDING WHAT A PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 365 CAN REALLY DO FOR YOU

While the list of benefits is long, it can still be hard work and a big commitment. There is much more to a project 365 than just snapping the perfect shot every day and uploading it to social media. Where do you best store and organize all the photos? What do you do when you get completely demotivated and uninspired?

There are many questions and sometimes annoying tasks that come with the project but in future articles I will prepare you in depth for every bump in the road, so that you can easily push through the biggest slumps, have a workflow and organized hard drive to find your photos in no time and be able to focus on the fun part – taking gorgeous photographs – instead.

Your creative companion,

Maike

NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE PRETTY – JUST GET IT DONE

To me procrastinating comes from trying to be perfect and being afraid not to reach that perfection. I want to sit down and make everything I create absolutely perfect. And there can be a place for that. In projects we really, really care about or paid job for example but when it comes to random little projects and creations – we should cut ourselves some slack!

I spent weeks pinning pretty pictures of bullet journals before I recently finally started one. I kept thinking “I will sit down and plan it all out perfectly and find pretty fonts and cute illustrations to add and and and”. It has been like that with my plan to create beautiful wall prints of all the amazing quotes I want to surround myself with, it has been like that with a daily routine board I wanted to create, it has been like that with SO many things.

But one day I decided that I needed to stop caring so much about prettiness and perfection. Oh, of course it is not just said and done. Of course there is that little voice every now and then that sneaks in my head and suddenly starts yelling “You can’t just jot down those quotes! It has to be a perfectly pretty wall print, otherwise you suck!”. (Mhm, that’s my brain for ya.) And I am sure you can relate …


»Art is not always about pretty things. It’s about who we are, what happened to us, and how our lives are affected.«

– Elizabeth Broun


But whenever that happens I say back “If it was for you, I would never start that bullet journal.” and then I do my best to tune out that silly voice and just do what I love: writing down my favorite quotes with my favorite random pen I got at a hotel desk, on a completely normal sticky note. Jotting down what I did today in a bullet journal that isn’t filled with amazing illustrations and perfect fonts.

Because I realized I want to spend all of my energy on other things. I want to focus on reading more pages of my book to find more amazing quotes. I want to write down my thoughts now because I will forget the feelings and ideas I have now, if I let days pass because I haven’t designed the perfect page for it in my journal.


»If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?«

– Albert Einstein


NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE PRETTY – JUST GET IT DONE

I want to actually focus on projects with a bigger meaning to me. And even when I am working on those, I need to remind myself that sometimes done is indeed better than perfect. Because I want to be able to say: “I made that.” Not “I started and then I wasn’t sure if it was pretty or perfect enough, so I didn’t finish.”

So today I encourage you to join me in trying to fight that the urge to make e-very-thing we create look perfect and pretty and just get shit done.

Projects that matter the most to us, that make money or bring us happiness, is where we can spend all of our creative energy and perfectionism if we want.

But our journal, workspace and anything else that is behind the scenes should not be a place of perfection but of experiments, scribbles, random notes, doodles and happiness!

Your creative companion,

Maike