Last week I kicked off the year on the blog by talking about my "word" for 2013: THRIVE. I announced that I would be writing a series of weekly blog posts on easy year long photo projects, and first asked you what your three photography projects or goals are for the year.

Reading your responses was so fun and inspiring, and gave me lots of fodder for future blog posts. I can't wait to send out postcards and handwritten notes to all who responded and to do this every month to keep you motivated and inspired in your photography!

So let's get going with this, the first of three blog posts on year long photo projects.

When I first became a mom, I knew I was going to be taking a lot of photos, but I had no idea how overwhelming and time consuming my self-appointed job as my family's documentarian would be.

Before I knew it, I was drowning in thousands and thousands of photos that I just couldn't keep up with, and it was partly out of my resolve to figure out how to handle all these photos and make it easier for myself that I came up with the idea of helping other parents do the same.

To be honest, I'm still not there as far as creating all the albums and wall galleries I would like out of my personal photos. There is definitely an element of "the shoemaker's children have no shoes" here. Indeed, I'm just working on the seventh set of annual photo albums for a client and have yet to do them for my own family. I wish I could hire myself!

However there is one project that I have been hands down more consistent in keeping up with with than any other personal project and that is:

My photo-a-day project

photo-a-day calendar

Those of you who have taken The Photosanity Workshop or watched my free video lesson will be familiar with the photo-a-day project, and even if you haven't, you may have seen me talk about this before.

But if you haven't, this is a project that I started the day that my first son Liam was born almost four years ago, and aside from a few missed days here and there (mostly in the first couple of years), I've been going strong ever since, and even started a second photo-a-day project for Jack the day he was born just over a year ago.

I know what you might be thinking, because many parents before you have told me the same thing - a photo-a-day project doesn't sound easy! It sounds like quite a commitment, rather overwhelming, and kind of like overkill. Do you really have something to photograph every single day?

And the fact is that yes I do.

The first week of Liam's life:

The first week of Jack's life:

I love my photo-a-day project. It's the single most rewarding project I have done as a parent AND a photographer.

  • I have an amazing day-by-day record of my kids' lives.

  • When I wonder, as I often do, where the time has gone, I can literally see each day that has passed.

  • Liam has had so much fun this year looking at photos of him at whatever Jack's current age is.

  • But beyond all that, my photo-a-day project has been a daily reminder to look for the moments that I want to remember... and to more fully experience and enjoy them now.

My photo-a-day project reminds me of all I have to be happy and grateful for now.

And I know I'm not alone because I hear all the time from Photosanity participants about how glad they are that they gave it a try too, and how they have been surprised and grateful at how their project turned out and what it has brought into their life.

"I just want to say thank you. I thought a photo a day was a little much and a lot of pressure to come up with a "moment" everyday worth documenting and instead I started to realize how MANY moments there were each day with my boys that I was passing by - that I did not even realize were photographic moments and so even if I get nothing else out of this seminar I have gotten all I wanted by week 2... the appreciation for the everyday moments of my boys - the moments that make them who they are and moments that we share EVERYDAY and being able to document them! Thank you Alethea!" - Rachel Dreher

"I agree. Thank you! As a working mom I started feeling down that I was missing so many special moments with my daughter during the daytime. Then as I started the photo a day project I realized that I have many moments when I get home in evenings and the mornings before leaving to work that I need to just enjoy those times! What better way to capture it then with a photo a day! Thanks Alethea!" - Avanee Patel

Thinking about starting a photo-a-day project?

Here are a few tips that will help make your project successful:

1) Use ShutterCal to organize your project. ShutterCal uses a calendar format to store and display your photos, so it's really easy to see which days you have photos for and which days you're still missing. I'll be honest, I always take photos daily for my project, but I don't always get to select and upload daily. ShutterCal makes it really easy for me to go back and fill in the gaps.

2) Try and keep your project up to date daily or at least weekly if you can. It need only take a few minutes each day to upload a photo but it takes much longer to backfill. This year I'm newly resolved to keep up daily if I can, or monthly at the very least. It's very satisfying to get to the end of the month and complete the month!

3) If you have an iphone, consider using mostly iphone photos for your project - I do. It makes it more informal and fun, plus ShutterCal has an iphone app so I can upload right from my iphone. I do occasionally use DSLR photos but I never would have kept this project up for almost four years on my DSLR.

4) DON'T BE A PERFECTIONIST!!!! Yes, I am putting that in caps because, as a perfectionist myself, I know this pitfall only too well. This is not about uploading a masterpiece every day, or even a "good" photo. Think of this as "photographic notes" - you want photos that remind you of what you most want to remember about the day. It doesn't have to be anything more than that. This is about experiencing and remembering.

This past week of Liam's life:

This past week of Jack's life:

"But Alethea!" I can hear you saying. "I thought you were going to talk about EASY year long projects - this doesn't sound easy!"

I know. And reader Ruth Topless pointed this out in her survey response also. This project is not for everyone, and it does require a certain level of persistence and commitment.

But this is the project that I have found "easiest" to keep up, mostly because the format is really simple and consistent and it's become a habit. I've stuck religiously to the tips I give above, plus many more in the workshop, which helps to keep things simple.

Most importantly, I REALLY enjoy it and I find it incredibly rewarding. It's the payoff that makes it easy for me to keep up with it.

In fact, I thought I would only keep two separate calendars for Liam and Jack for a year and then I would combine them, but I've found I'm not ready to do that yet, so I'm going into a second year with two calendars!

Plus I am DEFINITELY a better photographer and parent for having done it. My photography benefits from playing around and being creative on a daily basis with my iphone photos, and as a parent, I have the peace of mind knowing that even if I never do another album or wall gallery, I have this as the photo documentation of my children's lives.

Try it for at least a month and see how it goes.

Before you know it, a year may have passed and you can make something really cool like this one year canvas I made with the first year of photos for Liam.


And if you find daily photos are too much and just unrealistic for you, pick a number of photos per month that is realistic and go for that. Ruth took inspiration from my one year canvas that I created for Liam and created a canvas of her own with twelve photos per month for an entire year and it looked great!

Also make sure you check back for the next two blog posts where I will share other ideas for easy year long projects that don't require as many photos!

And oh yeah, if you've been doing your project for a year now, stay tuned as I'm going to be offering the one year canvas as a product you can purchase and create with your photos very shortly! I will also be sharing more about the 8x8 albums I am planning to create from my photo-a-day photos.

Links:

View my ShutterCal photo-a-day project for Liam and for Jack. (There are gaps for the last two years but I'm working on going back and filling in.)

See the first two years of my project for Liam.

See more on my one year canvas for Liam.

Photosanity+ShutterCal

UPDATE

Photosanity and ShutterCal have partnered to give you the motivation, inspiration, support and tools you need to set yourself up for a successful photo-a-day project. Our exclusive Photosanity + ShutterCal bundles pair Photosanity tips and strategies with ShutterCal membership.

Learn more about the Photosanity ShutterCal bundles now.

And for current ShutterCal members, ShutterCal has worked with Photosanity to offer the one year canvas at an easy click of a button! Several Photosanity parents have ordered theirs already and have been thrilled with the results.

Already have a photo-a-day project? Link to it below in the comments!