365 Projects are SO Last Year!

Those of you who have been following me for a while, know that I’m a big fan of 365 Projects – one photo a day for a year. Doing a 365 Project jump-started my photography and I credit the project for helping me to quickly develop my photography skills. I wrote a post about what I learned by doing a 365 Project.

365 Project: 10 Things I Learned

The 365 Project provides motivation and if done in conjunction with social media, a sense of camaraderie with others who are also on the 365 journey.

But photographers can get hung up in the “365” part of a 365 Project – it’s a BIG commitment to make a photo each and every day for an entire year. Some get overwhelmed before they even start.

Of a 365 Project, “Project” is actually the most important part – not the “365”. So let’s brainstorm other types of photographic projects that can be just as motivating to keep your photography growing over the next year.

Photo Winter Walk
Winter Walk Recently posted photo to my 365 Project.
Sony A7II 70mm 1/80@f11 ISO250

Time-Based Projects

31 Project

There’s no need to commit to one-photo-a-day for a full year, try one-photo-a-day for a month instead – a 31 Project. Initially when I started my 365 Project, I only
committed (in my head) to doing one photo a day for about 6 weeks. At the end
of the 6 weeks, I was going back to school and really thought that I wouldn’t
have time to continue my photographic hobby. I ended up continuing with the 365
Project, but I could very easily have stopped and would have
successfully completed a 42-day Project.

One photo a day for 31 days is an accomplishment!

Instead of committing to a full year, make one photo a day, but for the time period that you choose whether it be a week or a month or some arbitrary amount of time.

These projects don’t necessarily need to be structured, but I’ve created 31 Inspirations to help motivate and give you ideas for 31 days worth of photography. I’ll post one of these each month to help keep the motivation flowing!

52 Project

A popular alternative to a 365 Project is a “52 “Project – One photo a WEEK for a year. This doesn’t seem as daunting. Weekend photographers can really sink their teeth into this project since it fits perfectly with their schedule. Go ahead and post on a regular 365 Project social media site (for instance Flickr Project 365). There are plenty of photographers who post a photo-a-week.

Photo Minimal Bridge
Minimal Bridge. I don’t get out to photograph every day, but I am out a few times per week exploring the city. This is a new vantage point on one of my favorite bridges.
Sony A7II 30mm 1/125@f9.0 ISO100

100 Project

A “100” Project roughly doubles the output of a 52 Project. Post 100 photos for the year. This type of project allows for more or less productive weeks throughout the year.

Posting on social media with a numbering system helps keep track of where you are in the project (for instance labeling photos 1/100, 2/100, etc.) and you’re announcing your goal which provides additional motivation.

12×12 Project

In a  “12X12” (12-by-12) Project, make 12 photos each month for a year. This is roughly 3 photos per week. This project can focus on weekend photography or spread the photos
out over the week.

9 o’clock Project

The “9 o’clock” Project (or any time of your choice) is a different spin on a time-based project. Make a photo once a day or once a week at a specific time. This project can be scheduled as a regularly occurring event in your calendar. I know that I’m more likely to keep an appointment with my photography if I have it scheduled!

This project need not be place-specific, but it could be. Take a photo at the same time at the same place each day or each week. This is a very long-term version of a time-lapse.

Theme-Based Projects

Color-based Projects

Color-based projects are always fun. I followed a photographer doing a 365 Project where photos each month focused on a different color.

A “7-Rainbows” Project is a color-based project where each photo focuses on a color of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) in order. Time is not the focus of the project, color is so the photos can be posted one-per-day for a week or spread out over time.

The goal is to make 7 photographic rainbows over the course of a year. Making a total of 49 photos.

A variation of this project would be to make 7 red photos in a row, then 7 orange photos and so on creating color blocks.

Making a collage of these photos at the end of the year is a great way to show the rainbows. PaulaW’s album gives this sort of idea.

ABC Project

An “ABC” Project focuses on making 26 photos for the year – or about 2 per month – with
the subject of each photo starting with a different letter of the alphabet.

This project has a more or less structured version. In the more structured version, the photos must be made in strict alphabetical order. Start with A is for …..

In the less structured version, the photos can be made in any order, just don’t forget X!

Photo Of the Past
A is for Abandonment.
Sony A7II 67mm 1/80@f5.6 ISO 400

Projects for Self-Improvement

More advanced photographers who have mastered basic photographic techniques may want to focus on more personally challenging projects. For instance, photographing people comes less naturally to me so I’m currently focusing on projects that push me out of my comfort zone in some way.

100 Strangers (and Variations)

For this year, I’m starting a “100 Strangers” Project. This project focuses on taking street portraits and getting to know a little something about 100 new people. There is even a
Flickr group for this project where I can post my photos and interact with other photographers doing a similar project.

Photo Soulard Market
Soulard Market. Shop owner bundled against the cold at Soulard Market, St. Louis, Missouri.
Sony A7II 146mm 1/160@f6.3 ISO5000

The 100 Strangers project can easily be adapted in any number of ways. If the goal is to focus on studio work, the project may be reframed as “100 Portraits”. If working on wildlife or landscape photography, the project could instead be “100 Birds” or “100 Trees”.

Photo Owl at Busch Conservation Area
I set up my camera with one of the Program modes set up for wildlife (e.g., fast shutter, quick autofocus). It paid off when I pulled over quickly to capture this owl. One twist and the camera was set up and I was ready to take the shot.
Sony A7RIII 300mm 1/500@f 5.6 ISO 640

Remember to Post!

Remember, it’s important to post your project somewhere. The posting becomes an event or a way of announcing that you’ve completed one step in your project. You’ll also get feedback, usually positive, from others which can help keep you motivated. I admit that some days during my 365 Project I photographed simply so that I didn’t have a blank space on my 365 Project page. It was a silly motivation, but it got me out of the house with a camera in my hand — whatever works!

An alternative to traditional social media is to create a photoblog or a “zine” (electronic magazine in pdf form) consisting of a set of weekly or monthly photographs to share.

I’d also encourage you to make some sort of culminating project at the end of the year. This allows you to go back and revisit some of your favorite photographs of the year and see how much your photography has changed.

I often create photo books at the end of big projects through websites like Shutterfly or Blurb. These projects are celebrations and sense of satisfaction for completing the project that you set out to do. This also finalizes the project and may free you to start a new and different project.


The benefit of a 365 Project is the regularity of a goal that motivates consistent photography. The goal need not be 365 photos to have the same effect.

I’m writing this article for the New Year as this is the time to reflect on the previous year and make new resolutions, but if you’re reading this article in the middle of the year, don’t worry – start TODAY!! My photographic year actually runs from July 1 to July 1.

Sometimes it helps to publicly declare your project so use the comments section below to announce your project for the year and let us know where you plan to post your project photos so we can follow your progress!


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