This time of year has us planning for a year a little better than the last - even if we had a great year, we all want to make all our days count and do our time here justice. Concerns I hear often are comments around not taking enough photos, taking photos inconsistently throughout a year, or if you do take enough of them - what do you do with them? When it comes to documenting your family life (to me, the word family means sharing your life with a loved one - it doesn't always have to be about the kids!) having a little project in mind is a great way to keep you on track to make sure you finish your year with it well documented and preserved.
Here are 9 Fun Ways to Document the Year Ahead, I take no credit for these projects, you can find information all over the internet about them, I'll link to some throughout ... before you panic about 'projects' and all that word entails, the basic tools you'll need are two things - something to take your photos on (your smart phone, a point-and-shoot, a DSLR or a lovely film camera - the best camera is the one you have with you - so let's not over complicate things), and a plan decided on before January 1st. If you want to go a step further, a computer to keep your image files organised and backed up on would be handy. Here we go...
1. A 365 Project
Go big or go home, right? This is the ultimate project when it comes to documenting your year. It's as easy as it sounds, take one photograph for every day of the year. You can choose a theme for the year, a focus for the year (your partner, child, pet, meals, weather, travels etc). You can take your photograph at the same time every day, regardless of where you are and what you're doing. Or you could jump on over to the Fat Mum Slim website or Facebook/Instagram pages and follow along her Photo-A-Day prompts if you'd like a bit of a creative nudge. I will attempt a 365 project next year, there'll be a blog post explaining all in the new year.
2. Project 52
This project is popular amongst parents - a portrait of my child, every week for a year. I first heard about this via Practising Simplicity and I attempted it with my kids last year, but felt burnt out by the pressure I heaped onto myself to complete the project, which is why this year I'm going with project #3. This is a fun way to watch your family grow, it isn't as much pressure as a photo every day, and can be as literal as one single photo each week. When I was working on this project I added a line or two of text each week about what my children were doing/learning/saying/behaving.
3. A Portrait A Month
This one doesn't really need any further explanation... This is the project I've decided on to document my children this year, one portrait that shows their spirit, their growth and the seasons of their fourth and sixth years. I do find the more frequent projects a little overwhelming, so this one sounds perfect for me. I envisage these 24 portraits presented in a slim album at the end of next year.
4. A Roll A Month
For my fellow film photographers out there, or those wanting to dip their toe into a little film photography, this is a slow-paced, no-pressure and light-hearted way to go. Shoot your way through a roll of film each month - be it 35mm, medium format or instant film (check out the instax cameras - they're loads of fun!). Explore a new film type each month or practice a new skill while documenting your year.
5. 100 Happy Days
This is a fun project, I love that it has a joyful intent behind it too - document a portion of your year with a focus on Happiness for 100 days - gosh, it's an easy sell, right? I gave this a shot and made it most of the way through. And even though I didn't finish it, I really enjoyed the experience. My focus was on happiness rather than people or things, so it was an easy win, inspiration wise, and it genuinely made a positive difference to my every day.
6. Remember December/January Photo-A-Day
Dedicate an entire month to documenting your family with photography, Remember December is a wonderful project for documenting the end of the school or work year and the build up to Christmas and New Year. January is a great opportunity for families with children on school holidays and parents taking time off work with them, it's Summertime in Australia so we have long, easy, hot, fun-filled days to indulge in. The final week marking the beginning of the school year. To me, documenting either of these two months, is all about documenting the magic of childhood for our kids.
7. Photo Friday
A little like #2 but without the 'portrait' focus. Friday's (Fri-YAYs..?) are great days in most people's books, so I imagine an early mark from work meaning icecreams in the park with the kids or a sneaky Friday drink in the city. Sunny beach shots on those all too infrequent long weekends, or an early morning coffee as we prepare to get through just one more day. Some people choose to do a flash-back-Friday (#fbf) too for a bit of fun.
8. One Moment
Ronnie at Life Captured has some really beautiful examples of documenting just one moment in time ... like planning and preparing well to document every hour on the hour for one entire day from waking to bedtime, or documenting one entire week in great detail - while you may choose only a photo or two, this is a great opportunity to add some text about your life, right now, or document one time of day for an entire season, or the year - what does 10am look like at your place every day? Or breakfast time? Or bathtime?
9. Holidays, Rituals, Traditions
These projects sound like fun, and would be something really special for your children to look back on in years to come. Holiday's are pretty obvious - be it a family holiday away for a week or a holiday that is special to you each year, like Easter or Christmas. The idea of documenting rituals is so unique, take the idea of something that is seemingly mundane - getting ready for your day - you get up, take the dog for a run, shower and get dressed, grab some breakfast, kiss your love and head out the door to take the train to work. Document all of that for a week, a month, a season. Traditions - do you gather as a group of friends for football finals, or is your grandmother going to teach you how to make her Christmas cake, or do you have family games night once a month? All of that is gold when it comes to preserving, and celebrating, our year with a photo project.
There we are - 9 Fun Ways to Document your year ...!
Now that you've got a few projects to chose from, have a think about what you'll do with all of these photos at the end of your project.
A photograph isn't a photograph until it's printed.
There are oodles of photo book companies online, and I'd recommend you source a company geared towards a more professional product in place of department store printing. A few I'm happy to recommend are:
Artifact Uprising (based in the USA, postage is a bit on the steep side but you can store your book projects in your account then order and ship in bulk.
PicPress - Australian based with a great variety in quality and affordability.
Blurb - I've not used this company before, but have heard a lot of great reviews.
While these projects, and completing them with printing are relatively simple, here are a few extra hints and tips to help you on your way:
- Smart Phone: If you're going to shoot with your smart phone, research and have a look at a few editing apps. There are some great ones out there, and the rule of thumb is to use a light touch - let the app do it's thing, don't go too crazy with altering it too much. My favourite is PicTapGo, but you can use VSCO for a film look, Little Moments (iPhone only) and or the Photoshop app
- Organising: Keep it simple, but have a plan to stay organised from the get go. A simple folder on your harddrive with your photographs grouped into month (for 365 projects) or the images renamed for ease of sorting at the end of the project. If you're using a smart phone, I'd still recommend backing up to a harddrive, however you can also add folders to your camera roll to group your project photos into.
- Hashtags: If you're going to share your project via social media, I'd recommend creating a unique hashtag to help group your photographs - like #365Renee2016
- Text: Do you want to add text to your projects? Like the other tips, keep it simple - a notepad and pen in you handbag or sending yourself emails from your smartphone is all you need to use. Just make sure all your notes are dated.
- Exist in Your Family's Photos: Hand that camera off to someone else every now and then so that YOU exist in the documentation of the year to come. Regardless of how much you like being in photos or not, it's more important that you're just in them
And that's it! I'd really love to hear what your plans are to document your life next year. Do you have any questions about these projects? Send me an email, I'd be happy to help out. But most of all, enjoy this. If it's not clicking for you, change it up to make it work for you, these are ideas, guidelines, a starting point, document your life, your way ... and then print it beautifully xx