My Favorite Photography Project

I'm about a month into this year's run of my favorite photography project; 100 Days of Summer. Each year for the past 3 years, I have taken (at least) one picture every day for the roughly 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day to document our family's summer time adventures. But first, let me back up a bit. In 2014, I completed a Project 365, which consists of daily shooting for an entire year. One picture, every day, for a year. That project was so much fun and such an incredible way to learn and grow and push myself creatively, but by the end of it I was exhausted and barely wanted to pick up my camera. So after a few months where I only took pictures sporadically, I wanted to get back in the grove the following summer and decided to do the 100 Days of Summer project as a more manageable project. The timing that year was perfect, as we had just had our second baby at the beginning of May and I knew I would be wanting to take lots of pictures those first few months when she was growing and changing so quickly. At the end of the summer, I was so in love with the images from the project that I decided to make it an annual thing. So here we are, well into year 3 and I thought it might be fun to share some tips with you for how to do a similar project for your own family.

1. Plan ahead. At the beginning of the summer, make a list of things you would like to do that summer. If your kids are older, this is a great opportunity to involve them! Maybe you already have things planned; camp, trips to the beach, visiting family. Add those to the list as well as all those small, everyday adventures that you associate with summer; cooking s'mores, going to the pool, catching fireflies, eating watermelon outside. A list like this is great, not just to get ideas for your photography project, but to keep on hand for when your kids inevitably complain of being bored (or is that just my kids?!) I like to keep a separate list of things my oldest can do on his own, so I can tell him to go pick an activity of his list if he needs some ideas. 

Planning ahead also goes for each day. If you are going to the pool in the morning and going blueberry picking in the afternoon, decide ahead of time where you want to take your picture for the day so you don't have to lug your camera around all day. Unless of course you are shooting with you phone, in which case you will probably have it on you all the time. This leads me to my next tip:

2. Choose your camera. Do you have a DSLR sitting on your shelf that you have been wanting to use more? This is a great time to bring that out and get lots of practice! Are you home by yourself with 4 kids under 5 all summer? Maybe you need to give yourself a break and make this easier by using your phone. You can also mix and match however you want. The best camera is the one you have with you, as they say! 

3. Create variety in your images. Let's say you are taking pictures of your kids coloring with sidewalk chalk. After you get a good picture, try challenging yourself by changing up your perspective, for instance standing directly above them and shooting down, or move in close to get a detail shot. 

If you are spending several days in the same place, like a week at the beach, you also want to think about creating variety in the images from that week. When we go to the beach, I could definitely take 7 pictures 7 days in a row of my kids building sandcastles, but that would not provide an accurate picture (pun intended) of everything we did that week. Instead, try to mix it up by getting a variety of images that together tell the full story. 

I also like to look at my images week by week or over the course of the first few weeks and see if there is a good variety. When I was just looking at my pictures from the first month for this year, I noticed that I don't have nearly as many detail shots as I usually do, so that is something I will keep in mind over the next weeks. 

4. Print your pictures! I cannot emphasize this enough. Pictures should not live just on your harddrive or your Instagram account. My kids love to look through the photo books from the last few summers, and I'm already excited to put together the one from this year. I like to use Artifact Uprising, but there a several other great options out there. And you can always look for coupon codes to make it more affordable! 

5. Have fun. Summertime is fun, and this project is not meant to be something to stress about. If you didn't get a good picture one day, or didn't even manage to get your camera out, just take two pictures the next day or use one from the previous week. The rules are only as strict as you make them yourself. And if you are feeling inspired after reading this and want to get started now, just do it! It does not have to be 100 days, you can do 50 days of summer. Or challenge yourself to see how many days in a row you can keep going. However you do it, I hope you have fun documenting your own family's summertime adventures!