MY 366 PROJECT: A Daily Dose of Inspiration

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by Teri Whittaker, M.Photo.Cr, CPP

Unlike some other photographers with a background in fine arts, I never had the privilege of studying art history in college. So, whenever I attended a photography program and the speaker said to study art, I was bewildered. Being so overwhelmed at learning how my camera and flashes worked and how to pose and light, the thought of looking at a painting and trying to glean inspiration from it was totally beyond me. But, as I became more comfortable with my gear and how to pose and light my subjects, I found that I can, indeed, look at paintings and be inspired by how the artist used light and color and how he posed subjects to convey his own vision.

The audio book “Caravaggio” by Andrew Graham-Dixon speaks of his work and his life. The enduring legacy of this man’s work and the impact it has on so many some four centuries after his death is remarkable. I had to wonder what legacy I will leave to my children and grandchildren.

That inspiration and vision led toward my own legacy and that is when participation in a “366 Project” (one image a day for 366 days… since it was a leap year ) began.

Have you ever watched some of your friends start on a daily image project at the beginning of the year and think, “That would really be nice. But I could never keep up with it.” Those were my thoughts in 2016 while driving to Imaging USA in Atlanta, Georgia, with my friend, Aileen Harding. She told me how she was doing a daily project and that I should join in. Since I was already so immersed in “all things photography” due to being at the convention, it was pretty easy for me to say “yes.” Once I got started, I was hooked!

In a very short time, I could see a considerable difference in my work. Previous to the project, I felt that the progress of my technical abilities was crawling and that I significantly lacked creative vision. Image competition had helped me greatly and I could see the improvements in my images when competing. Creating a daily image had me continually evaluating my backgrounds, considering my light, and using features on my camera that I had not previously used. But I was also looking at everyday objects with fresh eyes and learning new ways to accomplish things in Photoshop and Painter.

Of course, committing to a 366 Project might not be a reasonable undertaking for everyone in this season of your life, but I would encourage others to find a creativity project that works for your situation. Perhaps a “52 Project” where you set aside one day each week for creativity would work better for you. If one day a week is still too much, you might want to do a “12 Project” and set aside one day a month to explore new possibilities with your camera. I encourage you to do whatever speaks to your heart and to make it your own. If you miss a day, make it up the next day. That’s what worked for me and allowed me to continue my own project. At the end of my own “366 Project,” I came out a better photographer than when I began. When 2016 ended, I wasn’t done with committing to a daily project and felt that I still needed the daily project to continue so I could see more growth in my work, so I continued into 2017.

As you witness the improvement in your work and how your mind is open to even more creativity, you will be inspired to do even more and to enjoy the art of photography.

Teri Whittaker, M.Photog.Cr, CPP, served as President of the Professional Photographers Guild of Houston in 2016 and is currently their Executive Director. Her path to photography was typical of many photographers today who weren’t “born with a camera in their hands.” As an assistant leader for her daughter’s troop, she began doing scrapbook images. Before long, people began calling on her to photograph various events and this eventually led to family portraiture and more. Teri was IPC Bronze Medalist in 2016, IPC Silver Medalist in 2017, was Texas Top 10 in 2017, and went 4/4 at SWPPA competition with one score of 100. Today, she primarily photographs people and pets plus a few weddings and “a lot of flowers.”