A Photo a Day on Your Mobile Device

27 (2013)

I have been dedicated to taking a picture a day for years.  In fact, I am now in my fourth year of doing it, and as of the day that this post has been written, I have taken a photo every single day, on my iPhone, for the last 1,097 days.  When I originally wrote about committing to a 365 project, I explained why I failed two years in a row before I had a successful year.  Many of the tips on that post I will review again here.

What it comes down to for me is that I want to record these moments, and having 3 kids to take care of, as well as a home and a husband business to run, makes it difficult to take, edit, and share a picture a day with my dSLR.  I have accepted the fact that the convenience of my mobile project is what has allowed me to stick to it.  I am so grateful that I have, because I have learned a thing or two along the way that basically insures that I will have a moderately rocking to totally awesome shot every single day.

If you are interested in following along with my 365, please find me on Instagram! I am @teaandbrie and I love to connect with new friends!

Let’s get started

Determining whether a mobile 365 Project is for you

There is nothing quite like starting a 365 Project; the excitement and enthusiasm is enough to get you through at least 30 days.  What will happen once you hit day 78?  Day 146? 291? The excitement and enthusiasm that you felt in the beginning will wear off, so you need to make sure that this Project is for you before you begin.  The following points will help you visualize your intentions.  I recommend reflecting on these points, and maybe even jotting down a few notes to help you better realize your intentions.  After all, there is also nothing quite like failing at a 365 Project.

  • Why does this Project appeal to you?  Do you have a new baby, and you want to document his or her growth?  Are you living far away from your family and you want a way to connect with them across the miles?  Are you interested in improving your photography?  Maybe you just want to be able to better recognize the beautiful little details in your everyday life.
  • Who is this Project for?  Are you doing this for yourself?  Are you doing it for your friends/family/sister/brother/cousin/children/dog? Whoever the project is for, you need to realize that this sort of a commitment is a gift for that person, whether you are giving it to yourself or someone else.
  • What is your end game?  Obviously you want to end up photos that represent the past year of your life, but do you have another goal in mind?  Are you going to print them all out on little pieces of 2.5 x 3.5 photo paper and frame them into an amazing wall gallery? Are you going to simply make a slideshow at the end of the year?  Or maybe you want to do something like make a book.

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So why do I take a photo a day?  I started out desperate to hold on to some of the moments that I was sharing with my kids.  They absolutely refused to stop growing, and I just wanted to have pictures of these moments.  Here I am, 3 years later, driving to a different school, diaper and highchair and baby food free.  My everyday life is always changing, even if it is in very small unrecognizable moments!   I then suffered a concussion in 2012 that was classified as a traumatic brain injury.  I had almost every single symptom of post concussion syndrome, and even to this day I have some memories issues.  Taking pictures helped me keep my days straight, and kept me present.  The more aware I was of what was happening, the more details I could remember.

Who do I take my photos for?  I definitely take them for myself, but also for my kids and husband.  When I finally stopped hoarding all my photos on my phone and make slideshows of my first two years, they went crazy.  When I printed out books, they were thrilled, and absolutely obsessed with looking back and remembering.  Next thing I know, my parents, siblings, and in-laws are commenting on how much they love seeing the pictures.  It started out about me, but social networking and technology made the project so much bigger than I ever thought.

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What is my end game?  Now it is to get these images off of my phone and share them with the people I love.  Sure, they are pictures of life from my somewhat limited perspective, but the kids love seeing pictures of themselves and my husband loves seeing pictures of moments that he missed when he was at work.  I do a slideshow and a book at the end of every year.  Now I am thinking I may need to print more copies of the books so the kids can have them when they grow up.  Like on their 21st birthday or something I give them each a stack of 21 books. That would be pretty freaking cool.


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How to keep your mobile 365 Project going

You are going to hit a wall and you are going to need to find a way to get yourself over it.  Here are a few tips that have helped me, and if they help you, GREAT!  Just know that each project is unique to the individual creating it, and you need to find a system that works for YOU.  It took me 2 failures to discover what works for me, but I was determined.

  • Convenience is the king of the 365 Kingdom.  Listen. to. me.  You do not have to spend hours trying to find the perfect filter for your image.  You do not even have to spend five minutes.  In fact, you do not even have to use a filter at all.  You do not have to write a novel about each picture.  You do not have to write anything at all (though I highly recommend numbering them!).  In the end, you are going to have threehundredandsixtyfivefreakingpictures and THAT is what matters. My first year I think I used the same Instagram filter for about 80% of the images and I labeled them with a number and a word or two.
  • Start small.  This goes along nicely with my convenience recommendation.  Start with a simple system, easy goals, and a laid back attitude.  Keep your expectations in check and reined in, especially when you are experiencing the initial excitement and enthusiasm.  Remember, to pace yourself.  It is a marathon, not a sprint, and all that.
  • Find a routine.  I personally found that taking pictures in the morning was the best time for me, and I tried to take my picture each day by 11am.  If that didn’t happen, then I would take it by 3pm at the latest.  Of course I have my fair share of kids-in-the-tub, and yum-dinner pictures, and that is ok, but to keep myself going I found that my morning routine was key.
  • Cheat.  I cheat all the time.  Some days I take two pictures in case I miss a day coming up.  Some days I take three pictures to fill in a couple of blanks from the week before.  Life happens, and I found that in order to actually complete the 365 Project, I couldn’t expect myself to actually photograph something every single day.  In all honesty, I’ve probably only missed about 3-5 days each year, and I think that is pretty awesome.  I filled in those places with moments from the next day, or an extra photo that I took earlier on.  To me, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I am doing what I need to do to get it done.
  • Listen to feedback.  Of course your husband/mother/best friend/random FB stalker you haven’t seen since middle school are going to love your photos of your adorable baby and your cute puppy.  They are going to say that your lunch looks delicious, and that they are sorry you are feeling so sick, and those shoes are amazing, and they just love that bathing suit, and oh you are so creative, and your halloween decorations are so spooky, and where did you get that recipe…. ROLL WITH IT.  Use your images to connect with people.  Learn to love the dialog.  Keep the dialog going.  Reconnect with random people who have the same glasses.  Take the feedback to heart and use it to keep going. and going. and going.

228 (2013)

Develop a workflow for your Mobile 365 Project

For me, getting into the routine was the first major step into taking a photo every day.  Once I established the habit, I then thought about the process of how I take pictures, how I edit the pictures, how to organize them, and how to present them when I was finished.  At one point, I upgraded my iPhone from the 1st generation phone, and you can see the upgrade in my second year towards the end.  As the camera in the phone got better, so did the apps that I could use along with it.  I never used the standard app that came with the phone.  My goals for my project began to change, and I needed to change my habits in order to keep it as easy as possible.  Here is my routine, step by step.

1. Take the picture.  I used to take the picture in Camera+, but have recently switched to VSCO.  The reason why I used Camera+ was because (at the time) it was the only app that allowed you to use the focus and the exposure as two separate functions.  I later switched to VSCO because I had always loved the editing capabilities of the app and they finally released a new version that allowed you to separate focus and exposure.  For those of you who know and understand how cameras work, this is an incredibly important feature.  The iPhone camera (and most cameras you open up in-app like the instagram camera, facebook camera, etc.) takes its exposure reading on the point of focus.  This means that if you are taking a portrait and you tap on the subject’s face to focus, the camera will also decide what settings it should use to properly expose the image based on that point.  By separating the focus and exposure, you are given a lot more control over your images.  I will go into this in more detail in a later post.

2. Edit the picture.  I now do this in VSCO.  It is just more convenient for me to take the picture and edit in the same app.  I also find that I have the most control over the exposure, saturation, etc. in this app.  I do not spend a lot of time editing, so it is also great that they have so many pre-made filters.

3. Save the picture.  Straight to the camera roll, baby!

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4. Upload the image to Instagram (including the day # with the image).  I currently use PicTapGo to upload my image into Instagram.  I know.  Crazy.  But I personally do not want to have all of my images square, and PicTapGo gives you the option to crop the image to any dimensions you want, and then upload it so that it is “floating.”  In other words, if you have a 3:4 ratio or a 4:3 ratio image, that is what you will see in Instagram – a rectangle, not a square.  I use PicTapGo because I had already purchased it and had been using it to edit my images for a heartbeat.   It is also the quickest app for me to navigate through to upload.  I have a confession, this is the one step that really irks me and I do not want to have to do it like this anymore.  I am currently looking for alternative way to upload to Instagram without having to crop to square.  It really would be a dream come true if VSCO would create this option because then I could do everything in that app.

5. Upload the image into Photo365.  I do this solely to keep track of what images I took each day and to see if I missed any days.  It also lets me do a monthly recap, which is nice :)

6. Dump my phone.  I frequently need to move the pictures off my phone and on to my computer.  I have my picture folder broken down into Year>Month and I just have a folder in each month that says iPhone Dump.  I drag my images there for the month.

7. Recap, slideshow, book.  So, what do I do at the end of the 365? Statigram had the option of creating a recap of your most liked images on Instagram.  Fun!  I also did my slideshow through Flipagram.  The app pulls everything straight from your Instagram feed, you simply just highlight which images you want in the slideshow.  This irritated me because I had 395 images this year and I had to select every one of them individually, I would have liked to have been able to pick a year.  I also had no choice but to put them in the slideshow in descending order because there was no way I was spending the time to reorder all those images.  If Flipagram can fix those two issues, then I will use it again this year.  Otherwise I will look for alternatives.  Finally, I use Blurb to make a book.  I simply log into their website and use their Instagram book feature.  I connect directly to Instagram from the Blurb website and I am able to select my images and edit the layout of the book to fit all 365 within the page limit.  Pretty easy and the books are beautiful.  I have tried other companies and I just don’t think that the books come even close to comparing to the quality, and I believe that if I made it to the end of the project, then I deserve to print out a beautiful book!

306 (2013)

In this post, I talked a little bit about what apps I have used in the past to successfully complete my 365 projects.  If  you feel as if you need more detail, then check back soon.  I will be posting a more detailed write-up on how iPhone cameras work so that you can get the most out of your in-phone camera, as well as a write-up on tricks to composition and quick editing to take the little snapshots of your everyday to the next level.

I believe that the act of taking pictures is what is important, not how fancy your camera is.  I believe that by understanding a thing or two about how cameras work, and more specifically how the camera in your iphone functions, by following a few simple guidelines, and utilizing a key feature available in a handful of apps, you can easily use your iphone to take remarkable photos without losing any of the convenience associated with a mobile device.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here, or write a post on my Facebook Page!

030 (2013)

  • Terri

    You are amazing! Three kids, a business, hobbies, photography, etc etc and you take the time to write this wonderful article that helped me tons! Thank you. I’m deciding if I’m going to make the commitment.
    Love, Terri

  • Great post, this was really helpful. I’ve also tried this once before and never finished. I was using my dslr and just couldn’t find the time to set up equipment and carry it around with me all the time. I recently purchased a smartphone and I’m pretty impressed with it’s camera and thought about trying it again. This post gave me some great ideas and I think I’m going to try again.

    Your photos are terrific and hope you have a great new year. Cheers.