How to Start a 365 Photo Project

I did a photo-a-day project last year in which I documented my outfits. I wanted to see what clothes I wore the most and used the project to inspire me to wear everything in my wardrobe. It was fun, silly ... and illuminating. (Photo: Starre Vartan) .

If you've been inspired by the 365 photo projects that have been making their way around the Internet over the last couple of years (check some of the most incredible projects I could find here), you might have thought about creating your own, seeing as there's a new year just around the corner. But as excited as you feel when you are watching other people's successful forays into this world, it can also be pretty intimidating when you sit down to do the work.

It's definitely not too late to do the most important part of a 365 photo project: the planning. So let's start there, and then move down the list of how to take a 365 project from concept to reality.

The Plan: You should really spend some time on the specifics of your project. Sit down with a pad of paper and a pen, or open a text window on your computer, and answer the following questions:

1. What is your ultimate goal with your 365 project? Is it to capture a time period in someone's life? (That could be your own, your child's or a child you know, a pet, or someone else who is growing or changing.) Is it to document the changes in a place? Is it to keep a record of some kind, like these grandparents who ran 365 marathons? Your goal should be one or two sentences at most. "I'm taking a picture of my lower body every day from couch-potato to running 3 miles, " or "I'm taking a shot of my new puppy every day until he is 8 months old," or "I'm taking a picture of the house I'm building every day at 10 a.m. until I move into it."

2. How will you communicate your goal? How will you know when you have achieved it? Figuring out how you will define the end of the project is important. It might not take 365 days if it's tracking a child's first step to walking, say. Or if it's a weight-loss goal, it might take more time (or less!) than you think, so you might not want to set a time period, but make the goal something else. Specific goals will help you know when to stop, and also be more fun for other people to eventually watch.

3. What if something unexpected happens? In a longer-timeline project of this kind, it's important to have a contingency plan. Over the course of 3-4 months or a year, something unexpected will definitely come up. A camera will break, you'll have a hard day where you'll miss taking a picture, or nothing might happen for a few days in terms of meeting the goal. What will you do if one or all of these things happen?

4. How will you keep up your momentum? Doing something every day is difficult, which is part of what makes watching 365 projects fun: They're inspirational. You need to figure out a way to hold yourself responsible on the days when you'll feel challenged. You could try doing a project with a friend and checking in every day by text with them when you take your picture. The expectation of someone else can be helpful in spurring you on. Or your partner or kid could have the job of asking you if you've completed your daily mission. (This only works if you don't tend to ignore these people.) You could set an alarm or two on your phone or computer if you are more forgetful than lazy.

5. What is your due date? You should set a final date by which the project must be finished. This might be more flexible if it's a diet/exercise or travel goal, or it might be strict if it is a timed goal. Either way, remember to give yourself time to both stop shooting a picture every day, and a time to reflect. Then you'll need some time to put the images together, either on a webpage, or better yet, in video form.

Once you're answered these questions, you'll be well on your way to fulfilling your 365 project plan, and you'll be much more likely to finish what you start — and hopefully inspire someone else to complete their own photo-a-day project.