One of the most popular groups on Flickr is one aptly called “365 Days“ , a year-long creative Flickr self portrait project started by Flickr member, Chris Maverick. Chris was inspired by another member, Stephen Poff, who was doing the project before Chris started the group, which has grown tremendously over the last several years.
As of this writing, the group’s membership is up to 15,596 members. I joined up back in June of 2008 and nearly finished the project before stopping in May of the following year. Nevertheless, with the 286 some-odd self-portraits I completed, I took my digital photography skills and creativity up a few steps, while at the same time meeting and supporting some really inspiring Flickr members.
The beauty of doing a Flickr self portrait is that the subject is you. You don’t have to travel to far exotic places to find great subjects. And you don’t need models or family members waiting for you to figure out what to do with your camera. The subject is you, and so you can be just as patient and time consuming you like to produce the type of creative photos you want.
There are several ways to do a photo self-portrait project. You can do it simply by taking a quick daily snapshot of yourself that will represent a sort of visual diary over a year’s time. One such project is still being done by Noah Kalina.
But you can also take a more creative approach and use the project to learn how to better use your camera and get your creative juices flowing. If you’re like me and you don’t think you have natural creative talent when it comes to photography; believe me, when you devote yourself to a daily project like this one, you’ll be pleasantly surprised about what you can do.
Here are a few other Flickr self portrait projects you might consider trying:
Cell Self Portrait“”self-portraits using your cell phone’s camera feature.
52 Weeks “”one self-portrait photo per week.
Twice a Month Self Portraits
Do a keyword “self-portrait” group search on Flickr, and you will find about a dozen other groups that you can join and become inspired by.
How To Get Started
1. A good time to begin the project is on January 1st when many other Flickr members begin.
2. Figure out how to use the self-timer on your camera. If you’re using your iPhone camera, there are even a few self-timer applications to use with the camera feature. Though many of your photos might be taken with your arms extended out in front of you, using a self-timer will often get you more steady shots. I typically set my timer to 2 seconds which is plenty of time to pose and take a shot.
3. Get a tripod – a mini tripod for compact cameras or a regular long-legged tripod for 35mm cameras. There’s no way I could have successfully done the project without using a tripod. A tripod makes for more steady shots and creative options for self-portraits.
4. Learn to use your camera’s flash, or better yet, an attached flash strobe. I tried taking my self-portraits during the day, using the abundance of light shining through my office window. But I also learned to use flash photography better during this project.
As you will see in 365 Days groups, many members shoot some very creative self-portraits using their camera’s strobe and other lighting equipment. However, don’t let the lack of lighting equipment keep you from using flash photography. If all you have is an on-camera flash, use it to get the extra light you need.
5. If you have a 35mm camera, you might also look into getting wireless remote that triggers the shutter on your camera. I found an affordable one on Ebay for my Canon DSLR and it made doing many self-portraits photos ten times easier.
Tips For Completing The Project
1. Don’t be hard on yourself. 365Days is a self-project for you to learn and have fun with. On many days you will not have the time or ideas to shoot great self-portraits. So have some fall-back ideas, like simply taking a shot of yourself in the mirror when you wake up in the morning. Or do a shot with a family member or significant other. During the project, you might only produce ten really powerful creative self-portraits, but those ten will come out of daily practice and commitment to the project.
2. Get ideas and respond to Mini Challenges from the 365Days group. I would go so far as to recommend copycatting the ideas of other photographers and giving them credit for their photo idea. You will find that Flickr members in the group will be honored by you copycatting one or more of their photos. Check out Chris Maverick’s Mini Challenge for copycat photos.
3. If you have any version of Photoshop or the free photo manipulation program, GIMP, use it to do some creative transformations to your photos. One popular self-portrait technique in this regard is to create a photo of clones of yourself. See this tutorial on how to do it.
4. From day one when you start the project, start connecting with other 365Days group members. Don’t wait for others to comment on your self-portraits. Commit to making almost daily positive comments about the photos of other group members. The more comments you give, the more you will tend to get in kind. Even befriend a few Flickr members who can give you critical comments on your photos if you seek such feedback.
5. Use your Twitter, Facebook or social networking sites outside of Flickr to let others know you’re doing the project. Telling others about your project might compel you to stick with it during the rough times. You might also consider starting a blog about your project, documenting what you learn.
6. Be prepared to take several photos to get the desired results. This is a tip that any professional photographer will tell you. You can’t get great photos by simply taking a single shot of a subject. Often times in shooting my self-portraits, I would take a couple of dozen shots before I got the right one.
7. If you start missing days, change the scope of your project. Maybe you decide to do a weekly self-portrait instead of daily one. Maybe you’ll do it for just 30 days instead of 365 days. Make the project yours. You set the rules.
8. Finally, I would suggest getting a wirelessmemory card if your camera uses an SD card. Setting up and using this card will will automatically transfer your photos to your computer as you shoot them. I used this tool with my Canon Powershot G9 and it saved me lots of time.
Celebrate Your Work
One of the things I looked most forward to was creating a book of my self-portraits. Many other project members do the same thing using online services like Blurb or . Find ways to print and share you photos beyond the Internet and computer screen.
The joy you get when looking back on your project can hardly be described. You’ll have plenty of days when you’ll feel too tired to take a self-portrait, but if you give it an honest effort you will learn and grow as a photographer.
So bookmark this article and post a January 1st reminder on your calendar to get started. After you begin the project, drop me a line and let me know how it’s going. If you have additional questions or ideas about getting started please leave it in the comments section.