You guys are all aware that I’m attempting three photography-related projects this year. Well, less than two full months into the project, I’m already cheating on one of them (my 52 photowalks). I started to feel guilty about this for about 2 second before I fully rationalized my decisions and decided, ya know what? It’s ok to cheat on our photography projects sometimes. I know the arbitrary rules of “a photo a day” or “a photowalk a week” are reasons why some people don’t do these projects at all (and if you’re dedicated and motivated enough to go out and use your camera creatively without a project – I salute you… I’m not one of those self-motivated people), but for those of you that are doing a project like mine, and have perhaps missed a 365 photo, or couldn’t make it on one of your 52 photowalks, I present you with my reason as to why it’s ok to cheat on your personal photography projects.
Meeting the Goals of Your Projects
When I did my 366 project (it was a leap year), I used to jump out of bed at 11:45 PM (scaring John who was sleeping next to me, of course), and start muttering something about not taking a photo, and end up with a lousy camera-on-auto, badly-lit, arms-length self portrait. Yes, I met the goal of taking my photo during that 24 hour period – but was that really the goal of my project? I started that project for three reasons:
- To document a year of my life
- To learn how to use my camera
- To take more creative photos
The same thing applies for whatever rule you broke, of course. Perhaps you’re doing a self-portrait 365 and forgot to take a photo of yourself on some day, but did take a really great photo without you in it. So? If your goals were similar to the ones I listed above, doesn’t that fantastic photo still apply?
Avoiding Risk to Yourself or Your Camera
This is a big one for me during this time of year when it’s snowing a lot. I’m actually terrified of snow when it comes to my camera. I’ve read all the articles online about how to protect your camera and lenses, but I still think the best way to protect your camera from snow is to not go outside when it’s snowing. Since I have to go outside for my photowalks, and I work during most of the daylight hours of the week, that really narrows down the amount of time I can find outside when it’s not snowing. I’d rather skip a week in my photowalk project than damage my camera or lens.
I’m also not going to risk my own health (do you like how I wrote about the dangers of risking my camera before risking myself? Does that say something about me?). I’ve been fortunate enough that this has never really been an issue for me, but there was one year (before I got into photography) that I was hospitalized for almost a week, and then essentially bed-ridden for the following week. I wouldn’t have had many options then if I were in the middle of some projects. I don’t think anyone would look down on me for putting my camera down for a week or two then.
Related, of course, is the health of your family. Once again, I think this is an obvious one, but if you have a loved one that is suffering, I’m not sure it’s really appropriate to say “hold on, honey, I see you’re in pain and all, but I really gotta go take some photos – be back in an hour or two!”
Level of Cheating
This is something that’s a personal choice for you, and is all going to depend on what the project means to you. For instance, last year was my first year doing 52 photowalks, and I would have been pretty devastated if I had missed a week completely (and I never did, actually). But as the only rules I ever gave myself were “leave the house once a week and take photos”, I suppose I was a bit flexible in my definition of a photowalk on some weeks. For instance:
- The photo at the top of this entry? That was on one of my “photowalks” that was actually a bike ride I went on and stopped to take some photos at one point. This was probably the least “cheatingish” thing I did, but I still felt a little bit of guilt about it.
- I spent Easter at my sister’s house, and took a lot of photos around her house (and of her kids). It was not a walk at all, and something I would have done project or not, but… I did leave my house, so I figured it counted.
Another example – When I did my 366 self-portrait project, I insisted that I actually take every photo with my finger hitting the button, whereas I know other people are perfectly ok with allowing someone else to take the photo, as long as they themselves set up the entire shot. Like I said, it’s a matter of personal preference.
You have to draw the line somewhere, of course
Just because I’m justifying doing some cheating here and there on your project, don’t let it become a habit! If I had cheated on my 366 project and took 7 photos every Saturday instead of one every day, that’s no longer really documenting my daily life, is it? And I’m sure they wouldn’t be as creative, because I’d be rushing to get each of the 7 photos done in a day.
Besides, another main reason I do these projects is to be able to look back and think “look what I did, I really accomplished something”. If you cheat too much, you’ll lose that sense of pride.
Why I Cheated
In case you’re curious, since I mentioned above that I already cheated in my 52 photowalks, I thought I’d tell you what I’ve done. I consider my “weeks” to be Thursday-Wednesday. Today is Wednesday, and for various reasons (mostly travel and snow-related) I haven’t had a chance to go out and do a photowalk. Why am I not sweating it?
- My goal was to continue to enjoy my photowalks that I had already been going on, learn more about my camera, and take less nature (and more urban) photos. If I go on two walks this upcoming week, is that hurting any of my goals? No.
- The main reason I wasn’t able to go out this week is because I wasn’t home often when there was light out AND no snow. I don’t like taking my camera out when it’s snowing, and I’m not going to risk that just to get a photo before the end of the week
- As far as my level of cheating? Last year, I’m not sure I would have let this slide. But because I’ve already finished one year of 52 photowalks, I’m a bit more relaxed about my “rules” this year. I’ll make up somehow, and if I don’t? Meh. then I’ll have done 51 photowalks in a year, and that ain’t bad, either.
So, if you’ve cheated on any of your projects and still kept going, I give you a pat on the back. Virtually, at least.
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