Photo-a-day projects have become a popular way for photographers to hone their skills, while preserving family memories at the same time. And turning those projects into videos gives you a simple, touching way to share those memories with loved ones.

We spoke with two photographers who have done incredible jobs documenting their lives and the lives of their children in images, and then created beautiful videos to publish their projects. South Texas photographer Mae Burke photographed her family every day for an entire year (minus a few missed days), and New York and Australia-based photographer Gray Tham photographed her family during the month of January . . . for seven years. Here’s what they learned putting together their photo-a-day projects.

The 365-day project

Mae Burke is a CMPro at Clickin Moms, where photo-a-day projects are very popular. She used her own 365-day project to get more comfortable in different lighting situations, in addition to capturing a year in the life of her family. Yet Mae didn’t want to post all her images online at once. “While I was creating my breakout “Moments In Motherhood: Telling Mothers’ Stories Through Portraits,” I wanted to share the importance of this project, and give my students some inspiration. I had just seen Sue Bryce at Click Away and loved the way she uses Animoto, so I tried it out for myself.”


Slideshow Video Style: Documentary
Song: “Again” by Secrets in Stereo

She loved the result, and so did her family — her video impressed her husband so much he told her, “Do this every year.”

The 7-year project

Family photographer Gray Tham began her first photo-a-day project in 2010 while living in Melbourne, Australia, by photographing her family throughout the month of January. She shared, “In Australia, January is the one month of the year where things kind of slow down; most people are on vacation or at home with their children. It’s summer and school’s out. So it is a perfect time of year to document our own family’s life.” Gray has kept up the project every January since, photographing a new baby in 2011, the transition to a new home when the family packed up in 2013 to move to the United States, and up through January 2016, when her youngest child started school.

Gray shared, “I find photo-a-day projects to be a great way to appreciate the simple and special things in life. The very action of taking the time to capture daily life forced me to slow down and reflect on what is important to me or simply makes me smile.”


Slideshow Video Style: Documentary
Songs: “Golden Days” by the Memory Stones and “Smile” by Keegan Smith

In Gray’s video, you can see the slow changes in her whole family. Gray told us, “I showed it to my sisters and we all cried watching not only the kids age, but also our parents. It is amazing how powerful a slideshow of images can be!” Her children love the video, too, and will watch it again and again — her youngest even asks, “Can I see me in your tummy again?”

How to create your own project

Here are some of Gray’s tips for creating a meaningful photo-a-day video:

  • Set a timeframe. Decide how long you’ll keep up the project — a week, a month, a year — and how often you’ll take photographs. You could easily make it a weekly project if your schedule makes an everyday photo session undoable.
     
  • ACC (Always Carry a Camera). “And if you don’t have your camera, use your phone. Life happens when we are busy doing something else, so don’t forget your image-taking device.”
    Gray Tham
  • Don’t fall behind. “If you miss a day, don’t worry about catching up, I am sure you will have plenty of memories to make a fabulous story. Remember, taking the photo is the easy part — it is the post-processing that takes the time.” Make sure if you’re editing your images, you do so regularly. If you’re creating a physical photo album, set up the design early and add in your images every day or two, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Likewise, you can set up an Animoto video early and add images every few days to save yourself upload time later.
     
  • Use the opportunity to learn. Photo-a-day projects give you a chance to experiment with your camera or improve your technique. “It can be a simple goal – but setting a goal often makes your project that bit more fun. And you will be amazed at how much you improve at the end of the month.”
    Gray Tham
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you wait for the perfect shot, you may end up losing your family’s support for the project or miss out on beautiful, authentic moments. As Gray put it, “This project is about capturing your life as it is.” So even if the family isn’t all smiles, take a quick photo anyway.
     
  • Experiment with video. You can also practice your video editing skills to produce a video slideshow like the ones featured above. Adjustments in your tempo and style can give your video album an engaging look that draws viewers in.
     
  • Have fun. “This project can be so much fun. If it becomes anything else – find out why it’s not fun and change it. Or save it for another time.”
    Gray Tham

Gray’s also written an ebook to help you get started on your photo-a-day project, which is available on her blog. Or if you’ve already started a project of your own, share your progress with us by linking to it in the comments below.

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