Start at the very beginning of the person’s day. Be there to record how he or she greets the morning. Granted, this may be difficult to arrange and your subject may not like the idea, but think about how this moment immediately says something about your subject. Does he or she awaken full of energy and looking forward to the day or must your subject drag himself or herself from bed?
Whether your subject is an adult with a daily job, a farmer with a farm to manage or a child who attends school, the next interesting moment in your story is the commute to work or school. Now, this shouldn’t automatically imply a freeway full of cars, a jammed subway or a noisy school bus, although there are many opportunities to capture interesting images in those places with your subject. A farmer walking to his barn or leading the cows into the pasture is also “commuting to work.”
Photograph your subject just as he or she first starts to work. Does he or she sit at a desk and goes through a little ritual every morning? Is he or she always the first one at work? What is the farmer or miner or policeman’s first task of the day?
If your subject does his or her job as part of a group or team of people, then photograph your subject’s interaction with co-workers or customers. The full-time mom probably interacts with some of the same people every day, as she shops and transports her children to their various activities.
Photographing your subject during the lunch break can yield great images. Often, it is the place he or she eats lunch or takes a midday break that is interesting: at a desk, behind the machine shop with the boys, with the boss, in the park, on a lonely logging road, etc.
Recording the commute home will have some similarities to the morning commute. The places and route home may be the same, but your subject may react quite differently to the end of day.
Does your subject have regular hobbies or exercise sessions every day? Try to capture some images of his or her interests, as a balance to the job.
Try to catch your subject in the midst of daily responsibilities or chores. Reviewing homework with his or her kids? Repairing tools and equipment? Vacuuming the carpets?
If your subject plans to spend some time during the project day with friends, then do your best to arrange to capture some of those moments too. Your subject will be happy he or she has pictures with friends and it’s another type of interaction that will elicit some marvelous images to tell a complete story of the entire day.
For what may be the ultimate day-in-the-life photography experience, choose a subject in another country, from another culture. If you will be traveling internationally and planning to spend much of your time photographing your trip, then keep this idea in mind. It would be a true visual treasure to bring home such a collection of images.
You’ve heard it before…or you should have: digital photographers begin to show improvement in their skills and results when they are able to tell a story with their images. If you still struggle with this concept or want an interesting process to tell a common story in a different way, then assign yourself a day-in-the-life photography project. You simply spend most of an entire day with one person and document his or her day in pictures. Not only will you be challenged to capture the right moments to tell your subject’s story, but also you’ll find yourself in a variety of shooting environments. It’s an opportunity to exercise your skills and to learn how to react spontaneously. For your subject, such a project is an alternative to a formal portrait. You’ll be able to provide your subject with an album of photos that reveal more of his or her personality, moods and lifestyle than a stiff pose.
To photograph one person throughout his or her entire day will require some careful scheduling and various arrangements, even if he or she is a spouse. Who you ask to be your subject will dictate exactly how you organize your shoot. It will be easier to choose someone you know, but if you’re bold, you’ll ask a total stranger. Even someone totally outside your comfort range: farmer, landscape worker, logger, someone unemployed, etc.
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