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Daily Self Portrait Projects

On a recent episode of OTP Bill and Jeffery talked about Karl Baden who is known for shooting a daily photo of himself for thirty years. This is insane to most people, but I’ve actually done this myself for the last seven, and I thought it might be interesting to help people do this themselves.

I started my Everyday self portrait “project” in April of 2011, coincidentally when an app called Everyday (don’t buy it yet though, keep on reading) was released.

Make It A Routine

The most important part is to integrate this into your routine. Just like anything if you don’t get in the habit of doing it, it won’t become… well… a habit.

My routine is I get to work, make myself a tea, and while it’s steeping go into one of the meeting rooms, turn off the overhead lights, stand in front of the window (got to get that nice natural light), take the photo, and then go back and finish making my tea. Just like checking email when I get to the office it’s now just what happens. Sometimes I forget if things get busy, but for the most part I’ve taken a photo a day for 99% of the days out of the last 2,468.

Apps

While Karl Baden did his project with a real camera, I prefer to use the one that’s with me most often, in this case, my iPhone.

Everyday (iPhone)

Everyday App Main Screen

When I first became interested in this the app I used was Everyday. This was in the days of the iPhone 3G so, while the front facing camera wasn’t great, it worked well enough. At the time, the Everyday app worked very well, and was easy to use. It has gridlines that you can use to line your face up with a line for your eyes, mouth, and a centre line to make sure you don’t drift to one side or the other.

Grid Lines Help Line you up

For $3.99 and getting close to 7 years of use out of it, that’s a pretty good deal!

Unfortunately the app is abandonware now. The last tweet from @everydayapp was close to 1,000 days ago (mid-2015) and the last software update was in May of 2015. This does still run perfectly well on an iPhone X with the latest software update, but it’s very conceivable that a future iOS update will render it unusable, and I doubt that it’ll be updated again.

Everyday App Options Screen

Options Screen

Because of this I won’t get too far into the options, but a few quick points:

  • Paid app at $3.99 (Canadian)
  • Daily reminder notification
  • All photos are contained inside the app
  • Ability to sync all photos to your camera roll
  • Able to create a movie from the images at a variety of speeds and export it to the camera roll

Close-Up

The second app I use is Close-up, which does a lot of the same things, with a few differences. The big difference is that it is maintained, and, as of January 2018 the last update was only a few days ago, and the developer is responsive on twitter and is rolling out bug fixes and adding new features.

The app is very different looking than Everyday. I feel like it doesn’t feel as much like an iOS app as Everyday with it’s black and white interface (even though Everyday hasn’t been updated to the latest design conventions). There’s nothing wrong with that of course, it’s just personal preference.

The Photo interface of Close-up

Here’s a hit-list of the main features of Close-up:

  • Free app
  • Photos can use Dropbox for file storage
  • Daily reminder notifications
  • You can create a video or gif from your photos (one time in app purchase)
  • Various image options for saving high or low resolution, using the new HEIC, and converting existing images to the new HEIC format
  • Downside: No grid lines 🙁 Update – the latest version of the app has added grid lines.
Close up app options screen

Options Screen

What I Do

If I were to choose an app to start with, the obvious answer is Close-up. Currently though I use both.

Why both Alan? That makes you sound like a crazy person!

Mostly because I’m stubborn, and started with Everyday so I’m keeping on using it, but now that Close-up is here I wanted to use that. When I moved over to Close-up about six months ago it took a fair amount of work to get the photos out of Everyday (exporting them to the camera roll, saving them to my computer) and then converting them to let Close-up read them (modifying their filename to match up the naming convention that Close-up uses, which is based on a UNIX timestamp as the filename). But that’s a blog post for another time 🙂

The only downside I’ve personally found from Close-up is the lack of grid lines. I’ve asked the developer about this and it doesn’t seem like that’s something he wants to do. The way that Close-up helps you align your face is to overlay the last photo you took semi-opaquely to let you match up your face. The potential for downside I see here is “drift” in some way, whereas with Everyday’s grid lines you always have a way to re-center yourself.

The latest version of Close Up has a grid lines option added, making this point moot.

Other Notes

I really like that Close-up uses Dropbox to sync photos. Because of the challenges with getting photos out of Everyday, having a way to get photos in or out or modify them without having to “in” the app is great.

I also like the payment model. You can do everything but export the movies without paying for the app. Which you should of course!

How To Get Started

The most important thing to do is to forget about the end goal. It sucks at first because you want that cool photo of your hair and face changing over the years, but in the first few days or even months there’s almost nothing to look at. Just forget about that end video and just keep taking photos. Suddenly it’ll be a year (or seven) later and you’ll have something really cool to share.

Here’s a few seconds from the middle of my Everyday video showing my amazing beard appearing and disappearing over two years.

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