Your photos suck.
Okay, maybe not all of them. But it’s a simple truth that no matter how good a photographer you are, you’re bound to make mistakes and create images that are just plain bad. If you don’t, then you’re not trying hard enough. You’re not experimenting enough. You’re not pushing yourself creatively.
The sooner you come to terms with this fact, the sooner you’ll start improving as a photographer.
You’re not alone on this. My photos suck too. I make mistakes every time I pick up my camera. Even though I’ve been photographing for over 20 years, I still screw up my exposures, forget to change the ISO, blow the focus, reach for the wrong lens and any number of other things that lead to really bad photos.
But that’s why they invented editing. I actually miss the days when I physically threw slides away. It was like therapy. Sometimes after a big photo shoot, I’d end up with a huge pile of slides on the floor before they made it into the trash can. And remember how much fun it was to try and flip them across the room in the bin?
Now we have the delete key, and even though it’s better for the environment, it serves the same purpose, which is to remind us that no matter who we are or how many years of experience we have, we still make mistakes.
Anyone who has heard Joe McNally speak knows that he openly and very candidly admits that any good photographer, him included, will shoot 1,000 photos before they get a great one. Watching his workshops, you’ll see him make all kinds of mistakes, but does that mean that he’s a bad photographer? Not at all. In fact, he’s one of the best and he’s still learning and pushing himself to grow creatively.
By contrast, I read a great post the other day by emerging photographer Anne McKinnell called “Creating photos that suck.” (Okay, I’ll admit it was also the motivating factor for me to write this post.) In it, she details the mistakes she made during a particular photo shoot and explores her own learning process with photography. It’s quite insightful and echoes many of the same types of thoughts that most of us probably have with our own image making journey.
Aside from experience level, Anne is no different than Joe. Both of them strive to push their limits with their imagery, and both of them try new methods and techniques that don’t always work. And when that happens, they brush off the dust, learn, adapt, come back to the table with a new set of skills and mindset and eventually make better photographs.
Isn’t that how we all do it?
Senior contributor Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.
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