If you’re a photographer reading this who never feels that you’re making significant improvement, then read on (or watch the video podcast below).
I need you to set aside some time to read to what I’m writing about today as it’s really important to properly understand that, it’s OK to make mistakes as a photographer.
Not only is it OK… it’s also important that you DO make mistakes as a photographer. I’ll explain why…
As photographers we strive to do everything perfectly. We’re taught that’s the ultimate goal each time we take a significant shot. Everything needs to be considered, judged and as close to perfect as possible for ourselves.
This is still the right kind of aim, I’m not saying improvement as a photographer doesn’t matter anymore. But what I am saying is that getting to that level requires lots of errors and tweaks to our trajectory. And we should expect it and embrace.
My backstory as a photographer began in 2005 just when I was graduating university and figuring out the next step. Looking back on the photographs I was taking then I could cringe given the skills I had.
They were still enough to help me graduate with first degree honours but nearly 17 years on from that point I’m a totally different photographer. But if I could go back in time, I would still take those photos. That’s because they were important for me to learn how not to do photography sometimes.
The same expectations should be applied to yourself. You should be looking back at your early portfolio and seeing how much you’ve learnt. Some photographers will have learnt more than others. That comes down to your training and how much time you have to put in the hobby. More training and more time will help you progress faster.
But you should still expect to make mistakes and be OK with that.
I still make mistakes and it’s good to admit that. Even though I’ve been a professional photographer since 2005 I still take poor photos for a number of reasons.
There are always reasons why we make mistakes as a photographer, but simply recognising that we do have errors and moments of imperfectness will make us better in the long run.
Being human means to be vulnerable. The reasons we rely a lot on autonomous technology and robots these days is because we know its fairly reliable and consistent – something humans are far from.
If humans were perfectly consistent, reliable and faultless we’d never have made robots. Accepting that you have a flaw in your skills doesn’t mean you’ve lost the battle, only that you aren’t maybe ready for the war.
Mistakes, as a photographer, aren’t really mistakes. Think of poor images more like a draft of your final intentions. Since photography is normally a private and individual pursuit, this means you don’t have to share photos with anyone.
You can review what you’ve done and imagine what you actually wanted and therefore how can you bridge the gap between the two.
If you’re not sure how to get your focus spot on every time or get a better exposure when shooting sunsets or how to get the expression you want off a model and it’s really frustrating you, you’ll hopefully want to solve the issue.
Learning how to fix the problem through education is the only real way to improve as a photographer. Whether it’s in a workshop, a mentorship, reading photography books, video tutorials – it’s really the only way to fix a fault.
Trying to fix a problem by taking more and more shots will eventually, probably get you the right results – but will you have learnt how you got there or was it just luck in the end?
By understanding photography through proper training, you’ll achieve 3 things;
But this isn’t to say that even with the training you’ll never make a mistake. It’s part of the learning curve of any job. Making different mistakes as a photographer shows that you’re willing to step back up to the plate and have another go. This is passion, and you need to embrace that.
If you give up at the first hurdle when someone challenges you to use manual mode or bracketing or just to get out of auto then chances are photography may not suit you.
Many photographers won’t share photos they consider poor or bad and if you’re a professional, relying on photography for an income I understand that. But showing humility and honesty online these days is actually an endearing aspect.
Using an Instagram story as a platform to show off your failures will show your followers you’re human and that though you can take amazing photos, you can also have off days. This will make your successes more treasured knowing you’ve gone through a lot of crap to create the good stuff.
I’d love to see more photographers post their failures and make it a normal thing to feel in the industry.
Just seeing wonderful images over and over again online doesn’t really tell you the truth about what it’s like being a photographer. But it does create this false sense, like a celebrity, that everything that person does is golden. It’s a big bunch of BS and needs to be spoken about more openly.
But if you’re just starting out as a photographer, I’ve got 10 truths of photography to leave you with;
1. You’re going to make mistakes in your photography now and in the future.
2. These mistakes will make you a better photographer.
3. It’s fine to have off days and not be in the right mindset sometimes.
4. Not every situation warrants or offers a decent photograph so don’t feel like you owe it to yourself or your camera or the movement to snap it.
5. But do learn why something didn’t work. Assess what you’ve taken and what you wanted it to look like and how to bridge that gap.
6. Look into some photography education. Books, videos, tutorials, workshops or mentoring will all help fix a problem.
7. Miracles won’t happen overnight and the less time you have spare for photography the slower it might take. This doesn’t mean you won’t ever get to a standard that you’re happy with though.
8. Embrace the mistakes, laugh them off and have face-palm moments. Photography can be taken seriously or leisurely, but either way, it’s not life or death. It’s just a hobby for most of us.
9. Even if you’ve been photographing for years you’ll still be making mistakes, basic ones, and it will continue to happen.
10. Don’t believe popular online photographers don’t screw up – they do. We all do, otherwise, we’d be posting amazing photos every day given how many photos we take, but we don’t.
How do you feel after this?
I wanted to assure new and amateur photographers that everything you’re doing right now will get better in the future if they want it to. But also, to not get frustrated with the mistakes that you might be making.
And if you are making mistakes and not sure how to solve them, let me know.
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