I am just going to get straight to the point here: it’s okay to make bad photos. Remind yourself of this from time to time. You can state it however you like — bad photos, flawed photos, imperfect photos. What matters more than the phrasing is the idea that every photo you make isn’t going to be good, nor should you expect it to be.
In fact, making bad photos can be a good thing. Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t feel so bad next time you’re unhappy with a shot you took.
At Least You Tried
You know that saying about how we regret the things we don’t do much more than the things we do? I think that applies to photography as much as to anything else in life.
Take street photography, for example. After putting your fear on the back burner and working up the courage to get close to people, you finally see a moment that has “capture me” written all over it. You move in close, take the shot and walk away feeling euphoric. Until you see the shot you took.
Whether your photo was out of focus, underexposed or not composed how you saw it in your head, the fact that you didn’t nail the shot is disappointing. But you’ve proven to yourself that you can get close to people with your 28mm lens and you have an eye for magical moments.
That’s half the battle already — you’ll get the technical stuff right next time.
So don’t worry so much about the flawed photo; give yourself credit for overcoming your fear and making the effort. Now go try again.
To Break The Rut
If you’ve ever been stuck in a creative rut you know how frustrating that can be. There are all sorts of tips you can try, games you can play, projects you can take on, but my favorite remedy is to just shoot. Period. This kind of unfocused, random shooting will yield some pretty bad or uninspiring results, but that’s the point.
Sometimes when you find yourself in a rut it’s precisely because you’ve been doing a lot of highly focused, tightly produced work for an extended time. And then you hit a brick wall. You can’t hold yourself to such a lofty standard 100% of the time. You need a break from the madness.
Give your mind room to wander. Just shoot whatever you see, whatever sparks your interest. Before you know it, one of those not-so-good photos you made along the way will become the impetus for a string of shots that you’re quite pleased with.
We’re Talking About Practice
Ex-NBA star Allen Iverson didn’t care much for practice but, as a photographer, you should. I’m not suggesting you need to have a formalized routine in place, but anytime you have downtime is a good time to polish your technique.
Panning shots, handholding a telephoto lens at slow(ish) shutter speeds, metering backlit scenes to create silhouettes.
Never allow yourself to become complacent about skills. There’s always something you could be better at, some technique that could use some refinement. This is what practice is for.
And when you’re practising, you don’t really need to care about creating good shots. Make as many bad shots as it takes to improve your technique, then use your improved technique to start making good shots. Simple!
To Teach And To Learn
If you ever find yourself needing to illustrate a point about how not to do something in photography, it’s far more effective to purposely make a bad photo that shows your point rather than trying to explain it verbally.
But if you’re like most other photographers, you probably won’t need to intentionally take a bad shot because you’ve got one that fits the bill in your archive. I know bad shots can be embarrassing, but keeping them around can be useful.
While much of what people learn about photography is derived from how-to articles and tutorials that are designed to instruct readers in the proper way to achieve something, the how-not-to method of learning from one’s flawed photo can be just as instructive. So don’t be too eager with that delete key.
Please don’t misconstrue what I’m offering here as license to be a bad photographer. I’m quite sure no one wants to be bad at photography. I am simply pointing out that no one gets it right all the time. Everyone among is going to drop the ball occasionally.
You need to be able to laugh at yourself and use the terrible photos you make as inspiration to do better the next time around.