Most of what you see and read around photography talks about our successes and showcases only our best work. This isn’t surprising as we prefer to show off the good, not the bad, if are trying to capture another person’s split-second attention before the next shiny purple squirrel comes along. The reality is for those new to photography, and even with the seasoned photographer, mistakes happen where things don’t work out to our liking. These can be everything from what we did or didn’t do in the field, equipment related, compositions gone wrong, processing woes and more.
If you are looking for a blog post filled with beautiful images and thrilling stories you might want to stop now and move to move on. What you will find here are a number of failures or mistakes I have made over the years. I pull back the curtain to share a few photos for illustrative purposes I never thought would see the light of day. Some of these you might laugh at and think I never had that issue or what was he thinking. That’s fine, I have thick skin and most people are not willing to be open about this. Why did I write about this? When is the last time you learned and grew doing something flawlessly from day 1 to year 10? I also believe there is a lot to learn from doing things wrong the first time although I am still having trouble convincing my kids it’s not the end of world when they bomb something. We could sit here and debate topics like the 10,000 hour rule that Malcolm Gladwell popularized in his book Outliers yet certainly agree there are trials and tribulations along the way as we grow and become proficient. Looking at setbacks or failures as a positive to grow from is one approach as John Maxwell does a good job of in his book Failing Forward.
I certainly have had my share of issues to get where I am with photography today and glancing through some of my old work recently I see just how far I have come. There are some noted in my post 45 Things I Have Learned from Photography yet that was a mix of everything. On the flip side reading my post from four years ago on Preventing Image Loss where that bad luck might be enough for some to throw in the towel. Here I am pulling a little from those prior posts yet overall it’s simply talking through some of the stumbling (aka learning) while traveling this meandering and bumpy yet enjoyable road of photography. My hope is it can help others speed past some of them. I don’t look at this as a negative post or saying “why me”. Instead it’s sharing a reality that most of us deal with, or have in the past some level.
These span from my first point and shoot digital camera to taking photos I am happy with still do this day. It was a span of years for me to get up to speed. It certainly could have been faster. I am not sure these are all of them yet they are ones that stood out as I wrote this. A lot of this can be summed up in studying, researching and learning. I could have done more of that early on to save a lot of headaches.
- My First Post – One of my first photos I posted online (circa 2006) was met with some honest criticism, despite how great I felt about this piece at the time. There are a number of things wrong with this image that I cringe looking at now yet it was an important step to start to improve as I look back on it.
- Some things are worth buying cheap yet others aren’t. I bought more than a half dozen cheap camera remotes that failed before I realized the more expensive brand name ones were worth the money. If you are on shoestring budget just go with less is more and buy quality equipment that is crucial that it won’t fail you.
- Try not to cry too much when you lose all the photos from a trip or outing. I know this is a tough pill to swallow. I have several from local hikes to a week in Montana where no photos can be found and I have looked under every rock.
- Wide Angle Lens Woes – I had a co-worker tell me that I needed a wide-angle lens which I did not own and wondered why I needed one. He said his was great and I should get one like his. I did no research and got that one. Turns out after I used it and later noticed blurriness on one side that I probably could not have purchased a worse quality wide angle lens. The last rushed and blind sizable equipment purchase. I have many images with a blurry right side like this one.
- Don’t forget if shooting JPG for the kids sporting event to put it back to RAW before the next photography outing. I always shoot RAW now after failing on this a couple times.
- The wind will move your lens and tripod more than you think. Your telephoto lens acts like sail for that strong wind no matter how secure and will likely result in soft photos. I have lost a number of photos to this.
- I Need to Clean? – I realize technology has made it easier keeping our sensors and lenses cleaner yet it’s something I failed to put into context how much it can ruin a photo. I have a number of photos that aren’t too much different than this. There a few dust spots… and there is this. Once I realized how much shooting towards the light shows every small spec, I was more diligent on cleanliness.
- Don’t waste years using a sub-par under $50 tripod that will ruin many photos. My current setup cost me $1000 and I don’t regret a penny of it. I have many lost photos from my early days because of this. Not to mention having my camera fall over on light cheap tripods.
- Once you find a brand of media cards that are reliable, stick with them. Don’t deviate. I only use one brand now and I am cautious where I buy it from to avoid knock-offs. You only want to be burned once with a fake that you lose images from.
- Using Filters Too Much – I would use filters way too often from colored filters to GND’s at the wrong time. Experimenting is good yet this was beyond that. Early on I didn’t know when to limit the use of a GND for example and used it at the wrong times. This is a mostly overcast day where I used it which only messed up the light on the trees and the sky.
- Set a threshold of the minimum $ you will work for, sell your work or license it and stick to it as much as it makes sense. You will feel better in the end. I have given in more than once where someone wanted to license a photo for less than my minimum where I let it go by only to have it consume more of my time and regret it.
- Taking night photos at high ISO and not remembering to change it back. This is easier to remember now given I have experienced it more than once and that cameras finally changed. My first DSLR was less friendly and required you to check the ISO settings to see what it was.
- Trying to Do Too Much – Beyond trying to be a better photographer I wanted to do it all. Senior sessions, yes! Bouncing children, yes! Family portraits, yes! Weddings, yes! Landscapes, yes! And somehow I thought I could do all of them and try to sell my services and work effectively for all. I was spread to thin so the quality of my work nor business were growing. I started to improve once I abandoned the jack of all trades approach. This is a snap of some web links from my website over ten years ago as I was getting started. Just a little different today!
Location: Portland, OR
Adrian Klein has a passion for the outdoors and landscape photography that is endless. He has traveled the parks, shorelines and wilderness capturing images that represent each area through his own artistic eye from the curbs to the far off trails.