Failure is an option

You might be wondering why I’m writing this. I know it sounds a little crazy, but the reality is that all of us are going to fail at times when trying to create compelling images. It’s just the way it is. It’s also one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn. I’ve had too many days where I came home with absolutely nothing good and then I’d get discouraged. It’s only after reading what many professional photographers have said that I realized, and accepted, that sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned them.

Sometimes you fail due to reasons beyond your control such as bad light for a sunset. All you can do then is to try again. Other times it might be that you simply chose a bad composition or incorrect camera settings. I think the best reason to fail is when you’re trying something new.

The Pros will tell you that they’ve made lots of mistakes and had lots of failures. The key is to learn from your failures and put your new found knowledge to work next time and hopefully make better images. Of course one thing that separates the Pros from the rest of us is that I’m sure their rate of success is much greater than ours.

I’ve come to the realization that if I come home with one really good image after a day of shooting, then that has been a successful day. On the other had, if I come home with nothing but crap, I no longer get discouraged, but instead try to figure out what went wrong and use what I’ve learned from that the next time I go out shooting.

Here’s an example of mine that I’d like to share.   I think this image failed for several reasons. First the sunset was a bust but that’s something I dealt with by going out again. The stormy clouds could’ve been a good thing if I had made them more prominent in the image. That’s another failure, in a lost opportunity. But more importantly it’s boring. As I see it, the big issue is the foreground which has no compelling subject. It’s just too cluttered with no clear subject. Boring.


I do like the water and near tree line which I consider to be the middle ground. I think if I had shot it like this with even more sky it would’ve look pretty good. The water was a bit busy with the rocks so I removed most of them. I think the water now works better as a foreground element, the near tree line as the middle ground and far tree line and clouds as the background. It’s not great, but it’s certainly a lot better. Unfortunately it’s now pretty heavily cropped at about 1/3rd of the original image so I don’t think it would print too well other than for small prints.


Taking what I learned from the previous image, I was able to create this one, which is one of my favorites. Obviously the sunset was much better, but I made a much stronger composition with the rocks in the foreground which besides being a nice foreground element, they also act as leading lines to draw your eye to the sunset.

Rattlesnake Lake Jan 2014-43-6

So don’t be afraid to fail, especially if you’re trying something new. Just make sure you learn something from it that you can use the next time.

I encourage you to share some of the things you’ve learned and how you were able to improve your images from one of your failures.


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