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Why Making Mistakes is Good for your Photography

Why Making Mistakes is Good for your Photography

A Guest Contribution by Draycat

It is said the longest journey starts with a single step. The unfortunate part of life is that sometimes that step will cause you to fall, or you may even find you are walking in the wrong direction. But such things are normal and natural in life, and these are often the experiences that we learn the most from. A baby will fall down many times as he/she learns to walk. The falling down is part of the process of learning to walk, and without it the baby will never learn.

It is the same for photography, from the first day you pick up a camera you will make mistakes.

  • You may spend a day shooting only to realise that your camera was on the wrong setting and instead of shooting full size RAW you’ve been shooting the smallest size jpg
  • you may leave the house with all your equipment prepared only to take the first shot and realise that you forgot to put a memory card in the camera (and find the nearest place to buy one is miles away)
  • you may take lots and lots of pictures which look good in the camera’s LCD, only to find they are all soft when you see them on your computer screen – you didn’t realise at the time because you didn’t zoom in and check on the camera’s LCD.

These are just a few of the mistakes that I have made since I’ve been shooting, and after each one I generally felt foolish and sometimes demoralised. I felt like my photographic journey had taken me no where while everyone else flew past me with their great camera skills.

But if you speak to any of the great photographers in world, present or past, they will smile and tell you that they made exactly the same mistakes, and many more besides.

They will tell you that they often learned more from their mistakes than from their successes. Often when we make mistakes we are too hard on ourselves, and beat ourselves up about how stupid we were, or how foolish we feel. This photographer or that photographer would never do such a thing, but the fact is that we all do.

The truth is that it isn’t about the mistakes you make, but rather about how you deal with those mistakes.

If you look at them and work out how they happened, what you did wrong, or what you forgot to do then it becomes a learning experience – something that will ultimately help you to be a better photographer. In a shoot I once wanted a little motion blur in a dance section.

I shot at 1/15 of a second, and on my small LCD camera screen the images looked ok. When I got home and put them on my main monitor, they were all a little too blurred. The next time I shot in a similar situation I set my camera to 1/25 of a second and made sure I got what I wanted by zooming in on the LCD on the camera, and I got exactly what I wanted. It was a learning curve and now in that situation I know exactly what to do or rather what not to do.

On the other hand, if you make a mistake and beat yourself up about it constantly it becomes something negative. It will create fear and actually stop you from moving forward. When you encounter a similar situation instead of going in there with a good idea of what not to do, you will instead do everything possible to avoid the situation altogether. Can you imagine a baby thinking ‘this walking stuff is just too difficult and falling down is painful. Who needs walking anyway, crawling is perfectly good enough. I’ll just stick to this crawling stuff in future.’

Being a good photographer is as much about learning what not to do as it is learning what to do.

Without making mistakes we could never become well rounded photographers, so the next time you make one when you shoot and you feel frustrated, walk around for a while and think about learning to walk. Then, get up, work out what you did wrong and then go and try it again.

Draycat is British photographer, teacher and writer currently based in Tokyo, Japan. See more from him at his Website on Twitter on Facebook and on Youtube.

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