What if Your Photos Suck?

In this YouTube video, Brendan Van Son discusses with us the feelings and thoughts of what happens when you are working on assignment and your photos suck.

Van Son is a talented travel photographer who creates amazing imagery, but even he sometimes fails to deliver when he shoots on location.

In the first part of the video, Van Son shows us around Wales and some of the amazing landscapes he is hoping to shoot, but as he arrives at each location, the weather keeps fighting against him. At one point, he is ready to shoot a lighthouse about 10 meters in front of him, when fog rolls in and completely ruins the shot.

The second part of the video then leads to the discussion of below-par shots. Van Son admits he made mistakes, not changing up where and what he was shooting due to the weather. Following on, he then helps us to understand that most clients will understand problems due to weather conditions, but if your images are bad with no kind of valid excuse, then the client will move on to another photographer. Van Son then goes on to explain why building a strong relationship with your client is essential for these times.

Videos like this are always great for people who are looking to understand the business side of travel photography and for other photographers, in general, to learn not every shoot will be perfect. You can not be great all of the time when the weather is involved.

Clinton Lofthouse's picture

Clinton Lofthouse is an Advertising/Entertainment photographer, creative artworker and Photoshop expert from the U.K. Specializing in composite and photomanipulation imagery.
When he is not chained to his desktop PC editing, Clinton likes to put on Synthwave music, wear Aviator sunglasses and pretend to be in an 80s movie.

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Do your photos make you happy? It's a matter of perception.

Unfortunately, for many of us, including the author, it is not about our photos making us happy. Other people are paying us to take the photos for them - what matters is whether or not these paying clients are happy with our photos. Shooting for one's own happiness ... if only life were so easy!

What if your just normal enthusiast photographer with stupid expensive equipment. Your photos always suck. Especially when Sheila with her iPhone X's max seems to get the shot and it's on insta and everybody is buzzing about it because you are 5 hours from a computer powerful enough to process the photo... And feel like your photography sucks...

Or you compare yourself to anybody who holds a camera for 2-5 hours (like Brendan here) you'll always feel like your photography sucks. ..

Your a busy parent and you hold the camera for 5 seconds before you need to tend to a child or put the camera down again because the ice cream fell off the cone and you feel like your photography sucks because you didn't get a photo.

You need to stop worrying. You need to value your images. And need to bite the bullet that capturing is a completely separate process to polishing or finishing the photo to it's final point.

Sheila with her iPhone X max is a tiny down sampled compressed image that only looks good on mobile phone screens, The moment she tries to do anything else the photo is a complete mess.
Why compete with insta peeps shooting with mobile phones ? They are shooting for a compltelty different reason. You are using stupid expensive gear to get a photo you can blow up to 1m x 1m and be proud of it.
Once Brendan gets that photo onto LR or similar you can do so many things to it.

Not to be a dick but it's the same resolution as the original 5D. That didn't hold people back... I hope.

The reason to compete with insta peeps is recognition from your peers. That grinding of your teeth when you've got gear wrapped around your neck and people are telling you "did you see that photo..." And "she only has her phone, I'm sure your pictures are better" in a condescending tone. I despise drone photography beyond words. I know it has its place for sure.

I love printing. My pro-1000 is the best purchase last year should of got something similar years ago. And maybe if more people printed even 10x8 they would want more

Mannnn, this just hit a note with me. I've been struggling recently with this exact thing. I've spent a lot of time and even more money getting the "right gear" over the years and still feeling 'blah' about my photos. It's become much worse recently, to the point where I'm seriously contemplating selling all of it and not doing it any more. It seems like the more I watch videos about how to shoot, what to shoot, and what gear to use, the more I become overwhelmed thinking that I'm not near as good. I think what you said about Sheila on Insta is what's driving this, at least for me. It bothers me--irrationally, I'll admit--that to get exposure on Instagram, you have to play the game right, and Sheila can get more exposure from some over-processed snapshot (I understand this just sounds like bitterness/hate, but it's more just disappointment in my own photos). Basically, the point I'm driving at is that I think the inundation of "epic shots" and the desire to strive for fake internet points has worn me down. It's made me think that every photo I create is crap, and has made me not want to bring my camera anywhere.

Having your photos suck because of uncontrollable events such as the weather is a totally different feeling from having your photos suck because you suck as a photographer. I wish I got to blame the fog for rolling in... -_-;;

As a wildlife photographer, my challenges are different than those of a landscape photographer. But there are many crucial factors that are out of my control, just like the weather is out of your control, and so I can relate very well to what you are saying.

This past autumn I went on my annual Whitetail and Mule Deer photo trip - a full month in the woods and meadows, pursuing trophy caliber bucks with my camera, from sunrise to sunset, every day, for 31 consecutive days. Unbelievably, by day 17 I still did not have a single image that I would consider "great". This had never happened before in all my years of serious deer photography. I was perplexed and, admittedly, frustrated.

I kept analyzing my methods and playing re-runs in my minds eye of all the times I saw huge bucks but didn't capture a great image. I kept going back and trying to think of what I could have done differently. But I honestly couldn't think of anything I could have done better on any of those occasions when I encountered a big buck. Either the deer were uncooperative, and would not tolerate my presence at the necessary distance ... or they were in areas of the woods where the vegetation was unattractive, and instead of making their way out into more open, attractive habitat, they went the other way into even thicker brush where no quality photos can be had.

I realized that my only hope was to stick it out and keep doing what I had been doing - "working it" diligently from sunrise to sunset every day, without any breaks or wasted time. Persistence would be my only hope. Good thing I had 31 days, for if I had only given myself two weeks for this trip, it would have been an abject failure.

Eventually, a couple of the most desirable bucks became more cooperative, and permitted me some opportunities for the type of quality images I had been seeking.

For two and a half weeks, my photos sucked. But then ... they didn't.

And that is the real lesson to learn - that no nature photographer will be able to produce truly great images every time they head out the door or go on a paid assignment. But that any good nature photographer will eventually have the opportunity to create truly great images, if they are persistent and stick to it as long as it takes.