Dear Photographer, Some of Your Photos Suck and That’s Okay

Dear Photographer, Some of Your Photos Suck and That’s Okay

There are some simple yet crucial things that a photographer must learn about the craft that may be seemingly useless at first but helps one move forward much faster.

(Some Of) Your Photos Suck

If you take this in the most objective way, you’d realized that this is simply a statement of reality. Nothing personal, really. Every photographer, even the greats, surely have taken a significant number of crappy photographs and that do not in any way smear their reputation.

Nothing related about the topic except the fact that I'm sharing some of my worst photos here for a change

One way or another, you’re bound to realize that to be able to achieve any success in photography, you’re going to have to learn to curate your own work. Curation in the fine art world refers to the tedious process of selecting and rejecting artworks for exhibitions in galleries and museums. In recent years, many photographers, content creators, bloggers, and social media influencers have applied the same principle into posting content on their social media accounts. The governing principle behind this is simply that you should be selecting your best work to be shown to the world and consequently hiding your worst.

On the aspect of social media, this is amplified by the fact that the algorithms of the popular platforms prefer quality of content over quantity. This means that the platform would boost the visibility of your work/posts when you post a few highly engaging posts rather than posting hundreds of photos regardless whether all of them are good. The reality is that probably 90% of all the photos you take should be kept in the closet to give way for the ones that represent you better as a visual artist.

The Cure to Your Existential Crisis

Most artists and creatives go through endless cycles of triumph and self-doubt towards their work. Even before the advent of social media and the endless feed-envy that comes with it, artists have always undergone bouts against self-doubt. The reality that some of your photos are inevitably crappy should actually give you comfort. You have to understand that aside from curating your own work, you’re bound to take some photos that act as stepping-stones or practice shoots. They may not directly sell and earn you a ton of money but these shots and shooting experiences give you the knowledge on when to apply a certain technique or rendering. In turn, this experience teaches you and prepares you for the moment of that impending artistic breakthrough.

Some of Your Photos Just Need to Wait

While there are photos that are just irreversibly crappy and have no actual value to you as the artist, there are also photos that might need for you to develop a certain style and learn the specific workflow for you to be able to improve or render them more effectively. It’s not uncommon for a new photographer to always think that they feel the need to shoot everything and ultimately generate a massive number of photos. Though it is often true that being trigger happy can lead to less quality photos, there are instances wherein the photos you take just need to wait for you to mature as a photographer in terms of post processing. As anti-purist as it may sound, many photos just need a more experienced editor to bring out what’s best in it.

Sometimes the process goes way beyond what you expect.

Some of your photos are crap. That is true for most and a photographer should embrace that reality because it helps them live with themselves better. It also keeps your feet on the ground when you know that you have areas for improvement which gives you a better opportunity to learn. Remember that it is better to show a bad photograph and have it critiqued for the sake of your improvement than to boast about your photos thinking that it’s perfect when it is actually a load of manure.

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10 Comments

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

1% counts a some. 99% can still count as some. up to you. :p

chris bryant's picture

In my case it could be all, but I would like to go with 99%.

What's that old saying: "One mans junk, is another mans treasure" I just roll with the punches and it really doesn't matter what anyone thinks about my images as long as I like them and my wife likes them. Besides, it would seem "others" like them cause I've been invited back to this years exhibition to benefit the childrens center.

Michael Dougherty's picture

As a landscape photographer, the problem is that even if you have gotten lucky and taken a great image, lots of other photographers have also taken it, maybe even better. Depressing.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

The location may be the same but how you capture it and the weather condition can vary

Michael L. McCray's picture

When I decide to switch major after a motorcycle accident while attending Southern Utah State College (University now) from biology to photography on a prayer. The best school happened to be Kent State University which was near where I was from, the Cleveland area. It was a controlled major which required the approval of the instructor of the intro course in black & white photography to proceed. I got my camera just before the first day of class. When I submitted my 10 prints for review the instructor Charles Brill looked at them and said three were alright but the rest sucked and I needed to find something else to do for a living. He was absolutely right and I appreciate his honesty to this day. I brought an enlarger and worked at for a year until with an increasing number of ok prints. He said I would make it on persistence alone. However, an honest assessment of your work is important to grow and I still growing 42 years later as a photographer.

Joseph Cañada's picture

Guilty, most of my photos :(

Joseph Cañada's picture

Guilty, most of my photos