Something Every Photographer Needs to Hear

It is easy to be paralyzed by the fear of imperfection or of rejection in a pursuit that draws on your creativity, even more so in an age where approval or criticism is nearly instantaneous and often sharp. But you cannot allow yourself to be handcuffed by these things, and this fantastic video discusses how to get through those times. 

Coming to you from Samuel Elkins and Mike Dewey, this important video talks about fear of imperfection and dealing with some of the ups and downs of being a creative. No doubt, it takes very thick skin to make it as a creative, and sometimes, despite the vitriol that runs rampant on the internet, we can be our own worst enemies. This can often take the form of being obsessed with perfection, whether that is spending way too much time on an edit or never being happy with your selects from a shoot. It is important to remember that done is always better than perfect (though, of course, there is a balance with maintaining a high standard of quality) and that though there is always room to improve, it is also crucial to be supportive of your own endeavors. Check out the video above for a lot of helpful perspective and advice. 

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ROBERT LYNCH's picture

Thanks for the interesting article.

I have but one comment, that 'search for perfection' is something of a brain-wasting disease, when it comes to photography. I am not pitching this feeling as a 'well maybe it is a …" thing. Rather, the mania for perfection (when it takes hold) leads to a torrent of provably irrational equipment acquisition decisions.

The immensely well-regarded 'masters' of photography used equipment that didn't even come within a shadow of the distance to the capabilities now vended by the half-dozen mid-to-top shelf camera manufacturers out there. Their 'film' (glass plate) was so slow (ISO 1 to 10!) that for tripod work, they didn't even have shutters. Cap-off … count to 5 … cap on. The 'film' was grainy; it was delicate (glass), the whole kit was scores if not hundreds of pounds. The master used frikkin' donkeys to cart it around!

The point is, with that steam-punk era equipment, they regularly produced magnificent, artistic images. Having visited a passing Ansel Adams exhibit in my youth, in San Francisco, I was taken aback by the delicacy of the light values, the remarkable tonal resolution, and the at–6-feet viewing crispness of the enlargements. And the material shot! Sunlight, thru clouds, with mists, waiting ALL DAY (or 3!) for the right exact moment. PATIENCE.

Ansel couldn't go out and buy a 100 megapixel back for his cedar-and-oak 8 by 10 box camera. He couldn't take 5 shots at a single button-press, bracketing exposure, ISO, and what-all. He didn't have a smart phone, nor needed one.

Enough of that rant-line.

But how about from this angle? There's a whole 'school' of photographic philosophy that holds that images, taken, should NOT be fudged in any way with a computer, outside the camera's 'take'. The idea is, if you are a good enough photographer, you'll frame the shot 'perfectly', you'll get exposure 'just right', you'll be enough of a technician to set white-value temperature right, to override the auto-focus, and focus on creatively meaningful elements of each shot. You also won't wast dozen of shots doing this either.

(I had a very close, very, very skilled and detail oriented Japanese-American friend, who was of this School. Watching him 'work a gig' one evening was one of the most mind-opening moments of my observers experience. I am, and I have only infrequently met, people with as much skill as his.)

I'm not sure that that School gives an overripe fig's worth of consternation over which exact lens, or which exact body, or which exact suitcase of backlights, tripods, graphite doohickeys or anything else. They're very aware that the ART of the shot, is in their command, and that the equipment — while important — becomes largely irrelevant so long as it isn't inexcusably dysfunctional.

ANOTHER School ("the by-far largest, modern one") holds that it is just fine to take bunches of shots; bracketing is normal; it is expected that the photographer or her hench-woman will spend perhaps as many if not more hours post-shoot, 'working with' the shots. Discarding the rubber ducks, merging the better parts of bracketed images, perhaps squeezing many serial frames thru panoramic 'stitching' filters. Layers, creative filtering, subtle merging and feathering. Seamless, invisible, and definitely 'shot enhancing'.

This is where I must get out a freshly recharged megaphone and shout, "WAIT!" What is this 'image modification', and how can one possibly remain 'brain demented' over perfection-of-equipment? As soon as you photoshop any image, it immediately now deviates from that shot. The importance of equipment (and photographer) limitations starts to slide away. Many re-edits later, to almost irrelevance.


I guess then that that is my point.

Which School are you from ? (there are another 4 or 5 'other schools' to which one might inconveniently fit.)

Just Saying,

David Best's picture

Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong.