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Why Making Bad Work Is Important for Your Development as a Photographer

One of the new year resolutions I wish I had included in my recent list of resolutions for photographers was failing more in 2018. Failure has such a bad stigma attached to it that most of us try to avoid it at all costs. The big problem with that constant strive for perfection is it could be seriously holding you back.

The guys over at The Futur are back, once again highlighting areas of our creative lives we really should be addressing more if we want to get better at what we do. The video features Chris Do, the founder of brand strategy design consultancy Blind, Inc., and successful Concept Artist Jonah Lobe, who in this particular extract talks about the importance of failing. Lobe goes on to talk about how he found that the faster he makes mistakes, the faster he feels he learns. It's an obvious statement, but how many of us photographers actually embrace such a way of thinking? Being bombarded with carefully curated social media accounts and equally perfect portfolio websites, it can be hard to remember that people make mistakes and how much of an importance they play in the creative process.  

The real problem with this desire to be perfect is that you can paralyze yourself and end up creating nothing at all. As a result, creative output dramatically drops and this reduction not only stifles our ability to learn, but it also inhibits growth both creatively and professionally. If any of this rings a bell for you, then maybe it's time to think about changing your approach to being a photographer. Creating bad work could be the best thing you've ever done.

If you'd like to watch the full two-hour feature on Jonah Lobe, you can see it here.

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Tim Behuniak's picture

Love this! Always learning from my mistakes! It's almost comical to dig through personal archives, looking at old work and seeing all of the mistakes made. But also shows how much I learned from my mistakes over the years, and reminds me of how much more there is still to learn. How does the saying go? ... "Your first 10,000 pictures are your worst" ;)

David McDougall's picture

This is a superb, heartwarming, and highly stabilizing article. Superb, because it is. Heartwarming, like a glass of JD that hits the chest and rejuvenates the dying flames of endeavour that I get after rejecting 500 photos taken in the coldness of the North East coast of England. And it's highly stabilizing because it has enabled me to place a fulcrum on the line that goes from many bad shots to fewer good shots so that the balance line is, well, balanced. I was out one day and a stranger asked me for tips on producing good photographs. 'Decide on a place that you love, get to know it, and take as many pictures in as many different conditions as you can', I said. He replied with 'You know what you're talking about', to which I replied 'You've no idea how much rubbish I've produced over the years'. I feel that this article backs up my philosophy(?).

Erik Stenbakken's picture

YES. This, exactly. I did a personal project in video for this very purpose. Here it is…

imagei _'s picture

For me I would phrase it slightly differently: keep making art and don't expect it to be perfect every time.

In the last several months I very purposefully kept putting myself in all sorts of challenging (for me) situations and most of those shoots ended up with nothing to show but I learned from them. Since then I have been in other, similar, situations and performed much better.

I knew I would have a few hours of spare time yesterday so I took my camera, tripod and a couple lenses and spent hours walking around a single building trying various compositions and angles. Even though yesterday I thought I shot all possible angles a quick look at the results today gave me fresh insight into what I could do differently.

Will I perform better next time I'm approaching a similar situation? You bet. Have I produced a mountain of stunning art? Not really, but that was not the point (OK, I hope there may be a couple usable images ;-) ).

Gabrielle Colton's picture

This is great, every once in a while I still have shoots where I feel I backtracked about 3 years. Definitely pushes me to do better

Paul Parker's picture

the pressure to hit it out of the park every time stops some people ever taking risks. Some of my best ideas have come from a happy accident etc...