What to Do When You Just Don’t Have Anything Worth Photographing

Have you ever made the effort to go out and look for something beautiful to photograph, only to find that it just wasn’t happening for you? Like many of us, Steve O’Nions has, and instead of just chalking it up to failure, he tells us why it's ok to not get it every now and then.

Let's face it: some days, we just don't feel it. The lighting, the landscape, the weather, the sky; sometimes it just isn’t working for us. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to discover or appreciate the beauty of something when you're just not feeling it. Sometimes, we fake it until we make it, but is that really the best approach? In landscape photography, this can make for a really bad day. It can also make for a really bad trip if you've traveled very far to capture something special that just isn't that special for you when you get there. 

This happened to me the first time I visited the Grand Canyon. I was on somewhat of a vision quest, and I'd traveled a long way to step up to the edge of that majestic place, only to find it full of fog that made it difficult to even distinguish the canyon's enormity. Of course, I was carrying a tripod and a backpack  full of digital camera gear, so I shot what I could, and made the best of it. The images weren’t earth shattering to me. They didn’t fill my soul with wonder. The entire experience was a pretty big disappointment. But, I tried. 

But are there some instances when it might not be worth a try? Of course there are. We've all experienced this in some way. In this video, Steve O’Nions gets real about an early morning photo excursion that just didn't pan out. Steve was up before dawn, trekking through the countryside with his large format camera, and the size and complication of it made him all the more reluctant to set up and shoot something that didn't bring him that feeling that we get when we know we have to capture something and share it with the world. His reflections on this are real and interesting, and I think you’ll enjoy his perspective. 

Have you ever run into a time when you made the effort and had the intention, but the feeling just wasn't there? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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3 Comments

I read or heard somewhere, about Macro photography, 'If you can't find anything to photograph, you're not looking hard enough.' Well, there's always something to photograph but it often requires letting go of your expectations and looking with your heart instead of your eyes.
Or not. :-)

Myron Edwards's picture

I Face This Quite often and it drives me crazy but your scenario works...

Will Murray's picture

Forcing yourself to shoot when you are not feeling it is a pretty good way to destroy what you love.