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How Photographers Can Learn From Failure

There’s a saying that goes: “plan for success, learn from failure”. If you’re anything like us, you probably wish whoever came up with that phrase elaborated a little. 

We’ve all failed at multiple points in our lives, but whenever that phrase is recited, it’s easy to think: learn what?! If you could learn from how you failed, that would mean you know why you failed, and if you knew the cause of your failure, then you wouldn’t have failed in the first place!

It’s a tricky situation, and it's easy to find yourself in it as a photographer. Photography is hard. It’s not simply a case of lifting a camera and snapping a picture. You need the right angles, lighting, exposure, among countless other things. Sometimes, it feels like the whole world needs to be in exactly the right place to take a good picture, so having a bad patch is almost inevitable. 

But that doesn’t stop it hurting. When you put your heart and soul into something creative, failure can make you second guess your own passion, making you wonder if you’re really good enough to take it any further. 

It shouldn’t, though. Whoever coined the phrase about learning from failure may not have elaborated, but in our own experience, there are certain things you can take away from failing that follow the sentiment. To help you out, we’ve rounded them up into a short list, helping you to get through your next failure and ensure you know how to learn from it:

Take Ownership Of Your Mistakes

A lot of the time in photography, we don’t know why our failures happened. In our head, we did everything right, and we get angry at ourselves that something went wrong. In this way, we often put the mistakes behind us and try to forget about them. But this is something you shouldn’t do if you’re serious about development. Anyone who grows in their passion has done so because they’ve taken their failures on board.  

Make sure you own your mistakes as if they were your successes. If you put your favorite photographs in a photo book, put the ones you’re not so proud of into a small square photo book, and give them a home amongst all the others on your shelf. Make sure you celebrate your failures like you celebrate your success stories, and you will have a far better chance of absorbing them and improving in the future.

Understand That It’s Inevitable

As we mentioned before, failure as a photographer is inevitable, because it’s difficult. Let’s be honest, if it was easy, it probably wouldn’t even be a passion! For instance, many of our customers upload their pictures to a photo book maker to watch their steady progression – and progression means that there are challenges to document and progress from.

As humans, we strive for new challenges and to develop our abilities. This means you have chosen photography as a passion not because it is easy, but because it is hard! Yes, we may have just quoted JFK there, but the point still stands! You have to recognise that failure is part of perfecting photography. You’re not a supercomputer, you’re human. If you have just failed at something you have been working hard on, accept it, respect it, and then go again!

Pick The Seeds From The Rotten Apple

It’s also important to understand that, even if you have failed, it doesn’t mean you have got everything wrong. There are still positives that you can learn from. If you have been taking poor photographs for a while now, you can understand why your photographs are bad by looking at them and working out why they’re good

Look at everything you got right, pick the seeds of success from the rotten apple, and take them with you into the next photography session. By doing this, you’re going to find it far easier to narrow down what went wrong and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Remember, there’s always positives to be gleaned from your work, even if they’re hard to find!

Give Yourself Time

Failures hurt, and sometimes it can be hard to evaluate them straight after the fact. Not only this, but they can make us feel like we’re no good and take away our motivation to continue our passion. What should you do in this instance? Listen to yourself. Don’t continue. 

What we mean by this is that you should take a step away and see how long you last. We’re willing to bet that it won’t be long. You don’t invest time into your photography to succeed, but because you love it – and if you love something, it’s tough to take too much time away. By doing so, however, you can rediscover why you love it and find the right mindset to rekindle your passion

Feel It All

Speaking of failures hurting, one of the best things you can learn from your failures is pain. In life, whatever gets us feeling happy or sad is something that we care about, so you should be grateful that you have something in your life that inspires this kind of emotion. 

It might hurt, for sure, but it’s a good kind of hurt. Try to embrace it and turn it into a positive. This is the kind of lesson that every photographer needs: to learn just how much you care about your work and how much you want to take it to the next level!


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