It’s okay to take a bad photograph


When I started out in photography, I shared a lot of my first attempts in online forums. But, instead of the supportive, friendly critique I had expected, I was completely shot down in flames. I was led to believe that I was a hopeless photographer, that my images were absolute crap and that, frankly, I shouldn’t bother carrying on with photography. 

Well, thank fuck I ignored them and carried on!

Because I would actually say I’m a pretty darn good photographer these days (and you have absolutely no idea how long it took me to be able to say THAT with any confidence). 

You know what, though? I still take bad photographs. Not every image I produce is an image I’m proud of, nor is it shareworthy. But, here’s the thing. That’s okay! Because I’m telling you right now that it’s okay to take a bad photograph. And here are 3 reasons why.

Technical perfection does not mean soul

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s more to life than a technically perfect photograph. Sure, if you can achieve focus, good exposure and tell a story in a single image, then you’re on to a winner. But if one of those things is off, it doesn’t mean you have to throw the entire image away. 

I’ve spoken about striving for perfection before, but this is as good a time as any to remind you that there’s NO SUCH THING as the perfect photograph. I don’t give a shit what anyone says. The longer you persist in striving for the perfect image, the more disappointed you are going to be. 

Accepting less than perfect photography doesn’t mean you’re giving in or dropping your standards either – not by a long shot! What it does mean is you are appreciating an image for what it really is – a moment of time captured, not a perfectly designed piece of art. Photography, in most instances, is about recording memories, whether for you or the person you’re taking photographs of or for.

Don’t believe me? I’ll often give clients a soft or slightly off focus image because the moment is just too lovely to not. And I’ve come to learn that most clients don’t actually notice that the image isn’t spot on perfect. 

It’s a learning exercise

I don’t know about you but I am a big learner from my own mistakes. Which means making a mistake with a photograph teaches me what not to do next time around!

I literally learn something from every single photo shoot I do. Which, by the way, means I usually make a mistake on every shoot too. 

SECRET REVELATION TIME: I keep one in around every 3 images I take. That means I don’t deliver two thirds of the photographs I took. Sure, a bunch of those will be duplicate shots, test shots or shots where the model is pulling an unflattering face. But I’ll also remove a bunch where I’ve made some pretty severe errors. Messing up exposure, for example, so the image is totally unusable. Missing focus by a mile and not being able to pass it off as an “artistic” decision… (Yes, I do intentionally miss focus from time to time…)

The point is, don’t see a bad photograph as a failure. See it as a means to learn what you did wrong and how you can avoid doing it next time around. 

It’s all a matter of perspective, right?

Bad = Good

If you’re not taking bad images, how do you know when you’re taking a good image?

Let’s put this another way… you have to be taking photographs, good and bad, to produce better work. If you’re not shooting, you’re not producing. And you’re not improving. 

Like most creative pursuits, your work improves through repetition and constantly working on your skills. That’s how you improve!

So, keep taking all the images. The bad ones, as well as the good. Trust me, taking bad images doesn’t make you a bad photographer. It makes you a good photographer who is going to get even better the more you shoot.