Whenever I come back from a shoot I usually head straight to my computer and download my images. Like most of you, I can’t wait to see all of the great shots that I got. And like many of you, I find that the majority of my shots kind of suck. They aren’t necessarily bad, they just aren’t great. But here’s the deal, I don’t just round up all of those bad shots and send them to the round file, I let them alone for awhile to marinate. It’s not that I think they will get better over time, in fact the opposite is usually the case, when I look at them down the road and wonder, “What the hell was I thinking when I took that?” But that’s sort of the point.
By leaving them for a while, I can separate the emotion from the photograph and start looking at it from a more analytical perspective. What is it that made that shot so sucky. Was it the light? Was it my choice of lens? Maybe it was the angle that I chose or perhaps the lens. Perhaps I would have done better had I used less depth of field or maybe more. There are so many reasons that an image can fall down the scale from great to just so-so but by taking some time to really look at the image you can start to develop that mental checklist for the next time you are standing behind your camera. I’m reminded of some great advice I heard Joe McNally give during a presentation, which really brings it all home. Joe said that you should “embrace your failures, take them out to dinner and really get to know them.”
If you ignore the shots that didn’t turn out the way you had envisioned and just send them to the trash, you are missing out on an opportunity to learn from your experience. And it’s not just the things that didn’t work but also the elements that did. A great photo is made when a combination of things all go right so it’s not fair to say that your “bad” images didn’t have their good points as well. The point is that you should spend some time to really look at all of your images so that you can constantly evolve and create that internal database of experiences so that when you are presented with a similar situation in the future you will have the knowledge to know what didn’t work the last time. I think Thomas Edison said it best when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”