How To Stop Being So Disappointed With Your Photography

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Most of us amateur photographers explore this pursuit for the pleasure and the passion of it, and probably don’t have professional aspirations.

Nevertheless, we still like to get something rewarding from the hobby – in both the experience and the final images.

Often photography can be very disappointing – especially the photographs themselves.

Flicking through the fruits of a photowalk, we might often wonder why we bothered to even take a camera with us that day at all – so uninspired and mediocre are the shots.

So how can we reduce the frequency of this occuring?

In short, how can we stop being so disappointed with our photography? 

Here are five tips I’ve absorbed over the last few years that have helped me.

1. Ask “What’s the most beautiful photograph I could make, in this situation, with this lighting and this camera/lens/film”?

If the absolutely best case scenario is still mediocre – whether that’s down to having poor lighting, a wide lens when you need a telephoto, ISO50 film when it’s twilight and ISO800 would be essential, or simply because the subject isn’t that interesting – then be brave enough to lower your camera and walk away.

There’ll be other opportunities to make far better images. The more you do this, the more you’ll recognise those golden instances with greater potential.

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2. Pick one set up and get to know it like an old love(r).

I’ve been the worst example of this in the past, and it’s much documented here on 35hunter that I’ve used something like 100+ different cameras and lenses in the past few years. But that unfamiliarity and awkwardness becomes tiresome and ultimately a straightjacket on my ability to make the kind of photographs I can only make when I know one camera inside out.

Knowing exactly how to use the equipment and how it will respond and reward you becomes a far deeper and more rewarding relationship than yet another fling with a new (old) camera.

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3. Give your personal style a fair chance to evolve.

As much as I like to think I’d be a good street photographer, I just don’t have the courage to snap strangers in the street up close, or follow the advice of many street photographers in engaging and conversing with your subject(s) before taking their pictures. Yikes, I mostly go out to photograph to escape from everybody, not to invite potentially awkward interactions!

Once I accepted this, and focused on the sort of photography that brings me most pleasure – generally close ups of flowers, rusting gates and machinery, crumbling gravestones, and intriguing clouds and trees – I was liberated from the disappointment of never making any decent street photographs. By all means try different types of photography. But like the tip above, once we commit to one, rather than dabbling with many – embracing the depth rather than breadth of photography – the rewards multiply.

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4. Adjust your expectations.

When I shot a lot of film (say, a dozen rolls a month), if I got less than maybe 10 great (in my humble opinion!) “keepers” on any one roll, I’d be disappointed. Over time I realised this was an unrealistic expectation for someone of my talents, and who was also hampered by being a serial philanderer using a different camera/lens/film on every trip (see no 2 above).

These days, even on a digital photowalk where I might take a hundred photographs in a couple of hours, if I get one image I’m really happy with, I’m satisfied overall. 1% keepers, rather than 33% seems far more sensible, and radically reduces disappointment.

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5. Compare yourself only with one photographer – you. The most incredible photographers in the world still look at other people’s images and think “I wish I’d made that photograph!” With the sharing of photographs at an all time high, we can easily find stunning work on any social platform or website.

Of course we like to see what others do to take inspiration. But constantly comparing to others will only highlight what you think you’re missing, not the talents and eyes you actually have. It’s like someone giving you a ring donut and you complaining about the hole – or lack of donut –  in the middle. Judge your work only by what you did previously. As long as your are evolving – or more simply, as long as you are enjoying photography and making a small percentage of images you’re proud of (see no 4 above) – then no further comparing need be done.

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Hopefully some of these tips might help you be less disappointed and more appreciative of your photography.

Please let me know which resonate most with you – and feel free to share any tips of your own – in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

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11 thoughts on “How To Stop Being So Disappointed With Your Photography”

  1. #3 is the one that resonates with me the most. It was the same thing for me — realizing that street photography is not, and will never be my thing. Turns out automotive photography is what I’m best at. I decided to just keep after it.

    1. Jim, I have to agree, your recent couple of batches of car photographs – one with Superia 100, the other b/w – were beautiful. Will be very interesting to see similar shots with the K10D and a Takumar in good sunlight at ISO100 or 200.

  2. I have been wandering around photography for years, and in the last year have really started to take it seriously. I mean, try to improve my skills and understand what the relationship is between ISO/Aperture/Shutter Speed really means and how it affects my photos. I started out with film SLRs a year ago, but I have found the that the instant feedback loop of my dSLR has done wonders for my digital and film photography.
    I do get stuck in the rut that my pictures aren’t as “good” as ones I have seen online. But I do find images that I take that I love, I just have to focus on that point.
    Thanks for the great article!

    1. Mike, thanks for your thoughts. I like that phrase “wandering around photography”. I’ve always love walking in nature, but I think I found a point where I realised I was going out for walks specifically to capture photographs, rather than just walking and happening to have a camera with me.

      Soon after I thought I’d upgrade from Sony camera phones and get a “proper” camera, in this case a Nikon Coolpix compact, which I wrote about recently – https://35hunter.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/dances-with-digital-dilettantes-pt-1/

      I agree about the instant feedback. The Coolpix was massive for me in this sense. Also, because it had black and white modes, the camera taught me how to better see the world in black and white.

      I would suggest you take your favourite half a dozen photographs of the last year and put them together. There you have a body of work to be proud of. Remember Ansel Adams’ famous quote – “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”!

      Keep making photographs!

  3. Another great post,i’m only just getting into photography properly myself so this really helps avoid wasting a lot of time..thank you for sharing.

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