Promoting Passion Week 43: Fun with Failure!

Promoting Passion Week 43: Fun with Failure!

A couple weeks ago I decided that I would face a photographic fear and head into the forest with some lights. I tested them before I left, making sure I understood the basics (how to turn them on) and brought some extras with me, like a sheet, to diffuse the light. When I got to the forest with my friend we began setting lights up, and when it came time to trigger them, nothing happened. For 2 hours. And I was losing light. So I called up some friends and they tried to help, but everything seemed fine. So finally, when I took the batteries out and put them back in, it worked!

I was thrilled…until I saw how the light looked, and realized I didn’t have much time to experiment. So I had my friend hold up a sheet in front of the light to diffuse it. I played with distance of light to subject, tried a rim light, and kept playing. As I was shooting I knew I didn’t like the pictures, but I thought it worthy of continuing. I recognized, right then and there, that if I stopped, I would get nothing from the shoot. Yet if I kept going, I would teach myself valuable lessons.

I put a lot of effort into doing a lot in camera for this shoot, from spray-painting leaves to making wardrobe out of ace bandage, creepy cloth, and a table cloth. It was an absolute blast, and perhaps even more fun to go out to dinner afterwards looking like that!

My pictures are not images that I’m proud of because I like how they look. Quite the contrary, I very much dislike looking at these images. I would not put them in my portfolio. But they are among the top images I have ever learned from, and just how much I dislike them tells me how much more I have to learn. Humility is a great gift, and I welcome it with each failure I endure.

Share with us an image you feel was a failure, or share a tip that you learned from messing up an image!

Mistakes are successes that we learn best from, after all.

18 thoughts on “Promoting Passion Week 43: Fun with Failure!

  1. I totally agree with the fantastic post my dear friend. I decided a while back that I much prefer measuring my success not by my number of fans or social media likes I have, but instead by all I learned in the process of creating. This mind set has been so liberating for me as it has opened up a world of adventure and discovery for me.

  2. Thank you for this, Brooke! Yesterday I got a pen tablet to use for editing, and I was so excited to try it out. I had been wanting to take a certain picture and so I decided that it was time to go out and shoot what I wanted. I was being rushed while shooting and I didn’t really get to see the shots that I had. I stayed hopeful, and after I finished I went home and immediately started editing. Although I have enjoyed the editing with my new pen tablet, I just feel like the picture isn’t what I wanted at all. I think I may re-shoot the same picture to get what I want, but this was a learning experience in many ways.
    I am still editing this picture, but this is the image that I shot yesterday so far:

  3. Thank you, Brooke!! What a wonderfully inspiring thing to share. So often in our craft we worry about coming off as perfect, we don’t want to share our flaws or share that we are still learning ourselves because we feel that as “masters” of our craft we already have to have everything figured out, know everything, that showing all the imperfections we somehow diminish the quality/value of our work. But I agree that showing and telling about things that were failures is a lesson in humility that I think will only increase our value as artists. Thank you for sharing!

  4. You may not be inspired by them but I truly am. I love everything about them.

    It is quite fun to fail, I’ve learned so much from failures, and honestly the time where I had more fun shooting was with one of my failures.
    It was already dark, I was wearing a wedding dress and we were going to the cemetery. When we arrived, a guy from the neighborhood was around and kept waving and shouting at us”What the hell are you guys doing?. But because we were running late , I couldn’t find my remote, and we don’t speak English that well, we didn’t answer him. And my sister was scared that he would call someone. So I set the camera very fast, put my phone with the flashlight on in front of me and I just took one shot that I did not plan or think through. And all of this was in literally 2 minutes. The adrenaline was amazing and although it was sort of stressful I laughed so much. Definitely an unforgettable experience.

    Thanks for sharing with us one of your “failures”. But I love them.

  5. Okay, you asked for it:

    I really wanted this image to work. I planned it for monthsโ€”drew pictures, made costume pieces. I was shooting on location, but not with both models at the same time. I placed markers and tried to make sure that I was getting everything set up exactly the same. But it just didn’t work. I play and played with it, sure that the next tweak would fix it. But it’s just not rightโ€”it’s missing something and overworking it can’t make it better. I learned if you want multiple people in a shoot, it’s best to have them there at the same timeโ€”or at least the same shoot.

  6. You are so cute Brooke!

    Not sure why you wanted to work with lights on this one as I reckon the natural light would probably sufficed ๐Ÿ˜‰ Having said that, I love that you tried something new. Always a good journey.

    Although I would not suggest you included these images in your portfolio… They are wonderful in their own way. They are certainly rich in story – particularly the main image. And they make an interesting set. One thing that does not work 100% for me is your choice of broom. I would have preferred and old school witches broom. Although I do like how you sprayed it white.

    I have many many images in my folders that I failed on, or just never bothered with, or just got too excited about something else I shot… But either way, each of these still gave me so much joy to create. I learned, I loved, I expressed and I set my emotions free.

    There are however a few of my images I’ve posted that, well just do not do it for me. I’ll share two of them here with you:

    1st is my image called “Transport Issues”:
    I think the big thing that bugged me with this image is that I had to technically learn more. This is actually my 2nd edition of this image and I redid it to see how far I’ve gone with my technical abilities:
    I should perhaps give it a 3rd go for fun ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Then the 2nd image I would like to share is my image “Memories”:
    The story behind this image is very special to me and there are bits about this image I really like.. but something just does not feel right. As I type this it just hit me what bugs me about this image!!! It is that it does not seem to match my body of work… Thanks Brooke, I think I just figured that one out now ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yay!!

    Thank you as always Brooke for sharing your world and your heart with us <3 So beyond excited and honoured to be exhibiting my work next to an image of yours!!! Exhibition opens on Wednesday ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

    1. For failures, those are both pretty cool images. I can totally understand the “They just don’t fit in” feeling though. If you have found your voice and make a cool image that doesn’t fit in, it is a weird feeling.

  7. wow, crazy, i had almost the identical experience a few weeks back. a shoot i’d thought about and planned for all summer…and then we finally got there and spent valuable sun-setting time setting everything up, only to find the rassinfrassin triggers wouldn’t make my lights pop! i spent way too long on trying to get them working right, losing even more light…that by the time I finally gave up and started to shoot what I could, it was way too dark. And after all the thought and planning and making and preparation and setup…I only got a couple pictures…I considered it a failure. I don’t even want to show the pictures I DID get, cuz they’re not what I was envisioning in my mind’s eye and I keep thinking I’ll try and do a re-shoot, but…I think, now, after reading of your similar experience, that I might blog about it as a learning experience…and what I learned from it…and maybe someone else can be helped by my mistakes. maybe ๐Ÿ™‚ even if it’s just a case of “misery loves company” and knowing that even when you muck everything up, you’re not the only one ๐Ÿ™‚

    So thanks for sharing your experience, Brooke…because now I know…I’m not the only one ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I loved the video and now I’m in the mood to grab the camera and go to create and create… No doubt that just who does, wrong, and only learn by doing. Concerning the pictures, I did not dislike. The picture that I’ve failed and I could not get the desired result, by chance was the last work, but I shared it anyway and without fear. And I failed by the simple reason that it was not well prepared and because I still have a lot to learn. Thanks.

  9. Brooke, Brooke, Brooke,

    Great video with a great message….but what makes it priceless is the part where you pick up the snail and say “oh I’m going to put that on my face” and then plunk. There it is.

    I have lots of failed images – I usually know right in camera….I think they make the ones that work all the sweeter. I’d link you up but I’m not quite sure how to link you to my ‘delete’ folder ๐Ÿ™‚

    And your video and shots definitely illustrate that ‘failed’ is in the eye of the photographer….

    I think the most important thing is that you are illustrating is that even with the success you have achieved you still have a discerning eye about your own work. I think that’s very important…and frankly takes some real humility which is….rare.

    Best to you Brooke!

  10. I understand that the process of creating art is often more important than the final product, but I also agree with others (particularly on facebook), who think these are beautiful.

    I absolutely LOVE the shot of you sweeping up the leaves. Maybe it’s because of the way I interpret it. I’m often driven mad by people messing with nature, trying to create the perfect lawn, raking up leaves – or even more so, the use of a leaf blower to clear the debris. I love weeds. And I love seeing leaves on the ground. Nature knows what it’s doing and there is a beauty in letting things happen on their own. Leaves will eventually dissolve and return to the earth. How beautiful is that!

    This may not have anything to do with what you wanted to say, but these are the things that come to mind when looking at the photo – partly because in my mind, sweeping up leaves in a forest area takes this concept to an extreme.

    Beautiful work, Brooke. My images are nothing like yours, but I am so inspired by you …. I stress the word “you” as an important distinction. You as a human being and as a photographer.

    I look forward to learning more from your posts.

  11. thanks for your demonstration of making beautiful atmospheric photos.
    and that shows you every time that the idea is more important than technique.
    Technology is at your images subordinate and I find that every time great.

  12. I am not even into photography (outside of enjoying and admiring art) but your words and blog moves me EVERY TIME I read them. It seems to be more about living life, enjoying whatever is thrown your way and as you say promoting passion. So thank you for that- I look forward to reading about your insight. You do make a difference.

  13. “Look, a snail! It’s a big one. I’m gonna put it on my face!” — this is why I love you so much (okay, well, part of the reason). You are crazy, and bold, and not afraid to try new things. Even when it means putting snails on your face. I absolutely loved the video, and I think so much of the time the creative process is about enjoying the journey, and learning from it, rather than working just to achieve a finished product that we feel good about. You are such an inspiration! (Also, working with lights can be such a pain in the behind. Almost every time I try to use flash, there’s a period of 5-20 minutes of them not firing, or not triggering at the proper output, or some other issue that can be just so frustrating when you’re used to working in natural light. Often times the solution is really random, too — like, the third time I turn them off and back on, they magically work. Bravo for putting up with it long enough to get something out of it!)

  14. Would you care share why you don’t like them?

    It is always a fascinating thing to me why we don’t like something we have produced for whatever reason, after all we are surely always our own hardest critic, that of course is often a good thing.

    I love the top one, I find it very emotive and thought provoking, though I’m sure there aspects of it one could pick holes in, but aren’t there always? However I would be very happy to be able to say, โ€œI done that, it was me and I like itโ€ but if you don’t, nothing anyone can say will change it.

    I like the other two as well, but not so as much as the other one, just my own preference of course which also of course doesn’t mean much, no one can see the vision or intent of vision of the creator. The snail however is superb, not many would have thought to do that.

    I experiment a lot, so โ€œfailureโ€ can be high, but of course as you say, in these you can learn the most.
    I love to play with lights, it is one of my many passions and can be at times one of the most frustrating things too, the minds eye and reality can be worlds apart!

    So anyway, a failure, there are varying degrees, most things can be worked through or evolved, but if I had one tragic story, I think it would be tripping over the tripod and watching it, camera an all, plummet several hundred feet to the beach below in an almost slow motion moment, powerless to do anything about it.
    As image making goes, something just don’t work out, but it would be a boring life if you always got it right/how you want it to be.

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