Learn From Your “Bad” Photographs

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For every one great photograph that we post on-line, upload to Flickr, share on Facebook, or show our friends and family, there are twenty “bad” photographs hiding on our hard drives that never see the light of day. The reason? They’re overexposed. Or underexposed. Or composed strangely. Or out of focus. Or just… off.

Here are a few of my own examples of not-so-great photographs (I’m being brave, here!), and what I have learned from them.

1. When the light is bad, it’s just bad. Taking a picture “anyway” won’t result in anything salvageable.

I was at a client shoot. It was high noon. We were trying to get some outdoor shots, which in retrospect I should have done *first*, as soon as I got there, rather than at the end. I mean, gosh! There’s glare everywhere, and weird shadows on their faces… it’s just not a good shot. So! The lesson I learned here was not to think that I could fix the unfixable, in post-processing. When the light is wrong, it’s just wrong. Either skip it, recompose with some reflectors or shade or something, or reschedule the shot.

2. When shooting in continuous mode, remember to switch from RAW to JPEG.

Same client shoot, the oft-asked for “jumping” sequence. Which I had to “do over” because I forgot to switch from RAW to JPEG to take advantage of my camera’s maximum frames per second. I also had to let more natural light into the room so that I could use a faster shutter speed. Fortunately, I had patient and understanding clients.

3. Keep those horizons straight!

Oh dear. Perhaps I was in a hurry? Maybe my footing on the rocks was precarious? Yes, that’s it. My foot slipped. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

4. Elbows are not an adequate substitute for a tripod.

Especially if you’ve had a few of these! Sometimes, in low light, if you want to capture a focused shot, you’re just going to have to bite the bullet and drag out the tripod. No matter how steadily you think you might be braced, you’re not.

5. Don’t take a night shot through glass when you’re backlit.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure the lesson is self-explanatory, here. Reflections, silhouettes, and again, no tripod! Oh, the humanity.

6. There’s artistically dewy, and then there’s completely saturated. Easy on the spray bottle!

“Less is more”, is the take-away here, I think. Unless, “roses after a cats-and-dogs storm” was your intended subject.

Overall, I think the key lesson I’ve learned is that I need to slow down, take my time, think about the photograph I’m taking, and be patient.

So! There’s a handful of quick things that I learned by reviewing my not-so-great photographs. I guess in that manner, there is no such thing as a “bad” photograph, if you’re able to learn something from it. Are any of you brave enough to share your “bad” photographs, and what you learned from them? Link away in the comments!

All photo credits (for better or worse): Tiffany Joyce.

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