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Wildlife-photography-tips-learn-from-failure Tips & Tricks

Failing At Wildlife Photography | Deer Hunter Part 3

By Max Bridge on May 15th 2015


It’s been a while since my last Deer Hunter article. I’ve had some back issues which meant I’ve been unable to manage the long walks in Richmond Park. In case you need refreshing, Deer Hunter is the title I’ve given to my efforts at recapturing an old image (see below). It’s certainly not a bad one but has some flaws which I find hard to forgive. It’s also a great excuse to regularly venture into Richmond Park (London) and add to my collection of Deer photos. In this month’s article, I want to go over a topic which is rarely touched upon. Failure.


[REWIND: Wildlife Photography: What Gear Do You Really Need | Deer Hunter Part 1]

As a new photographer, or a photographer trying something new, it can be very easy to get disheartened. Whether that be receiving negative feedback on a forum, struggling with the learning curve or, and this is a big one, suffering from a severe case of photographer envy.

Speaking from experience, I know how utterly disheartening it can be to pore over the work of other photographers and think “I could never get that!” The sad fact is that no matter where the discouragement comes from the result can often be the same. We give up. We look at the work of others and decide, for whatever reason, that we are not good enough.


Why Does The Work Of Others Discourage Us?

Firstly, let me point something out. Every photographer takes bad photos! As you gain experience and learn new techniques, those instances may become fewer and farther between. Despite that, I guarantee that every photographer, within every genre of photography, has moments where he/she looks at their camera and thinks “what was I doing?” It happens to everyone and is NOT a reason to be discouraged.

Secondly, when was the last time you intentionally put bad photos online? Most likely never. Why would you? Whether you’re new to photography or a seasoned professional, we always want to show our best work. I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve seen a photographer post a bad photo, saying “Look at this rubbish photo I’ve taken. Aren’t I terrible?” Especially for those new to photography, try to keep this in mind when looking at the work of others.


[REWIND: 5 Ways To Bring Your Wildlife Photos To Life]

On the subject, the images you see in this article are what I class as my failures. I do not like a single one (except the second one), but putting my money where my mouth is I wanted to post some “bad” photos. I went on three trips this month, and these were the best, all taken from the same mediocre morning.

Wildlife Photography Is Hard

You may get up at 4am to find your subjects before sunrise (as I did). You may watch the weather and wait for that perfect day. You may study your subject’s habits, where they’re likely to be, etc.  You may do everything you possibly can and yet your photos are only worth the digital trash can.

Why? Put simply, you’re working with animals and nature, two things that sadly we have zero influence over. It’s inevitable, even common, that you will go out and return home with nothing. This is not a reason to get disheartened. Wildlife photography is all about preparation, patience, persistence and little bit of luck.



So the next time you catch yourself poring over the work of another photographer and feel yourself getting depressed, stop. Remember everyone, on occasion, takes bad photos. Persevere, learn new techniques and keep shooting.

If any of you have some, which I know you do, I invite you to post a recent bad photo. Let’s celebrate our failures as well as our successes and encourage blossoming talent.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Max began his career within the film industry. He’s worked on everything from a banned horror film to multi-million-pound commercials crewed by top industry professionals. After suffering a back injury, Max left the film industry and is now using his knowledge to pursue a career within photography.

Website: SquareMountain 
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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Thomas Horton

    This is why looking at the photographs taken by other photographers can be a two-edged sword.

    On one hand, it can give you new ideas
    On the other hand, it can discourage people especially when they are starting out.

    The key is being able to take the first and ignore the second. :)

    “Secondly, when was the last time you intentionally put bad photos online?” I have never intentionally put bad photos on line, but I do confess that I have intentionally put photos on line that were bad. :(

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  2. Tosh Cuellar

    more great information/advice

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  3. Tom Bogan

    Great article. It is refreshing to know that even the best have bad days when they feel the day was just not there day for that ONE image to pop out. But let’s not forget that the minds eye needs that sound of the shutter to get the anticipation of the image that is to appear.
    Oh how I love the smell of Lightroom in the morning.

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    The local photography club had a show and tell theme of panoramas. I was going to leave it to the Photoshop “guys” with their DSLRs; but then I thought “Why not?” I found that my photo editor, Corel Paint Shop Pro can create panoramas; so I shot three frames of film and stitched them together.

    But never give up! I had one photography project to photograph the full moons. Fortunately weather, either rain or total cloud cover happened only on a few occasions to photograph the rising or the setting of the moon. I think there was one night where I couldn’t do either, so I did the next night, which wasn’t technically, a full moon. But I was tested during the winter changing the filters on the 80-205 and switching to the 400mm. But I stuck with it.

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  5. Greg Silver

    Wildlife photography is hard. That’s the part of the challenge I love. Persistence and luck do play a large part. Just showing up in nature on a regular basis with a camera in hand will eventually yield some great shots.

    Great article!

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    • Max Bridge

      Precisely Greg. The trick is not getting disheartened on those bad days. It can all be so random! I may go four, five, six times before getting anything I consider good. On the other hand, I’ve had amazing months where every time I go is gold. I find Autumn and Winter are definitely the best, for me.

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  6. Brandon Dewey

    great advice, great images!

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  7. Bárbara Herrnsdorf

    Yeah, I totally realize the wisdom Mr. Bridge reminds us of here…and my husband and I have a phrase we say when we miss shots, opportunities etc. when trying to get a shot that involves animals/wildlife etc. – ” ‘Nature’ does not say ‘cheese’!” :)

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    • Max Bridge

      Very very true Barbara! Although sometimes it does seem as though they enjoy having their photo taken, posers! :)

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  8. Marlon Fortune

    “Persevere”, great advice!

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  9. Tom Marvel

    Photography (wildlife, street, sport, etc) can be a lot like fishing:
    Just because it’s convenient for the fisherman doesn’t mean there will be fish

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