Before I start, I want to preface this by saying, I’m not suggesting shooting terrible photographs, hoping success follows. You must be willing to learn from failure in order to create success. I write this, under the assumption that whoever reads this, will not take it to its most literal and elementary interpretation, but that some common sense will be used to understand what I’m trying to convey.
As far as I know, there has never been a baby who went from rolling over to participating in speed walking in the summer Olympics. Many failures (falls) occur when a baby is learning to walk, yet babies persevere until they succeed. While we may not realize it, they are learning, making adjustments from the previous failures, improving until the success of walking is achieved. I am sure most of you reading this, are saying…duh, that’s just part of the process, it’s the absolute of learning to walk. I would agree, it is a part of the process and we accept that, only because that is just how it is. I believe this is where the disconnect comes into play for people. We attempt to do everything we can to prevent failure, since it’s not the absolute of the process. We are told at a certain, but early, age that failure is no longer acceptable, this continues throughout our lives. Being a failure is frowned upon, egos are challenged and ultimately bruised being dubbed a failure, thus we do everything we can to avoid that stigma.
You’re probably saying, “Sure, we need to learn from our mistakes”, however, the difference between what I am talking about and just “learning from mistakes” is actually failing on purpose. Simply learning from mistakes, is just recognizing them when they happen and what might be gleaned when they occur. What I’m suggesting is to try something so far outside the box, it’s almost always going to end in failure, while embracing that outcome. This allows you to analyze the results to see what can be learned and implemented going forward.
I recall on a TV show, where the owner of a cutting edge restaurant was explaining what they do to move the chains to continually improve, becoming more successful at their culinary skill set as well as making the restaurant profitable. One time every week, every chef is required to create a dish that is so unique, something no one has ever seen before. He continues to elaborate that they all realize the majority of their dishes will be failures, very rarely will they succeed in creating an amazing dish. This allows them to experience what does or doesn’t work. They make adjustments from that feedback, where eventually a few amazing and completely new dishes are created. This leads to finding out that eating moss with a truffle sauce is actually an amazing dish, which is one of the most popular on their menu. Without the intention of creating dishes with failure as the anticipated end result, would simply postpone or possibly stifle innovation, in turn, uniquely innovative success might not be achieved. They critique every dish, giving honest feedback on what they feel was terrible, wonderful or what, with some refinement, has potential.
This is a very important element of failing intentionally to create success, is figuring out what created the failure. I’m not suggesting getting a paid gig, trying all kinds of crazy antics with your camera only to deliver a product that is not useable for the paying client. I’m suggesting figuring out how you can take some photos that will end up being failures, WITH INTENT, in order to see what the results are.
Once you have those intended failed photographs, you must look them over and critique them in order to see what may or may not be positive results. Furthermore, make notes (whether mental or physical) to make adjustments in future photographs, while recognizing what might have the potential, if refined, to yield incredible results in future images. This practice allows experimentation with varying results to see what might be a great result, which may have never been realized in sticking with normal shooting methods…this leads to failure breeding success.
I figured I would show a couple of examples of photographs that I took, with the anticipation of them being failures. However, I found the time to fit them in during a wedding after I had all the shots I needed. So, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
This shot, was in a hotel that used to be an old department store. It has these double doors that are on every level which sit across from each other, but also look down into an open breezeway that has a restaurant at the bottom. I can only imagine they used to be connected and was used for movement of goods. In any event, I knew that I wanted to somehow capture these in some fashion. I was not sure exactly how to make it happen, but I thought outside of the box…I put the bride on one balcony and ran all the way around to the other side and called her and gave posing suggestions through the phone. This is what ended up becoming of it…It’s still one of my favorite images of all time, has been published in print and online both national and internationally. Thinking well outside the box and having the time to really take a chance and fail, I was rewarded with an amazing image.
The photograph below is just a simple detail shot of wedding rings. I went out on a bit of limb and used extreme composition for the image. This was very simple, as I nailed a bunch of other detail shots already. I got to have a little fun and go a bit outside the box. Again, it ended up being a very great image and has been published and is even hanging on a wall in my lab’s customer lounge.
It’s as simple as making sure you get the shots you need and you know will be deliverable and then stepping back and seeing what can be shot on the extreme end to see what you come up with. Whether it is extreme composition, super shallow depth of field, a very random spot to stick your subject, maybe an extreme pose, whatever you can come up with that has a sliver of potential and fail, just to see what happens.
So go…go out and just do something so different and so out of the box that it will certainly be a failure, but could possess the potential for an incredible result to make your photographs more successful.
About the Guest Contributor
Brandon Perron is a wedding photographer, making a transition into a freelance automotive digital contributor/photographer, as well as setting up his own private gallery. In his words, he is an uber sarcastic gasoline loving gear head, lost amongst the hipster hyper Eco-friendly crowd of PDX and has a mouth that makes sailors blush. He likes to think of himself as a daily life commentator, where nothing is off limits to poke fun at.