Learn From the Masters of Photography: Embrace Failure

Embrace failure. Spread from MASTERS

How can you use failure to drive you forward, rather than hold you back?

“Luck – or perhaps serendipity – plays a big role… But you never know what is going to happen. And what is most exciting is when the utterly unexpected happens, and you manage to be there at the right place at the right time – and push the shutter at the right moment. Most of the time it doesn’t work out that way. Street photography is 99.9% about failure.” – Alex Webb



Timeless wisdom from the masters of street photography.

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Photography as risk taking

Every time you click the shutter, you’re taking a risk. A risk of making a bad photo. A risk of upsetting someone in street photography.

But, the more risks you take, the more likely you are to succeed.

This is an entrepreneurial principle too — don’t be afraid of risk. Rather, see it as an iterative process. Each time you take a small risk, don’t see the feedback as failure. See the feedback as information, that can empower you.

Silhouette of Cindy. Prague, 2017
Silhouette of Cindy. Prague, 2017 #cindyproject

Embrace failure, let failure not be a scary word. Empower yourself by not shrinking from “failure”.

In Silicon Valley, there is a concept of “fail forward”— each time you “fail”, you’re learning, growing, and driving yourself forward.

Ask yourself:

Am I afraid of failure?

If so, what do you really fear?

Do you fear negative social stigma from failure? Or do you fear becoming bankrupt, and dying on the streets homeless and hungry?

Are your fears of failure real, rational, and really that bad?

Yellow dark skies.

To take better photos,

Fail More.

Consider, if you’ve taken 1,000 pictures — aren’t you bound to get at least one good picture? You might need to fail 999 tunes before you succeed with one good photo.

So, perhaps the secret is this:

Seek to fail 1,000 times with your photos.

Shitty photo assignment

As an assignment: take 1,000 bad photos — and intentionally try to take really bad photos.

Then if you end up shooting a lot of shit, you’re bound to get a few good ones (Trent Parke).

Rorschach test: What kind of image do you see in this abstract picture?

Fail forward in your photography.


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