How I Failed At My Photo365 Project And Why That’s OK

A little too shattered for this

Towards the end of late last year I  was in a deep photography rut. I wasn’t feeling the excitement or confidence in myself as a photographer and was looking for a way to revitalise those feelings via.. something. I wasn’t sure what. I ended up settling on doing another photo-a-day (photo365) project as I had done one back in 2009/2010 which I enjoyed and got a lot out of. So come January 1st I confidently decreed it was time to do so again and away we went, onward to excitement & confidence!

And… Nope.

It started off well, I made a few good photos, got a bit of the interest back but I very quickly found I was starting to not just dislike the project but actively hate it. It took some time to figure out why this was but in the meantime I stubbornly continued, taking a least one photo a day until I finally had an epiphany. The reason it wasn’t working this time was because this style of project wasn’t what I actually needed.

The photo365 worked the first time around because I was still very new to photography with a DSLR and being forced to take a photograph every day was a good way of getting me used to it. It generated interest in various styles and ultimately became one of the major factors in why I so enjoy macro photography today.

Instead of producing good shots like I intended to, I was mostly producing mediocre, poorly thought through and rushed images. A few great ones here and there but most of it, to be quite frank, was crap. I can be quite a stubborn person and I could have just continued on and finished the project but this time around I decided no. It wasn’t working, time to can it. So I did. Stop taking a photo a day, pulled down the posts from this blog and removed all but the best photos taken during that time from my smugmug gallery.

Failure Is Always An Option

Decision made, it was time to just move forward right? Well I’m afraid it wasn’t quite that easy, I felt even worse than before, that I had failed at what I wanted to do and generally moped a lot. I thought about writing why I quit the project but even that I’ve been staring at for over a month and not been able to fully admit to my own failure. Until a few days ago when a curious memory popped into my head.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be sent my employer at the time to attend DEF CON® 17 in Las Vegas and while wandering through talks on botnets, social engineering and tutorials on lockpicking (which was actually a lot of fun) I quite by accident wandered into a talk entitled “Failure” given by Adam Savage who you may know from the ever interesting Mythbusters series.

The talk (embedded below) given by Adam explored the idea of failure was being a positive thing and a learning experience rather than a totally negative and to be despised pit of despair. He goes over a few of his own stories of failure and describes emotions very similar to what I was going through now.

I remembered that the time thinking this talk was awesome and clearly it made enough of an impression that I squirreled it away to be referenced at such a time like this. I rewatched the talk and cheered up immensely. Failure was an option, I just needed to figure out what I really needed to achieve.

From Decay Comes Life

So there was the moment of zen. The acknowledgement that while yes I had failed good and hard, it wasn’t for nothing. I had simply learnt that what I needed now wasn’t a daily grind of taking photos it was to sit down and think about what my weak spots were and how to move forward.

Instead of shooting each and every day it was time to look at things like planning shots, actually learning how to better post produce my photos and get back into my love of taking photographs of critters of all kinds. I’ve started back into it and while I’m still feeling at a low eb of confidence things are moving forward, with a recent photowalk netting this photograph of a wasp

WaspSo here’s to the learning experience that is failure. I highly recommend watching Adam’s talk and thinking about what you want to achieve and accepting that failure at something is not the end of all things, not even close.