This is my confession: I used to shoot crappy photographs. I am not ashamed to admit it: it is the truth but nothing but the truth.
I tried my best then but it was never quite good enough. On occassion though, I got a good shot that encouraged me to persist.
I am not that much better now. But I take slightly better shots – sometimes. I think that every photographer has plenty of crappy photographs in their closets like the one below – bereft of technical understanding.
No one starts off taking great photos. It is always a result of patience, time, persistence, experience and a better understanding of the technicalities.
I am on my journey and learning. Looking back at some of my photos makes me cringe. I guess every artist whether a writer, sculptor, singer, pianist, etc. cringes when they see their earlier work like my images below.
I had the same feeling in my second or third year of my writing course. When I read my earlier work, I cringed and asked myself, “what was I thinking?”
It is the same thought that gnaws at my mind when I look at my earlier photographs.
The cover shot below, of the South African band Munkinpure, is not one of my crappiest photos. It is one of the better ones. However, it could have been a little better if I understood a few things.
For instance, it is poorly lit. There are shadows on the faces of the guys and under the eyes. Using a flash to fill in the light would have eliminated the shadows.
Alternatively, I could have turned them away from the sun to have more even lighting across the photo. The next photo is an illustration of what I mean by crappy pictures.
Don’t ask me what I was trying to do. I have no idea. All I know is that it was a blurry crap photo and unusable. To make it worse, it was my first professional gig and this is the crap I was taking.
I can only imagine that I was trying to take a very good shot of an interesting scene. However, I was shooting at low shutter speeds without a tripod and that is the result.
This next photo is another I shot at a low shutter speed. The light had fallen and naturally the shutter speeds fell. However, I didn’t know then what shutter speeds were and how they operate.
I didn’t know then that a tripod would eliminate the shake and provide me with crisp images without blurring.
So it is pretty obvious, that I never read the manual for the camera I was using. I didn’t have a technical understanding of photography. I was simply pointing and shooting without any thought behind my process.
I was probably shooting in auto but still got it hopelessly wrong. No one ever goes wrong in auto. But I did as the next shot illustrates.
It is not a work of art but a really crappy photograph. All this could have been avoided if I had taken the time to know my camera, its settings, its sweet spot and other fine nuances.
I had the opportunity to take a decent photograph of the headline act but I still got it wrong and produced some grotesque shots because I didn’t know what I was doing.
Therefore, I was not in a position to make informed decisions. I was coasting on my luck and hopes for a miracle.
The photo above shows how the pair had red eyes because of the flash which again could have been avoided if I understood the settings of my camera or used a diffuser to soften the light or shoot from a different angle.
This is one reason many professionals and advanced enthusiasts hate inbuilt flash because it is harsh, directional and can’t be bounced off other surfaces.
Alternatively, this error could have been rectified in post production, i.e. Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. However, photos that are to be published in papers don’t go through that process. So that photo also ended up in the crap bin.
I have to admit that making crappy photographs helped me become a better photographer. I am much better now because I am not as bad I was then.
It helped me to become a better photographer: I was able to learn from my mistakes. It also helped that among all those crappy photographs were some real gems that I took as this photo of these two girls show.
This image like all the rest that appear in this article have not been edited or cropped. They came straight out of the camera like that. They are raw (not as in the RAW format).
It was taking usable photos like these that really kept me going and wanting to learn more. I knew then as I know now, that I could only get better.
This photo is another one that just seemed so right on so many levels. Ironically, all the photos, above and below, were taken on the same day.
It was a deep learning curve that kickstarted my conversion to photography. I was thrown into the deep end of an assignment. I was shooting from late afternoon until late at night.
It presented me with an understanding of the changes that occur within a specific period and how different times of the day or light affect what you shoot and the limits of your camera.
Looking back, it is necessary to take crappy photos. As illustrated above, I did too. But it is the only way you are going to learn, especially, if you are self taught and haven’t studied photography at college or university.
Looking at all the images above and below, I can see how I could have improved. I keep that in mind while shooting.
I also recognise that if I had edited these photographs, not the crappy ones of course, they would be that much better. But as they were for publication, I couldn’t edit them.
Now, I have a much better understanding of the editing process and how it can make a good image pop. It is not something that I used to think above before when I used to share unedited photos.
That has all changed now. I prefer to add some subtle changes to make my images pop. This all came about because I used to shoot crappy images.
If you are like me, and used to shoot crappy images, or still shooting them, don’t give up. Shoot loads. As you can see above, I had to shoot loads of crap to get some winners.