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  • Writer's pictureGareth Partington

Why you should fail as a photographer

Everyone is scared to fail, everyone is scared to take those first steps in putting yourself into a situation where you could fail. But then why should we do just that? Why should we take those steps to expose ourselves?

It has been nearly two years at time of writing since I posted on instagram, since I dared to show any of my professional photography. Why is this I hear you ask, or at least a mild inkling in knowing why.

The reason is simple, I became a bit jaded by the whole social media platforms. I see so many amazing photos scrolling by at a hundred miles an hour, I just didn't know how I could stand out. I didn't see the point in trying to get myself exposure when I felt that I would fail. I thought no one would be interested to see what I had produced.

So much of the advice I have read says you need to keep your social media feeds to one category and not share anything else. I loved creating portraits but I didn't think they were as good as the other photographers I had seen. I was afraid that I would either get no comments, no likes, or worse someone might give me negative remarks on my style. Why should I show the work I have slaved over for days, weeks and sometimes months over just for it to be glanced at for a split second and disregarded?

The problem was in not sharing anything, I stopped making work, I stopped pushing myself, I plateaued in my skills and I just settled down into the day jobs making the same thing over an over. By not failing I was not progressing, I was not developing as a photographer.

Fighting self doubt in your photography

It's a difficult thing knowing you are failing, knowing that in your own eyes you are not as a good as you want to be. Social media plays its part in this. So many accounts show the idealised version of their lives, a select few moments of the fantastic lives they live and the brilliant work they create. I can guarantee though that behind the smiles, your favourite photographer or artist struggles with self doubt, they still wonder if the images they produce are good enough.

So I decided to bide my time, to work on my craft behind closed doors, to try and get myself to a level where I felt comfortable with my skills, where I thought perhaps my work might stand up to scrutiny and I would be proud of it.

I listened to countless podcasts, watched hundreds of hours of videos on youtube, and purchased online courses. Notebook after notebook was filled with ideas and potential projects but I still wasn't making anything. I was still just 'biding' my time and waiting for the moment to launch my website, to create my new portfolio but in waiting I wasn't making. I was failing before I had even started.

Using Instagram stories to test the waters

I started using the instagram stories to share my ideas and images but my reach was only to perhaps thirty five people at max who would watch my stories. The good thing was the images only stayed for twenty four hours and then they were gone. I didn't have to look at them for long and they would disappear. I didn't have to live with what I put out into the world for too long.

It did however make me start to create new work. I was able to experiment again, I didn't have to worry about consistency in my instagram profile and I could just create without negative feedback, without having to worry about curating a perfect gallery of images.

Throughout all of my career I have been overly self critical in the work I produce, frustrated at the skills I didn't possess but needed, always annoyed at myself for having these elaborate ideas I could never produce. But without trying to make the images I would never learn, I would never develop so I took the plunge. It was time to not worry about what people were going to say, it was time to make the kind of art work I liked to do, to do the things that make me happy, or at least give me a sense of achievement.

Fight the self doubt and create

Sometimes you just have to create an image, edit it and then say to yourself this is done. It is ready for the world to see and move onto a new project. You can look it, be disappointed, embarrassed by the skills you lacked and see the flaws in your composition. But this is the exact thing you needed, you needed to make an image and then see where you could improve. The next time you make a photo you will remember the things that didn't work and you won't make those mistakes again.

As Yoda says "Yes, failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is"

So if you are afraid of failing, afraid of showing your work to the world because you don't think it's ready. I can tell you now, it is. Take those first steps, make good art, learn from the mistakes and then repeat the process. Do it over and over, fail, fail and fail again each time you do, you will be a better artist.

How do you combat the feelings of failure, how do you fight the self doubt when creating art? If you have any tips for me I would love to hear them.

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