This week I wanted to touch on the subject of failure. Mistakes and times when everything just seems to go wrong. Is it possible to avoid them? Is it possible to stay positive and move forwards? Are they useful?
I managed to make a few mistakes last year that I wanted to share with you guys to show you that we all mess up and from that, lessons can be learned.
- Misjudged my network
- Forgot gear for a shoot
- Failed to establish a clear goal for a shoot
The first one was a devastating blow to my frame of mind. In essence, I’d fallen into a place where I was connected with a few people who had very different goals and expectancy than myself.
It ended in mass confusion, a lot of hurt and losing both business and personal connections for potentially a lifetime. This was one of those times where I felt like the journey itself was completely outside of my control and I was simply in it for the ride.
But until I understood that. I felt like I had the chance to change everything through honesty and commitment to working hard at repairing things by providing clarity through communication.
I learned very quickly that people are people and anyone who is not yourself will ultimately have their own approach and own mindset which you cannot control. And as such all you can do is be yourself and hope it goes well.
The lesson I picked up from this “fail” was that first and foremost, risks are always worth taking, people are always worth talking to and sometimes the world is so far outside of your control you just have to accept it.
Applying this to photography is a big one. Think of the times you’ve had a client turn you down, perhaps you can’t and don’t find clients? Perhaps your studio is struggling or recently closed down etc?
Maybe you’re doing something wrong, but equally so, maybe you aren’t and the timing was just wrong or something outside of your control was afoot. It’s your job to “not take it personally”.
See mistakes, failures or crappy situations as they are and learn what you can from them before not dwelling and moving on. I suck at the not dwelling part.
The second failure (forgetting gear)
This was based out of trusting myself to pick the right bag up rather than checking for sure, I had a strip box and an octa in the same black wrap bags and I simply picked up the one I thought was the octa and left.
When I got to the shoot I was devastated that there wasn’t enough time to go back and get it nor was there the right type of modifier available to get the lighting that I desired. DAMN!
The lesson I learned from this? Be patient. Be Thorough. No matter how exciting something is with regards to your shoot, always check each bag, check the batteries, check the gear, make sure you have what you need before you leave. Never take what you have for granted / on trust alone.
Though, to be fair. I think I still managed to get something out of the situation!
Always check it
Lastly, I had a client job for an established lighting company here in the UK and it was with the biggest team I’d ever worked with to date. I had my best friend there shooting it and a full team of people involved.
Prior to the shoot, it was agreed that we would provide images and a BTS video for the company. What ended up happening was we only had enough time to shoot and create a single image because it was so complex to piece together and the video we thought we had nailed was wrong.
It didn’t show enough of the gear, of the setup, of the brand name. There wasn’t enough story leading up (makeup being done etc. etc). So we ultimately failed on a huge level. The lesson I learned there was simple.
Never take a client’s idea or rough examples as gospel when it actually requires a solid plan. What I should have done (had I the experience back then) is ask for a specific checklist of what the company required in order to fulfill their needs.
Instead, we were working blindly and because of that we had a mismatch in vision.
There’s a lot we can learn and use to move forward from our mistakes that doesn’t involve dwelling or hanging around negatively, instead we can adopt the attitude of “Failure is a resource” and use that to keep pushing on.
I remember having my windscreen replaced on my car a few weeks ago and I asked the guy what his biggest work related mistake was. He told me when he was newly into the company he’d climbed into this BMW and kicked the front window out to replace it.
The manager of the company ran up to him screaming at him asking him what the hell he was doing, he said “replacing the windscreen” to which the manager replied: “It’s the BACK WINDOW!”.
I’m not sure he ever had that one go haha :D
As my father would say “Don’t let the b******s grind you down”.
What have some of your biggest mistakes been?