Learning to Make Mistakes: Another Mini Lesson in Creative Photography

There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.   –R. Buckminster Fuller

I have this book called Mess, by Keri Smith, creator of Wreck This Journal. The book encourages making a mess and serendipitously arriving at something beautiful. I look at the prompts regularly, but the book has remained untouched for the five months I’ve had it. Why? Because I’m afraid of making mistakes.

Eye roll.

Bear with me. I’m making progress. I now take the book to work with me and I am inching toward making a mess in the book. Until then, I’m learning to take risks and accept mistakes with my photography.

To that end, on our way to shoot a couple of brilliant trees yesterday, my friend Amanda gave me another mini lesson in creative photography–this one on creating sunbursts. After suggesting settings, she said, “You’ll have to play around with it till you get what you want.”

I know photographers don’t always hit the perfect shot the first time, and of course I rarely do, particularly with an 18-200 mm lens that is becoming frustrating (time for a new one!), but there was something in the phrase “play around” that gave me permission to make mistakes and not feel bad about the shots that fell flat.

I zoomed out for some shots. I pulled the lens all the way in for others. Shooting at 18 mm produced the best bursts, but of course, they were tiny. I knew to crop the image to make the sun appear closer, so here’s the lesson I learned intuitively: in art [and to some degree in life] our messes are often salvageable.

So I’ll keep working on it.

The funny thing is, the image I [initially] liked least has sun flare, an effect some photographers try to achieve, according to Amanda.

Serendipity.

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