On an average shoot with one model, I’m shooting between five hundred and a thousand images. Sometimes it’s more, like when you’re on location and nobody’s in a rush and things are going really well, everbody’s vibing, the work feels really collaborative – you can end up with a lot more. Sometimes you get a lot less, like when your subject has fifteen minutes before they have to leave and you’ve got to dead heat sprint your way through the shoot in the hopes you’ll get something that works.
Either way, prepare yourself because no matter how good you are, no matter how long you’ve been taking pictures, the reality is this:
You’re gonna take bad photos.
If you’re like me, you’re going to take a lot of bad photos, and the goal is for those to just be stepping stones to some good ones. Sometimes, I scroll through a shoot’s work in Lightroom when I’m starting to make my selections, and I’m in awe of how many misses I had. Maybe I had my framing wrong, and now the dang photo is tilted way out of whack. Maybe I blew my exposure out way too much, and it’s too far gone to salvage. Maybe I missed something distracting that was in the frame, like a flyaway on the guy’s hair or an unflattering angle that I don’t notice in the tiny camera monitor. It’s always something, man.
So you’ve got to be comfortable with a low hit rate. Like, really low. I sometimes think about a line Mark Cuban had in an old blog post from years and years ago: “You only have to be right once.” Ultimately, that’s what we should be striving for. For me, I know that when I show up to some location and shake hands with somebody I’ve never met, I’ve got one to two hours hanging out with them to try to make at least one cool picture. I’m going to shoot roughly a thousand, so I’m of course trying to hit more than one out of a thousand, but if I can just get one truly cool picture, to me, even that can be considered a success.
Get comfortable with bad photos. You’ll take a lot. But there’ll be some good ones strewn about the wreckage, too – that’s what you’re in it for.
Until next time,
PS + PSA: Now, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to work with somebody for two hours and send them one or two photos. I occasionally hear about people that work like that. Maybe you’re so meticulous you’re editing individual pixels, if so, I applaud your attention to detail. You and I are a different breed, though. Models’ time is valuable too. If you can count the number of photos you’re giving back on one hand, you might consider sending a few more, even if you put less time into them.