Some Quick Thoughts About Showing My Throw-Away Photos

I was thinking this morning about yesterday’s post, where I showed some of my not-so-good photos from my recent trip. I figured I’d share some thoughts with you.

1. It was one of my most popular blog posts since I’ve started the blog.
It’s really interesting because I’ve done this twice so far. The first time was with my not-so-good photos from my Grand Teton trip back in September. Both of those posts are ranked at the top of my most visited (and most commented on) posts on this blog since I started it back in July 2012.

2. I think people like to know that most photographers don’t just click the shutter and magic happens.
The reason why I think #1 happened is because most people like knowing that other photographers don’t just press the shutter once to get a great photo. I’ve always believed that photography is very much like exercise (and many other things in life). You warm up before the good stuff happens. The more you practice, the more you warm up, the better and faster you get at it. But no matter how good you get, you still have to warm up.

3. Good composition comes from working a scene.
Building on #2 above, I think you have to take lots of bad photos before you get to a good one. Scott Kelby talks about this in his Crush The Composition class on Kelby Training Online. He talks about working the scene or area you’re in. It’s not just about what you see when you walk up. It’s about how your camera sees it. And that view changes depending on what lens you have on, where you’re standing and how high or low you happen to be. That’s why working the scene is so important. You’re taking photos that aren’t great, to help you get to that great one. There’s time where I walk up to a scene and just know exactly what I want to shoot. But there’s MANY times where I have no idea. Perfect example was my 2nd morning morning at the sand dunes in Death Valley. Things didn’t go as planned and when I arrived at the area I wanted to shoot it, the dunes were trampled to death by tourist traffic the day before. Just looking around initially, I thought to myself “There’s nothing to shoot here”. But then, by working the scene and getting comfortable for a few minutes, I realized there was a shot, though, if I put my 70-200 lens on and zoomed in to something interesting I saw off in the distance. This (below) ended up being one of my favorites from the trip. But I never saw it when I first got there. I had “wide” eyes on (and a wide lens at that), so working the area for a little while helped me focus in on a better shot.

Death Valley Dunes

4. I Know I Showed My Bad Photos, But I Don’t Think You Should Show Yours?
I know everyone always says to only show off your good work. I believe they’re right. If you’re reading this and you’re some one trying to make it as a photographer (pro, amateur, or just hobbyist), then you probably shouldn’t show off your bad photos. Unless you’re sitting with a teacher (some one else who knows how the process of photography and post-processing work and go together) and trying to figure out what you did wrong, I think you should have your favorites picked and processed before you show people. It’s okay if the rest of the world (your clients, friends, family, etc…) think you walk up and nail a photo in one shot. For me personally, I shared these because I want to be a teacher. And I wanted to show you (hopefully teach you too), that these things don’t happen automatically with one click.

Thanks so much for the comments and thoughts the last two days. Hopefully this post helps tie those thoughts together a little. Have a good one!

  • David

    Totally agree with you there on everything in this post Matt. And you do teach every time you post something like this and the good and bad photo’s.

  • Jeannie

    I loved seeing those bad shots right after I saw all those Beautiful ones. I told someone I have been trying to teach Photography about it, Just to show that even the really good photographers can take stinkers, that every image one takes is not always a masterpiece, but that you can learn from the bad ones.

  • Mark Coons

    Thanks Matt!

  • Walt Danker

    Thanks Matt. It is always instructive to see your best work as an illustration of what good looks like. Seeing all the “throw aways” is also very instructive, and gives me a more complete view of the process. It encourages me to to take more pictures, and be more selective. Also, you point about working the scene is well taken.

  • Dwane Morvik

    I enjoy seeing the process and what goes into a “good” photograph vs. an average one. Some folks do get the impression that everything shot is always good. Not so.

  • Chris Belyea

    Thanks Matt … everything you share is always greatly appreciated

  • Greg Hughes

    I want to join the chorus of others – this post is really helpful! ‘Specially #4 – puts things in perspective and I’m glad you clarified that. I’d say you’re a pretty good teacher! Thanks Matt!

  • Charlie Garcia

    Good to see that even the great photographers are ‘human’, gives us novices hope to become a better photographer. Thanks for being humble about your work Matt.

  • Doug Churchill

    Both your current blog entries are timely for both my photo mentees. And very similar to the conversations I’ve had with them this week about their photography. Thank you for adding your voice to reinforce my voice on these topics.

  • Dennis Zito

    Hi Matt, I’m a little late getting to your blog today. Many things happening. I’m really glad you wrote this follow up post. I was reading through some of the comment yesterday, and got the feeling you might want to clear up a few things. I watched Scott’s composition class a couple of times before we took a vacation last year. It helped me a lot! Like you said … working the scene, trying to see what the camera sees! All great stuff!

    Thanks for all you do for us! I can’t tell you how much you have helped me improve my photography!


  • Ken Johnson

    You got some very nice shots. I’ve never noticed the crests built-up on the dunes before. You must have been there after a tremendous wind. Love that long shot you posted today. And good point to work the scene. Interesting to search around with a long lens. This one of mine got a lot of looks:!i=2129518201&k=pnX5Fth&lb=1&s=A
    Keep posting your work.

  • Ian Johns

    This goes back to the “reverse-critique” episode of The Grid. Showing the “bad” and then showing us what works in similar situations. I use “bad” in quotes because it wasn’t like they were horrendous snaps…but they were very much like snapshots. Anyway, I learn from seeing the good and not-so-good so I really appreciated the pair of posts.

    Now to just do another reverse-critique show!

  • Tomislav

    Hi Matt,
    to me personally this one resonated the most: “You’re taking photos that aren’t great, to help you get to that great one.”.

    I guess I was (maybe unconscionably) under impression that once you get to be a good photographer you don’t really take bad pictures because you’ve learned how to get the good ones. But this analogy with exercises was right on the money :-)

  • Catherine Martin

    I like what you said in the section about working a scene – “It’s not just about what you see when you walk up. It’s about how your camera sees it.” I’ve been learning this big time over the last year. Knowing this really does help you in working the scene. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to learning every single little nuance of my camera so that I can get the most out of it when I’m working the scene. It’s incredible fun to just keep going at it to see what happens through the lens. I laughed at one of your shots where you said something to the effect that there is a time to stop shooting when the light goes bad. Then you said that you apparently felt the need to continue shooting the same thing. Loved that.