It’s Not Necessarily About the Outcome

Sometimes the muse abandons us or conditions conspire against us or we get interrupted by something urgent. This can make us create pictures that do not live up to our expectations. But unless we are shooting for a client, we probably should not worry so much about the results we get, the outcome. We should remember to enjoy the creative exercise and have fun.

We all want great images

I assume that creating exceptional images is a goal for most of us. I know my expectations are high. We study technique and browse images by great artists we appreciate. We spend a lot of time getting to a location, exploring, setting up, composing. But it doesn’t always work.

Despite our best efforts, we are often disappointed. What we get may not be great. It may not even be very good. This can be very disappointing if we only judge our self by the outcome.

They won’t all be great

It is not uncommon for me to go out for a day of shooting and end up throwing most of them away, with none to add to my portfolio. Does this make me a failure? I try to see it differently.

I hope we can be philosophical about it. Sometimes all we seem to get from our effort is experience. Hopefully we learn from our experiences and improve our craft. That’s a bittersweet benefit. But the reality is we will learn more from a failed shoot than a successful one.

I’m coming to see that I am evaluating it wrong. My attitude was that I failed unless I got a number of great images. I concentrated on the outcome. There are greater goals.

The process may be as important

Sure, it is disappointing to not have captured those scenes that called to us at the time. But it is an opportunity for self-examination. What caused them to be unspectacular? Was there something we could have done different?

The editing process is a mirror where we can see how our mind worked and even see our soul to some degree. The images are captured. For better or worse, the bits are there on the computer. Now we have to deal with them. We can process them, but we cannot change them substantively – well, usually not.

I actually see something cathartic in deleting bad images. I have evaluated them and analyzed the problems and learned what I can. Now I have no more need of them. Remove them from my world. It’s a purging. In most cases I actually have an informal goal of throwing a certain percentage of my images away in the early stages of editing. The thought process is that I should be experimenting and working at the edge of my comfort zone. This causes a lot of failures. Failure is just part of learning.

Enjoy your art

Maybe I’m weird, but I see art as a work of joy. We should love what we do. Loving what we do is not the same as creating great work. They may be related, but they are not the same.

There are times when I go out and don’t end up with anything to keep except the memory of the great scene and the feelings I had. That is enough. Good art should be based on the feelings we are trying to convey. If I had the feelings but couldn’t realize them in the image, that means I am on the right track but I have to learn more. That is a challenge for artistic growth. I have seen too much art that is technically perfect but seems to me devoid of feeling.

There is a lot of talk about “flow” in the artistic process. Have you really experienced it? Not the fake stuff that is hyped by a lot of self-help gurus. There is no “hack” or shortcut to get there.

I developed the ability in my previous professional career, before I ever heard the term defined. There was a “place” I could easily drop into, a creative mode where I did great work and would be completely unaware of time for hours.

I can occasionally find the same place in my art, both when shooting and when processing. This is a reveling in the work regardless of the outcome. Yes, true flow is independent of what we might or might not produce. It is the joy of creation.

Let’s learn to revel in the process, the flow. We will create great things, but that is not the goal in itself. The joy of creation will carry us to become greater. Look at what you are becoming, not just what you are producing.

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