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The Power of Failure

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Oct 17

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Why Failure Can Be a Good Thing

It can be hard to accept, but sometimes failure is a good thing, and it is almost always necessary for growth.

In today’s episode we talk about one of our recent failures – a great photo shoot idea turned out to be not so great. To be completely honest it is really frustrating when this happens to me. I think to myself “I have been doing this for such a long time, how can I still be so bad!” I am sure we have all said that to ourselves at times. I wanted to do something amazing, and I set my sights high, but in the end came out with an image that I am not wild about. Technically it worked out just fine, but aesthetically it is not appealing, and in my opinion it is boring.

Maury Ballstein: What do we do when we fall off the horse?
Derek Zoolander: [thoughtfully looking up and mouthing the words silently] … fall off the horse…
Maury Ballstein: [looking to supply finish] … we… get back on!
Derek Zoolander: Sorry, Maury. I’m not a gymnast.

Learning From Failure

After realizing that this image wasn’t going to work out I had two choices: Wallow in my own pity or get back on the horse. The truth is that no matter how long you have been doing this you are going to face failure every now and then. A lot of people experience this and then retreat back into something they are comfortable with. I think that is why we see artists get better and better and then seem to plateau.

I fight this plateau very hard, mostly because I am insanely stubborn. It usually takes a few days, but when I can look at a failure and see the positives and turn it into a learning experience, I always wind up better off.

Your Failures

I know we all fail, and admitting it can be hard, but now is the time to get them out there. Let us know of a time you have failed and how you learned from your failure to grow. You won’t be alone, and we can learn from each other’s failures.

After all, Phlearn is here to make you better.

Make sure to become part of the Phlearn Family on Facebook, conversate with us on Twitter, and #hashtag your Phlearn inspirations on Instagram. We want to know what the Phlearn community social chatter is about, and who is sharing it. You all keep us motivated to do our best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Peckham-II/100002160465503 Jon Peckham II

    I’ve spent my whole life in failure.. .

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002413616924 Si Teng Po Ito

    Sir Aaron, I have a favor.. Do You still keep your old photos when you were still new to digital slr and Photoshopping? :-) Hope you could do one episode about it… I believe it will be more inspiring for beginners and everyone here.. Thank You so much!

    More Power to Phlearn!

    —–> Mark Lester

  • Brandon

    Dude, when I saw this episode come up in my newsfeed on Facebook, it literally made me pull over to the side of the road and pause for a second. I don’t know how this is going to sound, but my heart started racing and my palms got all sweaty.. This is EXACTLY what I centered my self portrait around this week :) Sooo glad to hear it happens to even the best photographers!! You have no idea the impact this episode has had on me today in such a positive way.

    http://flic.kr/p/dkmMv1
    The failure: http://sdrv.ms/OJcOaG (Concept was to be “You’ve gotta risk it, to get the biscuit”)

  • Michelle

    First of all, nice editing the dancers in the shot and getting the angles right! I don’t know how you pulled that off. &I like the image, I don’t think you should give up! Something that might change the outcome of your photo (and something that I end up doing all the time), is to alter the colors of the buildings and roads as a whole, and to then alter the color of the dancers as a whole, as well. The city photo could be in cool colors, and the dancers and ribbons could be in warm colors, so it’s a subtle way to make them pop and stand out from the background. A ton of my photos have a subject that I want to be the focal point, but if I fail at making that obvious, a few color and saturation changes can save it from failing entirely! Just a suggestion in case you have given up on it; I love your work and Phearn! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514425779 David J. Crewe

    Do you think that maybe if the concept was at Night it would have worked better? Something about my perspective is the colors and brightness of the city sort of hide the dancers and they don’t pop….so maybe a darker image? or sunset?  Perhaps that would make it pop a little more?

  • http://www.facebook.com/RhiVolver Rhiannon Brunett

    When I first saw the image I didn’t like it either, but 

  • JJWerline

    Thats why the saying goes….”If you never failed you never tried!!!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/rayakey Ray A. Akey

    I didn’t read the comments or the text.. Just watched the video.  Based on that, personally.. I would look at this and learn and then shoot it again, in a smaller version.  Not scale.  I like the scale of models to city elements.  I think your background was just too culttered.  Focus on one or two buildings and a single or two models maybe. “Less is more..”

  • http://twitter.com/EddieJustino Eddie

     Admitting we’ve failed is very good. And one thing I like about this episode is that you wrote down what you felt was ‘wrong’ and you are going to try shooting it again.

  • Marek K Nowak

    I think if there would be only 1 big dancer, and the image be cropped, it would be better, since as it is, it’s too distracting, and we don’t know what to look at.

  • Richard Wagenaar

    Here in the Netherlands do not support Pink Ribbon anymore after we discovered that they spend only 1,8 percent on actual breastcancer research. De rest of the money was spend on Pink Ribbon itself. I would not spend a single second on them and find another way to support research.

  • http://www.facebook.com/silviu.antohe Silviu Antohe

    how do you calculate the perspective angle of an image?

  • Gismo834

    Mmmh i think your picture could be strong. Here is what i would do.
    - Give the whole image much more contrast and a more painted look. 
    - Put the whole Sceene into the night with  a helicopter upstairs. The heli could throw big beams on every person.
    So the persons Pop out. Some light to the windows, some light on the sky in the background etc.
    - The light on the persons is for my taste not edgy enough. To say it with Joel Grimes there is not enough Drama on them.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/peteglogiewicz/ Pete Glogiewicz

    The timing of this post is amazing. Last night I was working on a shot and I hated it, My wife says it was good, and my friends liked it. But the more I looked at it the more I hated it. I scrapped the image in the end. I think we are our own worst critics (In life and photography) and that if it doesnt look right to you, it probably never will. Big ups for sharing you’re failure guys, and explaining why yo feel it doesnt work.

  • http://phlearn.com Aaron Nace

    We are giving directly to college research, not the Susan G Coleman Foundation.

  • http://phlearn.com Aaron Nace

    I used  a combination of measuring and 3d modeling, building the scene, setting up a camera and building a virtual scene. It was quite hard, maybe I will make an episode on it when I figure out how to make it easier.

  • writersbloc

    Agree with some of the posters – seems like it would work better if the models were larger (buildings taking up too much of the visual real estate- they should probably frame the shot, not be the shot). Can’t wait to see the revision, especially how you’re going to weave in the ribbons. 

  • http://twitter.com/stevie_ella Stevie-Ella

    Most of my self portraits fail, which is a massive pain as usually I’m the only subject I have to test ideas with!

    I’ve just shot some that I’m going to edit together, so far I think they’re going to become my best self-portrait, but it’s still only going to be ok at best.

    One problem I think I have is expecting too much and not analysing them properly. I tend to look at the raw photos, think ‘what the hell?’ and scrap them. 

    Also I don’t persist enough in shooting. I get bored running to and from the camera to check things. 

  • Angelica Sierra

    This remind my an oldd episode in witch you said “If you are not falling, you are not getting better” Best quote ever!! It inspired me so many times… Thanks Aaron!

  • Angelica Sierra

    remind me*

  • http://www.leavittphoto.com Ben Leavitt

    forget the failures, I want to know how the heck you learned to calculate the perspective and angles you were to shoot at to match the scene????

  • Nico Nordström

    Please do! :]

  • http://twitter.com/judesrphoto judesrphotography

    I know this is an old episode, but I’ll comment anyway. I seriously hope that someday I’ll be able to do things that I won’t be dissatisfied with a month later. (That’s about how long it takes for my brain to recognize something is a loss.) That’s my goal, and I know that the only way to do it is to plug through the bad. Meh.
    Here’s my simultaneous success and failure: My senior exhibit. The success is that it was the first ‘crazy editing’ I ever tried and that I actually did finish the project. The failure is that I feel I did it badly, and the theme is convoluted. I was trying to explain to much, do too much, mainly because I didn’t want it to be a cliche like other ‘goddess’ photos I’ve seen. At this point though, I still honestly can’t wrap my head around what I would need to do different. I wonder if that’s a problem? Oh well … Yes, I got reamed by my professors on the project. They did not like. lol.

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.350666011666956.83069.271123209621237&type=3

  • http://photodoto.com/ Nancy Young

    It’s a great lesson of your own. Sometimes we need a failure to move on. And it realy works :) Of course, first a failure feels very sad. But than you start realizing that it’s just the next lesson you should understand and adopt. Thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nico.belazaras Nicolás Belazaras

    I think that would be awesome!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nico.belazaras Nicolás Belazaras

    Hah, that’s a problem, you can do tethered shooting!

  • http://www.facebook.com/randell.john Randell John

    I think you’ve been way too hard on yourself Aaron, and I sure that if you completed everything you planned and added the shadows and ribbons you’d have a superb shot.

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