A Perfectionist Walks Out of A Photo Shoot

claire pettibone "devotion" | exquisitrie by Kelly Sauer

There are moments in my photography career that will always, always haunt me. They’re the moments that my nightmares are made of, the ones that can still reduce me to tears and panic attacks, the things that no amount of creativity can redo, because sometimes, even in photography, life is just life and when you blow it, you BLOW it.

I’ve been careful not to make mistakes – everyone is, I think – but being human means that they are going to happen, and you hope they happen on personal things, so that the only person they affect is you, so that you can merely re-tool your vision and move on, even if you’re disappointed.

But inevitably, there’s going to be a big one that reaches farther than you and your goals, and after my trip to California, I have a new big one to add to my panic attack list. Of course it happened on my biggest shoot. The one that brought me into contact with some of the people I admire the most in the entire wedding industry. The one that *had* to be perfect.

I remember standing in the hall once after a wedding my friend photographed, years before I ever thought I would become a photographer myself. My friend was loading the wedding images onto his computer, and he had lost over half the images he shot because of improper file handling. I felt bad for him as I waited there while he tried to recover things, but I didn’t understand how *sick* something like that makes you feel until I lost one of my own destination shoots that way early last year.

It gives you PTSD. You’ve given something of yourself, shared something with a client or a model in front of your lens, thought you had earned something beautiful to bring home and give back for the gift of themselves that they shared with you – or for the money they paid you. And here you are left empty-handed, knowing that some things just can’t ever be recreated.

But I am learning is that something is better than nothing, and while sometimes the “something” is a hard-knock lesson in how to be more careful and how to get up and keep going as a professional, putting yourself out there and being real with your humanity is still worth it.

You don’t have to let your mistakes be the end of you. Just take responsibility for your mistake and take your next step. It’s not always going to be pretty. Your mistakes will not always be approached with grace. But you are bigger than that moment, and the people who can’t offer grace are probably not the people you were meant to work with anyway. Don’t be afraid of the growth that comes with messing up. You don’t know where the smallest things will take you, or when you will need the lessons you learn through failure.

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