It happens to all of us. It can be painful. Maybe even embarrassing. It’s definitely not something we love to talk about… but we should. At some point, each of us will face some sort of failure as a photographer. It might be big, or it could be something relatively small, but what matters most is what we do after the fact. So whether it’s not meeting our client’s expectations, losing client files, or painful business or financial mistakes, the question is: How do we recover? Our response to failure is critical. In fact, your response to failure can make or break your future as a photographer. Because it’s so important, we wanted to share with you four tips for recovering from failure.
Examine the Failure
When we have failed, one of the best things we can do is to dissect it. Take a long, hard look at the failure, and find the breaking point. Where did things go wrong? What part of the failure is your responsibility? Is there a flaw in your system? In your communication? In your technique? If you aren’t sure, ask someone you trust. I am all for the wise counsel of those around me, especially those who have walked this path before. Whether it is another trusted photographer, a mentor, or your spouse, find someone who can help you shed some honest light on the situation. Oftentimes, someone on the outside looking in will have a different and valuable perspective that we may not have thought of… Especially when we are emotionally invested in the situation.
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Be Willing to Listen
So here is a caveat. If we are going to ask for the advice and counsel of others, we must be prepared to hear the hard truth. I have a peer who reaches out to me for advice on a semi-regular basis regarding various situations, and ironically, I have come to learn that this person is usually only wanting me to affirm the perspective that they hold. When I give counsel that is contrary to how they feel about the situation, it is almost always rejected. While I agree that we can’t just take what everyone else says as truth, as professionals, we need to be willing to hear the voice of those who have been there before. If your goal in seeking the advice of others is only to confirm how you feel about the situation, caution yourself. Choose your advisors wisely, and let them help you when you have failed, especially when identifying the root of the failure. If we don’t know where the root of the problem is, we won’t have much success fixing it or preventing it in the future.
Learn From It
Once you have identified the root of the problem, the next step is to make whatever changes are necessary. If there is a flaw in your system or loophole in your contract, it’s time to fix it. If you need training or practice to enhance your technical ability, now is the time. Applying the necessary changes will ensure you have done everything you can to avoid being in this place again.
Failures are discouraging. I know, I’ve had a few. But the worst thing we can do is to quit. 85% of photographers don’t ever succeed simply because they give up. Every single one of us will have failures. In fact, if you’re not having failures, chances are you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. So don’t let failure lead you to believe you aren’t cut out for this. If anything, be thankful for the lesson and that you are learning it now, and not after years of making the same mistake over and over.
Facing any sort of failure as a photographer is tough. It’s humbling. But when we approach it the right way, it can be a launching pad to make us even better. Every single failure is an opportunity to make yourself better. So next time you fail, take a long hard look at what needs to change for you to be better. And then keep hustling.