Not Every Shoot Is A Winner
Here’s the scenario: You go do a shoot, download the images, go through the take, pick the keepers, do your editing, and deliver the shots. The client loves them! But you don’t. They’re okay, but they don’t quite send you to your happy place.

Sound familiar? If it does, I have some good news for you. You’re not alone.

Is there anything wrong with this shot? Not technically, but it’s not winning any awards.

I would guess that most photographers go through this, even the best ones. No matter how much we try to make the best possible images we can, not every shoot is going to result in a new portfolio image. You can plan all you want, put together your shot list, research the location, research your subject, make inspiration/mood boards, clean your lenses and sensor, and carry your lucky rabbit’s foot; but when you do the shoot, the shots are decent, but not great. The client is happy, so you’re happy that you’re getting paid, but you wanted to come away with better shots.

Arrive at the venue only to find out there’s no photo pit, and you weren’t there early enough to stake out a spot up front? Better hope you brought a telephoto lens.

Sometimes your subject just isn’t ideal. Or the location you picked days ahead of time fell through on the day of the shoot and you had to quickly find something else that worked. Or you were unexpectedly battling the harsh sun on what was supposed to be a cloudy day. Or you just flat out had an off day of shooting and don’t know why.

Right place, right time? Not this time. When the singer takes off down the other end of the stage and you can’t get there in time, this is the result.

For me, it’s concerts. There are so many things that come into play here that can make or break an image. How’s the lighting? If there’s lighting, is it always the same or constantly changing (to give variety to the shots)? Is the band doing fun and crazy stuff, or are they all just standing in one spot throughout the performance? Is there so much going on that I don’t even know where to point my camera to try and capture peak moments? Can I get to the spot in the pit I want to be in, or are there twenty other photographers vying for position and I’m stuck where I’m at?

Even when you’re in the perfect position to capture something you know is going to happen, things don’t always come together to capture the best moment.

I get lucky sometimes and I’m in the ideal position as the guitarist jumps off her amp in the perfect light, and my camera focuses, fires, and I nail the shot. Other times I see it happening out of the corner of my eye and turn to try to capture the moment from the wrong spot and there’s so little light on her that my camera can’t lock focus, and I get a blurry shot. Or a lot of the time I get what are, for me, mediocre shots of the singer with their mouth open and eyes closed standing in front of a mic. It’s a perfectly fine shot that you’ve seen it a million times, but you won’t see it in my portfolio.

Is there ANYTHING good about this shot??
Keep firing shots and hopefully you’ll get one that works. Still won’t see this one in my portfolio though!

But here’s the thing… You’ve gotta keep shooting. You have to push through those bad days to get to the good ones. I once heard Jay Maisel explain it this way to a frustrated photographer:

“It’s like, if I’m trying to be a well built body builder… If I go to the gym on Monday next week maybe or maybe Thursday, or just when I find a day, then it’s not going to happen. You have to go to the gym and work out. I don’t go to the gym and work out as a photographer, but I do the visual pushups everyday. If you shoot once in a while you may get some nice pictures, and if you shoot very rarely you’ll get fewer. But if you shoot all the time, the number is going to go up.”

Is there something cool happening but you’re just not sure of the best way to capture it?
Keep working the scene, trying different angles, and sometimes you can work through and find the shot.

So don’t let a bad shoot or two get you down. Keep doing those visual pushups so you increase your chances of finding those holy grail shots that you add to your portfolio. When you get them, we’ll rejoice with you. And if you don’t, just remember… You’re not alone!

You can see Brad’s keepers at BMOOREVISUALS.COM, and you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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15 Comments

  1. I feel fortunate to get a really good shot every 3 or 4 hundred clicks.

  2. Great post Brad!

  3. Brad, I always respected and admired all of your photos that you’ve shared. After seeing the ones above, my respect and admiration has shot up considerably! It takes a lot of guts to show everyone “those” shots, and now I can really appreciate the hard work you put in when shooting a concert. Thanks for the great post!
    –John

  4. Brad,

    Call me crazy, but I actually like the 5th shot down (blurred guitar player). It has a real painterly quality. If you did a intentionally created a series like this, they would be cool prints in a music room. But the last shot is great man. Hope all is well buddy

  5. Brad – excellent article. Really appreciate your attention to detail.

    Totally unrelated – possible topic for The Grid – the slow death of Google+?

    • I keep hearing about G+ as well. I hope it’s not the case, because it’s been probably my favorite social media platform for a long time

    • I second a request for this topic.

      G+ is useless, in my opinion. A couple of big issues for me:
      – most of the content is duplicated in other social media platforms (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
      – most communities/groups that you wish to share your work have 1) a post-only-one-photo-per-day limit, and 2) mandate that the photo be hosted by G+ (instead of linking to something like 500px or Flickr)

  6. Excellent Read Brad!! The Blurry one you said, “Is there ANYTHING good about this shot??, you’re right, no. But, I’ve been to several concerts where that’s what my, and many others’, memories are! :)
    See ya in a couple of weeks!
    Mike

  7. Great post, Brad. This has obviously struck a chord (sorry!) with togs who’ve ‘been there – got the blurry pic!’ Just glad I’m not the only one!! But I’m with Brian on shot 5 – I’d call it ‘arty.’ Love the last shot!! Many thanks!

  8. Great article, Brad!! And that’s all totally true. We just gotta keep plugging along! :) See you guys in Vegas soon!!

  9. Great article! I’ve shot a few concerts at Red Rocks and have also been on the other side designing lighting for various concerts. As a photog, I tend to spray and pray with the constantly changing lighting, knowing that the lighting designer is trying to keep the energy up with lighting changes. #dontstopwontstop

  10. why do I hear Roberto Valenzuela’s voice when I see Brad’s picture ?
    How did you make that happen in html ????

  11. Oh, Brad. You are quite an inspiration. You know, sometimes I think it’s a bit sad you work for Scott because a lot of people probably only know you as “Scott’s Assistant” and not a photographer in your own right. And then I remember that if you weren’t an accomplished photographer, you wouldn’t be such a great assistant. Yeah, I’m rambling. What I actually wanted to say: I shoot a lot of concerts, and when I grow up, I want to nail ONE shot that is almost as good as yours.

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