Have you ever embarked on a photographic excursion with high expectations of the pictures you’re about to capture? Perhaps upon returning home you believed that you had some amazing images sitting on your SD card, but, upon reviewing the exposures, you’re left disappointed? I know that I have. Sometimes our expectations of how things will go doesn’t match reality, and it can be discouraging.
It’s easy to believe that I am a better photographer than I am. This is pretty common—I’m certain I’m not the only one—and it’s easy to spot in hindsight: I thought some certain photographs of mine were really good, but reviewing them years later I realize that they were mediocre at best. I’m biased about my own images, and it takes some time to view them through fresh (less-biased) eyes for what they really are. Besides, I hope that I’m constantly improving, so my photographs today should be better than they were years ago. Years from now I’ll look back at my photographs that I think are great today, and I’ll realize they’re not nearly as good as I once perceived them to be.
Still, I have some expectations—prior to even pulling out the camera—of what I will capture. I also have some expectations—before I even have a chance to review them—of the exposures that I did capture. It’s only later, after returning home and viewing the pictures, do I really begin to process what I actually have, and very rarely does it match those expectations. Kyle McDougall talks about this in his video below.
I think sometimes we expect—or at least I do—to have a whole crop of wonderful pictures from each photographic outing. Our social media feeds demand a steady stream of fresh pictures to keep our followers engaged. Our relevancy relies on an abundance of images to showcase our talents. But it’s all unrealistic.
Ansel Adams stated, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” That was the expectation of one of the greatest photographers of all time: one great picture a month, on average. Maybe one month had three, and two months had none—however it worked out, twelve a year was a good year.
How many have I had this year so far? Not 10, I can tell you that. Maybe five or six. I’m no Ansel Adams, so perhaps twelve in a year is an unrealistic goal for me. I think if I captured a half-dozen photographs in one year that I’m really proud of, that’s a good year. I definitely shouldn’t expect any more than one good picture at most from one outing with my camera. More than one would be an extraordinarily successful—and I’m sure exceedingly rare—event.
So that brings me to the pictures in this article, which were captured while on a weekend adventure to the Mazatzal Mountains in central Arizona. These three images are my personal favorites from the trip. I don’t consider any of them to be “significant” or “portfolio worthy” pictures. In the moment that I captured them and a number of others from the trip, I thought they were. I thought I had five or six frames that I was going to love, but upon reviewing them, I had maybe close to 50 decent frames, and five or six good pictures, but no great photographs. I was disappointed with myself, because I thought I had done better.
Then I watched that Kyle McDougall video, which was exactly what I needed to see. I had unrealistic expectations for myself, and that led to disappointment. Instead, going forward, I should hope to come away with just one picture that I’m happy with—anymore than that is a bonus—and perhaps if I capture one significant picture within a month, that’s something to be ecstatic about.
I think it’s easy—thanks to social media—to think we need to capture a handful of portfolio-worthy pictures each time we go out with the camera. That’s being completely unfair with ourselves. If you capture one, celebrate that. If you don’t capture any “significant” pictures, don’t fret! That’s normal. That’s to be expected. Just try to learn and grow and become better in some way, so when a potential portfolio-worthy picture opportunity presents itself, you’re fully prepared. That’s the expectation you should have for yourself, and nothing more.