Earlier this month (July 3rd) Jeremy Cowart posted the following on Facebook “Just realized it’s now been over a year since I had my biggest and best idea to date. Still terrified of it though. Will pursue one day. Sigh.

I realized it has been almost almost a year since I executed my last big photo idea and when I stopped to think about why I realized it is because I’m afraid, just like Jeremy.

What am I afraid of?

I love shooting big concepts. It’s why I shoot and I constantly have ideas and am coming up with awesome new concepts but I never seem to get around to executing them. I often blame it on not enough time, or the hassle of finding a model/crew, etc. But the bigger reason is my fear of failure. I’m afraid that the image I take won’t be as great as the vision in my head. This paralyzes me and keeps me from pursuing my ideas. I want to make EPIC photos, and am afraid that I will end up with just an average photo.

Why do I feel this lack of ability? Why do I think that I can’t pull off an Epic photo? Because I’ve failed in the past. Every failure makes me that much more afraid of the next one.

In my head I have a vision of what the photo is going to look like, I plan, I pull together a crew to assist me, I schedule the shoot, and go shoot it. I then get back to my computer and look through the photos and they are just so-so. They look nothing like the awesome photo in my mind. Sometimes I will salvage something, (which I talked about in my post Turning a Crappy Photo Into a Keeper), but I’m often disappointed.

My Failures

So why do they fail? Here are examples of some big concepts that just didn’t work.


Dinner in the River

The above image was a failure because I took it midday and the lighting sucks. This was just the result of poor planning. I knew the midday lighting was not ideal but thought I would be able to “recover” it in Photoshop. I wasn’t able to.

Mermaid Chess

I really liked this concept, and again it fails because of the poor lighting. I had 2 concepts to shoot this day and I wanted to save sunset for the 2nd concept. So the lighting was not ideal for this earlier concept. Lesson learned, don’t combine shoots. It’s a ongoing problem. I invest a lot of time in setting up the shot and recruiting the models and assistants so I want to maximize that effort, however I’ve never been happy with the first concept when I try to shoot more than one.

No Skinny Dipping

This shot is a failure because the depth-of-field is too shallow. My vision was to have the girl out of focus but not this out of focus. It was very difficult to tell on the camera’s LCD how out of focus it was. I should have bracketed my shots and tried some with different apertures instead of shooting everything wide open.

So what do I do?

Some fear is good, it means I’m pushing myself, stretching myself, expanding my photographic horizons, which is going to make me a better photographer. But this paralyzing fear serves no purpose. So what am I going to do about it? I’m going to fight through it. I am to put some shoots on the calendar and go shoot them. The fear is good, it means I’m pushing myself, and that is what is going to take my photos to the next level. I may fail, or I might make that EPIC photo but I won’t know until I try.

So what do you do to fight though your fear of failure?