Recovering From Your “Best” Photo

Earlier this week, Brett discussed what it’s like to chase after your “White Whale” shot, that one perfect photo that’s been floating around in your head for a while and sometimes feels completely unattainable. It’s something I resonated with deeply, as it’s a struggle I face all the time in my own photography. Then it got me thinking…

What happens when you finally take that shot? How do you recover from your “best” photo?

Photography is, of course, subjective, so how you define your “best” shot may vary. For me, my “best” photo is the one I take and think, “Wow! This came out exactly how I wanted it to, and might just be the best picture I’ve ever taken!”

Throughout my time as a toy photographer, this has happened to me on a handful of occasions. Each and every time, a strange phenomenon happens. I don’t just feel exhilarated that I’ve finally caught my “White Whale” or that I’ve perfectly captured something in my imagination. I also feel a weird sense of dread and self-doubt. Then, I develop writer’s block (er… photographers’ block?) because of the pressure I now feel to take another photo that’s just as good, if not better.

lego-bigfoot
When this won best LEGO photo at Bricks Cascade in 2016, I thought for sure I was done for, creatively

When I take my best photo yet, I then wonder… Now what? 

Can I possibly top the photo I’ve just taken? Will every subsequent photo look worse in comparison? Have I reached a new quality threshold that I have to reach from here on out? Can I possibly improve from here, or is this as good as I’m going to get?

The answer is always, of course, no! You’re not finished. You’re not “spent.” You haven’t run out of good ideas or “peaked” creatively. Every time I thought I’d hit that mark, I instead made the choice to keep going, and use my newest creative win as a jumping off point. What had I learned from taking that shot that I could apply to future photos?

“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”

-Kim Collins

Don’t doubt yourself. Challenge yourself! Maybe the next photo you take will then become your “best” photo. Then the next, and the next…

lego-indiana-jones
My current “best photo yet,” taken for May’s blockbuster contest

When was the last time you took your “best photo ever?” Did you feel the same I did about mine? Share your story in the comments! 

James 

If you enjoy posts like this, we invite you to join our G+ community.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get notified when we have a new post ready for you.

Published by

thereeljames

Just a grown up kid still obsessed with Star Wars, superheroes, and toys.

12 thoughts on “Recovering From Your “Best” Photo”

  1. There simply is no best shot, IMHO. There are only shots you like, and others like. ‘The best’ is in the eye of the beholder.
    ‘The best’ also changes over time. Looking back at some of the photos I once believed to be my best, I can’t even remember why I thought that. I got better I guess. Yet this also goes for the work of other I look at. Sometimes I really liked a photo, but looking back at it I think “Mweh”… probably because I focus at other aspects of photo’s these days.

    1. Totally agree that “best” is subjective. I have that too where I look back at some old shots I used to love and cringe. I think that’s just a sign that we’re growing and getting better over time. I also have that with other artists at times. Sometimes I look up a photo I used to love or aspire to, and think, “Oh I used to like this a lot more than I do now.” Perhaps as we grow as photographers, our tastes do as well?

  2. A mentor of mine once said that creativity and creation is series of peaks, and as one gets better the next highest peaks are farther apart, however the valleys are often shallower.

    The secret is to celebrate a success, then give yourself the gift of time to reach the next peak, and the assurance that you will eventually reach it, if you keep doing the work.

    1. Ooooh, I love what your mentor said! That really really speaks to me. I couldn’t agree more, let’s celebrate our successes and use them as momentum builders as we move to the next thing!

  3. Very interesting post James! I absolutely understand what you are saying. Once in awhile I’ll take a photo that’s exactly what I hoped for (it’s rare) and then I have no motivation to take photos again because I know they won’t be as “good” as the last one. I always remind myself that progress is never linear and although you feel like you are going backwards, you probably aren’t 🙂

    Lynn

    1. Thanks, Lynn! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who deals with this phenomenon. You’re right, progress isn’t linear. I need to remember that sometimes and just keep shooting!

  4. What a wonderful dilemma to be in! Capturing a shot that ticks a lot of the boxes is a great thing. But using “that shot” as a new starting point is even better. The continual evolution of our photography is a far greater reward than that one photo we think is our pinnacle. Reach the summit and then climb higher!
    I get what you’re saying here. I’ve chanced across photos along the way that I thought couldn’t be topped. But it’s that push to outdo myself that keeps me doing what I do.
    Great post mate!

    1. Thanks man! Yes, it is a wonderful conundrum to have. I’m learning too to continue pushing myself and use my “best” photo as inspiration for myself to keep getting better.

      Cheers!

  5. This is a post that really resonates with myself at the moment.
    I find myself driven to distraction at the moment. Partially I think due to the loss of my usual camera (damaged it storm chasing) but largely due to photos I’ve taken myself recently I’ve been quite happy with and now I’m really struggling with where to go next with my work.
    So many ideas bouncing round my head with figures I’ve purchased recently, figures that I’ve purchased for a particular shot I have in mind. I don’t know which direction to go in next, I’m almost afraid to make a mistake.

    1. Thanks Dan, I’m glad to hear it resonated with you! It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my fears and self-doubts. Losing your usual camera IS a big drag, that’s happened to me on a couple occasions.

      I purchase pieces or figures with particular photos in mind as well. Then I sometimes find that once I have the piece I need, I stall because I’m nervous about getting it right!

  6. Interesting point of view James. I never considered this before. When I see a photo in my view finder that makes my heart do a little flip its like an endorphin rush. Im addicted to that feeling and I’m always on the hunt for the next hit. I have lots of strategies in place to help me to hit that next ‘high’. I never try to finish a project, I always leave threads around that I want to pursue. These can be notes on ideas, books to inspire, new mini figures, unusual locations, new accessories, etc. The idea of ‘best photo’ or even ‘white whale’ are ideas I never would have considered. Im simply looking to add photos to a few series / themes that I have circling around in my head.

    I know at some point the creative well will run dry because its happened before. When that happens, I will leave this project and look around for the next one. Who knows, maybe I will even leave photography and take up painting. Until that happens I will keep searching for my next ‘hit’. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Shelly! I was actually curious about how you’d feel about this one. You take a lot more photos than I do, and seem to have mastered the art of holding off on a shot that’s not quite right or trying out new projects.

      I like your method of using a great shot as an endorphin rush. I need to remember to be wholly excited about when that happens, and to stop doubting my abilities to recreate that success.

      I totally know what you mean about your creative well running dry, that’s happened to me a few times in my life with big projects I thought were finally “my thing.” Hopefully that doesn’t happen anytime soon with toy photography, for either one of us! (Though I’d happily follow along with whatever medium you decide to play with next).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *