By dictionary definition, success is ‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose (it’s also ‘the attainment of popularity or profit,’ but let’s focus on the first one for now.

I think the path to creative success begins with a pride in your work. Are you creating work that you love, that fills your creative craving? Maybe your work isn’t always your definition of complete perfection, but can you look at your latest image and think ‘this is it, I’m getting it, this is where I need to be?’ If not, why not?

Maybe there’s something wrong, or something missing. Maybe it’s a matter of finding your passion. You’re a toy photographer and you are fascinated by toys. Great, but what else do you love? Whether movies, animals, morning light, combine it with your toy photography and you’re one step closer to creating images you love.

I get so excited about my new images and ideas, and then a few months, weeks, or days later I hate them. A few stick, but some I just wonder what I was ever thinking. Over time, I’ve come to see this as a good thing. I stop myself from deleting them from social media, I instead have chosen to learn from those bad apples.

This can be a good practice when looking at the work of others too. Spend time with an image and ask yourself what you like and don’t like and why. Whether that’s in terms of light, types of toys, realism or lack thereof, meaning, scenery, etc. Then, apply those ideas to your own work.

Overall, you are the scale to measure your own success. It may sound cheesy, but make your art for you, and if other definitions of success follow, then so be it.

With that, it’s time for a tour or my images I hate. I’m not saying these are bad, but they’re ones I’ve developed a bad taste for for one reason or another. These immediately popped to my mind when putting together this post, and when pulling them, a new light was shone on some, and I can’t believe I hated them so much… All in all, here’s what I’ve learned.

2012 – My first focused toy photographic work. I used a reversed mounted lens and while I got a lot of detail, I hated how little control I had over focusing. Then in post processing the porch railing was so overblown and after all the work it took to get it to a printable image for a class photo critique I was already long past it. That said, this series was about WWII and I’ve continued using war symbolism in my work since.

2013 – An image for my final college project. I got an overwhelmingly positive response from others on this one…because of the background. The background is a stock image that you probably even have in your ‘My Pictures’ folder right now. My contributions were the rocks and horse, and after the positive reactions to the beautiful scenery I felt so disingenuous. Using photo backdrops is great, but maybe not where they make the image.

2013 – Perspective is so important, at least to me. And I just can’t get over how I didn’t take the time to make the road fade further into the background.

2016 – I hand made everything in this image, that’s great, but I feel like the image became more about the items in it than a new idea in a photograph. I do however like the real smoke effect, and have continued to use similar effects in my work.

2016 – The overall idea here was to show a skeleton hidden behind a shop counter. However, while you can maybe figure it out when looking at all the images in the series, as a stand alone image I feel it falls flat. In an effort to create mystery, I left out too many needed details.

~ Jennifer Nichole Wells