The Highs and Lows of Being a Serious Photographer

Elation and Frustration

Or The Highs and Lows of Being a Serious Photographer …

I hate my work!” or … “OK, I got my shot! I’m happy.”

I can’t seem to get anything right,” or … “It was one of those really ‘on’ days.”

Should I quite photography?” or … “I am having my first real exhibition!”

These and others are the highs and lows of any good photographer. Of any artist in any medium, for that matter.

Creativity involves both elation and frustration. If you don’t question your work, you are not pushing yourself to ever improve.

If you want to be static, don’t be an artist, but it is that continual quest to explore new ways of doing things, fraught with the attendant highs and lows, that keeps us artists going.

Running workshops as we do, Arnie and I see a lot of both ends of the spectrum. We have a day that we sometimes call Turdy Tuesday (formerly Sh** Tuesday). For many people, because we are throwing so much at them, they have to take two steps back before they can move three steps forward.

This is normal in the learning/growing process. Taking those two steps back usually means we are processing new ways of seeing or approaching our subjects. If we were all the same, it would be boring; so this is a good thing, even though it may not seem so at the time. Whether in a workshop or on your own, each of us as an artist should be challenging ourselves in order to move forward.

For example, I love photographing water. I grew up sailing along the New England coast and elsewhere, camping along wilderness streams and rivers, so water is part of my life. I keep looking for new ways to present water. This time, I wanted to capture the patterns that exist in flowing water.


Some locations lend themselves to the grand scene, others to the more intimate one. If we work at our photography, we should be able to do both. But how to get there?

In the grand-scene area, sometimes it is hard to simplify and isolate what you want. Try starting with a small scene and work up bit by bit.

In the above situation, what I wanted was small, but I didn’t see it right away this time; so, I started with a larger scene and worked my way down.

I have been experimenting with patterns, something I have always loved. We were in Las Vegas, scouting for a BCPA Does Vegas photo workshop. Las Vegas is a lot about color and shapes. Many of the buildings have great lines and patterns, but so what. For this next one, I used motion to create a different effect, taking the image out of the realm of reality into abstract.


In this example, I did a number of tries before I found the speed and angle that worked for me. Testing, testing, testing until I got what I wanted.

There were other attempts that quite simply did not work out. Instead of being discouraged, I persevered. Not everything is going to come out the way you want, but if you don’t experiment and take yourself out your comfort zone, you will never know what you might have gotten.

Walking through one of the hotels, Arnie {Arnie Zann, my husband, fellow long-time pro, and partner in “crime”] was struck by the mystery surrounding a person in a tunnel, not knowing what really was in front nor what was behind. He has been experimenting with different types of “mystery” scenes.


As we were coming back to our room from dinner with long-longtime friends last night, Arnie and I both stopped at this location. I twisted the camera this way and that, changing position, sometimes by a mere inch or two, until I found what I wanted. I made just two images, both of which I really love. Arnie paid me the supreme compliment that this would look really great blown up in a print. 5

Even Arnie and I, who have spent all (in Arnie’s case) and most (in mine) of our lives as successful working photographers, run into frustrations.

I didn’t get anything today I liked.”

Stupid camera!” (a joke, since it is about us, not the camera)

But then, there are the good ones. We liked all the above. Will everyone else? No, of course not.

Check out The Daybooks of Edward Weston who wrote a daily account of his life as a photographer. Always questioning, sometimes in despair, sometimes positive, he was an artist who gave us a glimpse into the mind of an artist. It should be required reading for all artists.

So, push yourselves, and be prepared to be frustrated at times, but also allow yourself to be elated at others. Experiment and be willing to “fail.” Who knows what that might bring? In fact, check out my blog on Making “Mistakes”.

Be hard on yourself, but not so hard that you never allow yourself successes — those highs that balance the lows we all experience in our art.

Margo Taussig Pinkerton 

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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