Another Claudius BlogDealing With Frustration in Photography

Photography, just like any other field of profession, is susceptible to frustration. Photographers, especially the professionals are also get rejected most of the time. Have you ever experienced long time ago, back in the 90s, where there is this one old man, carrying film camera that goes from one event to another event, which often “forces” kids to gather around and he proceed to take a photo? That uncle, commonly known as Chai Ko Chat (not sure if this is the real name, but most of Serian folks know him, very famous guy). When he tried to gather a group of adults and take their photo, often he gets ridiculed. But he seems to give no attention to them and still move on? Have you ever wonder?

When I was still 9 years old, I have no idea how camera works. I only saw one at my friends house, Ken Efferson. His family has this one non functioning camera that I admire due to its mechanical complexity. However, I never had the chance to know the camera better, but it is a black, film camera, that looks something like Nikon or maybe Canon, the common household names at Serian. As I grew older, I started to take more interest in photography, mainly because our secondary school projects requires us to take photo. However, not yet, the passion is yet to hit me until 9 years later. That is an interesting story on its own, and I wish to save it for another blog post.

Back to dealing with frustration, I observed that there is only few differences between a professional and an amateur. The biggest one is, a professional fails more than an amateur ever tried. A professional produces more bad photos than the amount of photos an amateur ever produced in their lifetime. More failure means that the professional is more exposed to frustration, and yet they did not succumb to it, but rather thrive. Why?

They are passionate.

Without passion, do you think Henri-Cartier Bresson will be able to become a professional photographer? If you are more concerned on making money from photography, and worse, your passion for money is greater than your passion for photography itself, then you will frustrated easily in your first few years. The first few years is very important for a rising photographer to build up their reputation. Without reputation, the business won’t grow. Surely passion will drive things around, but what is the point if people don’t trust your work? You can be a pure artist instead.

Dealing with frustration can be divided into two main parts – internal factor and external factor.

1. Internal Factor

Dealing with yourself is very difficult, because you are your own worst enemy, or your best ally. It depends on how do you perceive frustration. If you are frustrated if you don’t get a good feedback from your clients, don’t be. Your are just doing your job, delivering your work as per your promise to your client and in the end of the day, what matters most is that you are happy with whatever you have done, unless you are not giving your all during the event and its post-processing.

The similar root of frustration can be traced back to your own expectation. For example, I am shooting an event with a Leica M9 only, an obviously purely manual digital camera (save for the Aparture priority mode and auto-ISO, although I never use auto-ISO) and Leica 35mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH FLE (the best 35 mm lens ever!).  There were many photos taken, but none seems to be up to my taste because I was taking photo of people playing football and all were out of focus, tiny subject and dimly-lit environment.

Second example, with the same camera and lens, I am shooting at a wedding event (in fact, most of my wedding event is using this formidable combination). I had a better shot since the event is at indoor arena and is having a good lighting. However, some of the photos, especially the dancing part, is problematic due to the fast movements of the dancers and mostly were done in low light areas to attract less attention.

So, how you deal with this internally? What I would suggest you to do is to do a short reflection on yourself, and try to identify the areas you are not working well and the areas that can be improved further. If you are telling me you don’t have any other area to improve, you are lying to yourself. Once you have done your reflection, then you can try to apply it again. Try not to do things you will regret later. Your reputation is at stake.


2. External Factor

Dealing with yourself is very difficult, but dealing with others is much more complicated. The frustration can come from all unmet expectations, that is where we can learn from all of the others. The best person to teach you what to improve is from the difficult person, those who is willing to voice out what others is only thinking or talk behind you. For this external factor, since it is beyond your control, then you must try to get an agreement from all of the parties involved with the project. Getting their expectation right to the angles is crucial to ensure no backlash from them. Also, I prefer if you can create a black and white to ensure no one is crossing anyone on this matter. Otherwise, if there is any, then you can easily refer to the agreement. At least with this, you minimises your chances of getting hit by the unhappy clients.

However, if there is any frustration occurs, then you would need to consult your friends. That is the importance of having a group of friends that you know you can rely on during emergencies.


That’s all I have for this dealing with frustration. It is already 0111hrs at GMT+8. Good night!

Tukang Rantek,

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