Perfection Paralysis or the Joy of Mediocrity

The Esplanade Riel Pedestrian Bridge from The Provencher Bridge Winnipeg Canada

I have been trying to figure out where my “photography mojo” went. For months now I have hardly picked up the camera. Why was I so enthusiastic then all of a sudden my gear was gathering dust.

After thinking long and hard (at some incredible strain to my single brain cell), I believe it must be the following answers. See if you recognize any in your own photography habits:

  • Flickr as Competition – The beginning of the end must have been the curse of “Flickr Interesting”, my photographs were not interesting so I thought they were “bad”.
  • Perfectionism – I became so obsessed with each capture being the best I could make it. Rather than take a “bad” shot I took no shots.
  • Commercialism – Rather than enjoying photography as a hobby I decided to try to earn money from it. Each shot was judged on if it would sell rather than how pleasing it would be to my self. In the end, I didn’t take time to go out and take salable shots so didn’t take any shots.
  • Peer pressure – The more I hung out with professional photographers and “critique” groups on Flickr the more I feared uploading my photographs in case people would judge me. What use are pictures that nobody sees?
  • Internet Freaks – Due to horrible messages planted on family photographs I had to make a great deal private but it also made me feel weird about taking any more. My number one photography topic is of course my daughter but I didn’t like to share them.

What is the solution? I am going to go back to taking photographs for me. Enjoying the process. I get pleasure out of snaps and the memories they bring. What I do now is not art and not for sale. People can have their opinions but I am not going to let those opinions take priority.

I’m taking my hobby back :)


  1. says

    Lovely post and largely agree. It’s akin to writers block but when I do suffer with a lack of inspiration I find sites like flickr are actually cathartic [sp?]. Meaning simply this…

    there’s a great swathe of images on flickr and others like it of people sharing their images, some great, much mediocre and some truly horrid (very personal though photography). And I take pleasure in looking at all of them and within finding inspiration to get out there, pic up the camera and just go through the process of taking images.

    Once done I can then spend a bit of time working on them in PS or GIMP or etc., etc., and using this mental downtime to learn something new – for me it’s important to not feel like I’ve thrown the towel in.

    Go ahead – take you hoby back and every photog out there I’m sure will root for you.


  2. says

    I identify with many of your points. One more I’ll throw in is the “it’s all been done” conundrum. I once thought that there was so much to shoot but as soon as I started hanging out with other photogs I kept finding out that what I had intended to shoot had already been shot to death. I’ve taken the stance that I no longer care as long as I am satisfying myself.

    Enjoy the hobby, I’m doing my best to as well.


  3. says

    Written from I heart. :-)
    I knew that I am not alone with this but it is really good to read that others also feel the same sometimes.
    It was partly perfectionism that drove me last time not to take my gear with me to Warsaw and Moscow. I did know that I would not have too much time and withouth the tripod and the pictures would have been awful. I got the critics for that. :-)
    Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

  4. Leo says

    Bravo. I got away from Flickr. It was fun at first, but the whole reason I got into photography was to capture a moment and share it with family and friends. Enjoy your hobby. Share it with the ones you love. You’ll find more time spent outside enjoying and capturing life and much less staring at a screen.

  5. Larry says

    How about getting a small photo printer and forgetting about computers for a while? Just print the photos you like directly off card and hang them on a clothes line or something as elaborate? Make your photography more instantaneous than an art of perfection.

    What I’ve found very reviving is mounting a bright manual lens on my camera, pumping ISO up to 1600 and going to town by night. When you know there is going to be noise and and your focus isn’t going to be perfect, you’re more free to go by instinct and just take fun photos.

    Take portraits of relatives or friends in a leisurely situation, then print the photos in big size and give the prints to their families. Looking at the photos of people you love is great, so is getting the adoring feedback from the people who receive the photos. They are going to be so thankful and not at all critical.

    Wish you have fun whatever way you go!

  6. says

    It has to be said there are a large volume of photographs that I don’t share with flickr any more and quite a few that are marked as family only. Over the past year I’ve started to receive revenue here and there from images but I generally don’t post these images to flickr, preferring just to add one or two from a whole set. I never shy away from adding photos in there when I do take snaps, at the end of the day flickr is my personal site and its there to show photos not for any type of validation.

    I found myself last year in a critique group then said to myself what am I doing? In the same way that i don’t read photography magazines these days who just seem to enjoy critiquing other peoples images. I personally do not like images with perfectly straight horizons, non coverging verticles etc – it just leaves me really cold.

    Strangely Chris I was going to write a piece around this for you. I was invited to an invite group only group the other week by one of these flickr artists. She is one of these take most of my clothes off then complain if anyone dares to comment on her art. Anyway at first I was going to join, and then I thought why did I join flickr? The main reason at first was to simply archive and share my photos, then I realised I could learn from others images. I’ve never been massively active in any groups but I have learn a lot from discussion groups this for me is one reason for not joining an invite only group. I certainly wouldn’t join a comment 3, receive 5, do the hokey cokey type groups either.

    Taking everything into consideration I still think flickr is a fantastic site. I just sometimes wish people wouldn’t take themselves so incredibly seriously.

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