My Epic Failure in Stock - Dreamstime

I spent the other day shooting stock images. I didn't accomplish much. There's this one image in my head I've been wanting to do for a long time, a kind of modern techno-background.

The plan was to shoot an electronic circuit board and then manipulate it with software. An old non-working laptop was the source of the circuit board and it probably took close to an hour just to take the thing apart.

One thing I found is circuit boards aren't exactly straight and clean. Circuit boards are usually covered with some sort of lacquer which is not consistent so it tended to be noisy with how the camera interpreted the surface. I had to spend time photo-editing the trademarks off the components and then I started working on the manipulations to turn it into a cool looking background.

Well, the project was a disaster. Starting with a piece that did not photograph well or even look good is the makings of a failure. And I discovered that I was attempting photo-editing techniques of which I had no idea how to do.

It was an epic failure and a reason to be discouraged. I had attempted to do something that was beyond my level of skill and experience and I had nothing to show for three hours of work.

Needless to say, I wasn't very happy with the project.

The lesson, of course, is we all learn from our mistakes and failures. We hear that cliche time after time yet we still allow ourselves to be discouraged when we hit a wall. However, perhaps the real lesson here is to take everything one step at a time.

I remember when I first started doing stock and I was constantly getting rejections for technical reasons. I figured out how to take care of noise and how to avoid noise in the first place. Specks and spots were easy enough to take care of but some ways are better than others. I used to to cut and paste a small part of the image next to a dust speck and move that layer over the spot. That didn't work very well for a number of reasons but I was doing that because I didn't know about the clone stamp tool!

So now I've reached a point where I've come to realize there are editing techniques that I don't know about. Apparently photographing an object and trying to force it through the software is the wrong way to go about it. I tried to skip ahead to techniques that I am not yet ready for.

We are all at different levels of our stock careers and you see people all the time who are challenged to find a way through. You also see many who are discouraged and eventually give up and quit. Quitting is actually not as bad thing; there are many things I've tried over the years and found that it was not for me. That means there are different kinds of failures: You can fail because you just don't have the passion for something or you can fail because you have too much passion and try to bite off more than you can chew.

There are other types of failures and perhaps I will address those in future blogs. For now, the point is you should be trying new things beyond your current experience and comfort zone. Wherever you're at in your stock career, don't be afraid to bite off more than you can chew. Because when you do, you know you've reached the edge of your current abilities. You can't improve and become better if you never reach that edge and try to go beyond.

Photo credits: Feng Yu.

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January 08, 2012


Suggestion......... use a wide aperture so only two or three components on your circuit board are in focus.............. that will result in there being very few pieces of text to remove from components minimizing preparation / photoshop time ......... is that a goer ? David.

January 07, 2012


Good thing you decided to share the failure. I get a lot of those. Great concept but then lack of skill to do what is in my mind. It takes time to learn. And we do learn with mistakes.

January 06, 2012


Thanks for sharing your experience. I've definitely gone through similar experiences, and like you, definitely always prefer to bite off more than I can chew...often to my dismay. But, as Thomas Edison said, "I haven't failed. I've found 1000 ways that don't work." :-)

January 06, 2012


It is failure until you learned something from it.
If you didn't, it was a waste of time.
If you did, you made an investment.

January 06, 2012


How about my idea of "Tempest in a teacup" as a concept photo.
Sounds simple right? I went and photographed the teacup, pretty simple right? Then I had some pictures of stormy sea, big waves breaking on huge boulder rocks. So far so good. I cut out an elliptical shape of the "tempest" to put it onto the cup. With a few free transformations I managed to do that. Then I looked at it and hated it. It looked really fake. I did not know how to handle the edges. I did not know how the tempest should blend into the teacup. Also the colors did not match. I still have it somewhere and I will try this again sometime. This is another example of aiming beyond your current technical skills.

January 06, 2012


You can see from the comments that you're not alone in this experience. I've had almost the exact failure that you've written about only I was using an old video card as my subject. My results were about the same. Several wasted hours invested trying to capture the image exactly the way I wanted it and then more time on the computer trying to manipulate an image I wasn't happy with. In the end, nothing to show for it. I still have the .psd file somewhere on my hard drive but I'm not sure why.

January 06, 2012


Great article. These dark, cold winter days are perfect for investing the time to learn new things. With software I've always thought if I knew certain things were possible I could figure them out. But with Photoshop there are so many possibilities the learning curve is endless.

January 06, 2012


I have such experiences all the time.One photo in my head just to see that i end up with something alse.From time to time is not a bad thing but mostly every time is a waste of time

January 06, 2012


Nice article.....:)

January 06, 2012


Very true and I have the same experience! Of course, I am said if I spend an evening for nothing ( the result does not correspond with my idea ), from the other side I am very happy if the result at least resemble my original idea. It is great feeling and after that I try to find aditional information to make it better, step by step. It makes me pleasure...

January 06, 2012


Nice article and very true. In my short time here I have learnt a lot by failures and rejections and trying to correct them. I am learning something new each day. :)

January 06, 2012


Very true, I've learnt a lot about editing since I've been submitting photos but my knowledge is nevertheless very superficial. I see some great concept images that obviously require a lot of skills to make and I think I'd need a lot of lessons to achieve that level. Tutorials on the internet are great but to obtain some skills I have a feeling that I would need proper tuition and teacher's feedback.

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