The Missed Photo and a Second Glance | by Niki Bidinger
The missed photo. Every photographer has them every once in awhile, whether it’s a too wide aperture or completely missed focus or the scene just isn’t playing out like it did in your head. We often delete these right in camera or cull right past them in editing or even worse, go to a photo you knew you loved the minute you took it and realizing that you missed your focus. The agony! But what if I told you there’s still hope? That some of these missed shots can be saved? Slowing down, looking at things more creatively, giving these photos a second glance can yield some of your most loved images.
Imagine shooting rapid fire trying to catch a fleeting moment or a fleeing toddler. You don’t check your settings and when you finally pull up your photos to edit them you realize that your aperture was wide open and your focus on some of the photos only caught the tiniest of details, leaving the rest of the image soft and out of focus. This undoubtedly sucks but it’s also opens a door to get creative and see something in the image that you might have passed over if it had been fully in focus. Look at the details you did catch, are any particularly interesting? Are you able to crop the image to highlight them? The perks of shooting wide open, creamy blur and dreamy bokeh, can translate nicely to those captured details. And don’t be afraid to crop in an imaginative way, cropping is one of our most powerful editing tools we have as photographers. Leaving negative space or using an off-center crop helps guide the viewers eye and even flipping the image vertical or horizontal to direct eye to the details can completely change the feel of the image. Attention to detail can unearth something truly beautiful.
Now, what if in your rapid-fire frenzy, you missed some shots entirely? There’s nothing to creatively focus on, no tiny details to pull out, what then? Are these images doomed for the recycle bin? Most probably are, but there are certain images that even when blurred can stir something inside of you. These images may not be for everyone but art is subjective and if while culling through your images you find a blurred one that still speaks to you, take the time to edit it. Maybe you need to convert it to black and white or add some Photoshop flare. Maybe you need to walk away from it and come back to it another day, but these are the images I truly love. Whether it’s the movement of a blurred twirly skirt, a smudged face that shows the outline of a defiant tweenager, or a pair of hazy toddler feet, they’re the ones that above all else, stir an emotion. They’re more open to interpretation, the story isn’t straightforward and clear and not everyone will feel what you feel but that’s what will make the image that more special to you.
I think for me the most frustrating of situations is having a photo not turn out exactly or even closely to how I had imagined it in my head. Sometimes the lighting is wrong, or the subjects outfit clashes or their mood just doesn’t match the scene and throws everything off. For whatever reason my imagination and reality just didn’t mesh, these photos tend to sit for a long time before I can edit them. I have to let go of what I had envisioned and come back to them with fresh eyes and no expectations. When I start to edit them I purposely go in the opposite direction of what I had originally imagined. Did I see the original scene as bright, airy and cheerful? Great, let’s give it a dark and moody makeover! Did I want colorful and fun? Black and white is my new answer. Sometimes these photos take a little trial and error, sometimes you just can’t get past your imagined idea but sometimes you see something new and wonderful. You’ll never know until you try.
These photos no doubt take more effort and time but I can honestly tell you it’s worth it. They will push you so far out of your comfort zone to edit, they will test the limits of your creativity. For every missed shot you take the time to save you invest in yourself and your growth as an artist. So next time you miss a shot or ten, take a chance and give them a second look. It might surprise you what you can find hidden in the rough.