That Bad Photo You Took May Be Your Best Yet

by Barrett

You may not know it, but some of your best photos are slipping through the cracks.  Maybe they first struck you as flawed or you didn’t recognize their hidden value.  Time to recognize your ugly ducklings!

You may not know it, but some of your best photos are slipping through the cracks. Maybe they first struck you as flawed or you didn’t recognize their hidden value. Time to recognize your ugly ducklings!

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
We all know that saying.

But I‘m sure there’s a qualifier buried in the manual of sayings.
“The photo has to be pretty good!”

I know of two strategies to take a great photo:

  1. Have a good eye and follow the rules of photography.
  2. Just shoot lots of pictures and pray one or two come out right!

I’m no professional photographer.
So I mostly subscribe to the second plan.
When you take as many photos as I do, you’re bound to come up with a few winners here and there.
It’s simply the law of averages.

And it’s easy to pick your best photos, because they immediately stand out.

So the inverse to this equation means you’re inevitably creating a mountain of mediocre pictures along the way.
(which fortunately carries no cost in this digital era other than to your pride)

Stop! Don’t Delete That Bad Photo Yet!!
Yes, no one else should ever see your losers.
But you should also spend a little time thinking out of the box about what constitutes a great photo…

Before you mark your failed photographic attempts for your trash bin, you might want to take another look through a different lens.

You may have missed a hidden gem or at least one worth five hundred words!

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder
I’m often guilty of being too narrowly focused on how I set up a photo.
I usually go for the “Say Cheese!” right-down-the-middle shot.
It’s the easy way out.

Sure, I also try for those more ‘natural’ moments, but with a speedy toddler around, it’s hard to get a crisp image.
(even with my new DSLR lens and Canon S100)

What’s the exact definition of a great photo, anyway?
I suppose a blurry blob is a worthy image if that’s what you’re going for.
(or if it’s ‘first contact’ with a friendly alien)

You don’t always have to be shooting for mass appeal.
Sometimes a photo can be a success if it connects with just one person!

If a bad picture can still evoke a positive response, well then…
Who cares what it really looks like, right?!

One of my favorite recent bad pictures is the first shot my son took when he was eighteen months old. His thumb covered most of the lens, but it’s still a masterpiece to me!

Make Room on the Podium for Second Place
And what about all your photos that are pretty good shots, but still fall short?
They don’t get to cross the finish line, either.

I’ve talked before about being ruthless when rating your photos to separate the wheat from the chaff.

But maybe there’s hope for your runner-ups, if you give them a little special sauce and take them in a different direction.

Winning Bad Photos

I present to you some of my best bad family photos….
(and some home-grown tips I’ve figured out along the way)

Embrace the Blur!
A little motion-induced blur can enhance a photo and capture the energy of the moment.

The Spinning Game

My friend mostly froze this wonderful moment while I was spinning my son last summer on vacation. I love it. Who cares if it’s a little blurry?

My friend mostly froze this wonderful moment while I was spinning my son last summer on vacation. I love it. Who cares if it’s a little blurry?


Black and White Likes the Soft Shot

Often, if I have an otherwise great shot, but it’s a little soft, I turn it to black and white. To my eyes, a black and white image is more forgiving of a bit of blur.
Plus, my friends then think I’m so artsy!

On Hike

This slightly soft shot of my wife and son pondering the pond’s beauty works much better in black and white.

This slightly soft shot of my wife and son pondering the pond’s beauty works much better in black and white.

Hanging at the Gym

This one totally failed to freeze the action. But in black and white, it really doesn’t matter so much!

This one totally failed to freeze the action. But in black and white, it really doesn’t matter so much!


Turn the Photo on Its Head

Sometimes the picture just looks better upside down.

An Average Library Moment

Nothing wrong with this one, but it’s not one of the winners.

Nothing wrong with this one, but it’s not one of the winners.


A Good Book Can Turn Your World Upside Down

Turning it upside down gives it the special sauce it needs!

Turning it upside down gives it the special sauce it needs!


It’s the Action that Matters

Capturing movement can be difficult, but sometimes it presents itself when you least expect it.

Climbing Driveway Snow Summit

After the big snowstorm last month, I wanted to get a head-on shot of my son climbing the snow. But he wouldn’t wait for me to get ahead of him. All I could get off was this one from the back. The summit shot works, right?

After the big snowstorm last month, I wanted to get a head-on shot of my son climbing the snow. But he wouldn’t wait for me to get ahead of him. All I could get off was this one from the back. The summit shot works, right?


Keep Zooming

Sometimes you don’t get the chance to get in close enough when you’re taking the shot. As long as you’ve got enough pixels to spare, crop your photo to feature what you really want!

Swimming Pool Peekaboo

This is a cute shot of my son drying off after swim class, but you can’t really see his face.

This is a cute shot of my son drying off after swim class, but you can’t really see his face.

The Eye

But the peekaboo eye is really what’s happening here!

But the peekaboo eye is really what’s happening here!


Let the Camera Find its Own Moment

Even if the focus ends up on the wrong part of the picture, that mistake can still create its own magic.

Speeding Down Slide

This one is all about my son’s hair going twenty miles per hour down the slide!

This one is all about my son’s hair going twenty miles per hour down the slide!


Nobody Cares What It Looks Like

Just like all the masterpiece toddler drawings you’ve got hung up on your refrigerator, when he takes his own first snapshots, they’re gold!

Self-Portrait at 18 Months

My son’s first self-portrait. Need I say more?

My son’s first self-portrait. Need I say more?


From Ugly Duckling to Swan

Once upon a time, I might have passed by or deleted these photos altogether, not recognizing their potential.

As you can see, it’s always worth giving your average or failed photos a second look.
You never know what underdog you’ll discover…

I’m rooting for all your ugly ducklings to get the attention they truly deserve!

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