In Just For Fun, Pep Talks, Rants and Sermons, Vision Is Better by David34 Comments

Me. Happily in Suck-Mode in Kenya. Man I miss Africa! The image has nothing whatsoever to do with the post so don’t go looking for deeper meanings. Sometimes a photograph is just filler, ya know?

During the Q&A time at Amazon the other day a guy in the audience asked me a question. It must have been very complicated because I’ve completely forgotten the specifics. What I can’t forget is how he prefaced the question. He began by telling me he was an amateur and “still in suck-mode.”

Made me laugh.

But as we used to say in the comedy world, it’s funny ’cause it’s true. Suck-Mode.  Baby, we’re all still in suck-mode and here’s why.

1. Your vision or intention for your images is fired by your imagination and your emotions. It’s also fueled by expectations and the desire to express yourself better than you currently do. The fact that so many talented photographers out there shoot such beautiful work in their sleep doesn’t help.

2. The technology with which we collaborate to create our photographs is always changing, always has a learning curve attached to it for which few of us have the time to to tackle, AND is profoundly limited to begin with. That’s what makes it so much fun. But what we want from our images is often several steps ahead of either the limits of our gear or the limits of our craft.

And so we often look at our own work and see it through the “this all sucks” filter. Doesn’t help that we compare ourselves to others who in turn seem to be comparing themselves to us. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. It doesn’t exclude the need or ability to still love our work or be confident in its creation. In comedy we used to say that “everyone needs a place to suck.” It gave us the freedom to try, to risk, to fail without repercussions. We ALL need a place to suck. It’s from that place that I suspect our best work can eventually grow.

As I said, you can still love your work, can still be confident that you are growing as a craftsman and an artist. But the place of humility that you need to acknowledge the Suck Mode to begin with can be a powerful ally in creation. Embrace it. We all suck. Now go take some risks, cause hey, if it’s going to suck anyways, what do you have to lose by trying harder, taking risks, and throwing caution to the wind? It’s when you think your work is hot sh*t, as they say, that you risk plateauing. And also people stop wanting to play with you. Embrace sucking, you’ll feel better about yourself and your work, and ironically, your work will probably suck less. That’s my hope, anyways 🙂

As an aside, I got in trouble when I was a child for saying something “sucked.” Hopefully the expression now holds a more accepted, less crude, meaning for most people that it will not offend. If it does, suck it up and refrain from leaving a comment. My mother’s got your back and I’m probably already grounded without dinner.


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  2. Thank’s for the post David. Motivation.

    As an add-on to your words, and for readers who still feel they suck, there is also Zack Arias “Transform” on the same subject and more. I watch it at least weekly 🙂

    All the best,


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  4. I think the key is to not care. Photography, and art in general, is a release. A way to let go of a little creative energy, not a means to an end. Getting approval is nice, but I take pictures for my own selfish satisfaction…

  5. Where’s the un-suck filter when you need it?

    I do hope it’s not one dinner per usage because if it is you may be in BIG trouble, (…let’s see, 15 times plus an additional four-letter word!) Maybe as penance you should buy some supplies for the school in Kenya then beg for dinner!

  6. David, i totally believe you are true here, everyone is in the suck-mode. And yeah we should just continu making pictures because that’s of what we can learn from, practising.

    Ps the last part made me laugh:P

  7. I’m not offended by the word “suck” but it is something I avoid using myself as I know there are some people who would be offended.

  8. I find “suck-mode” makes me more creative when I do somethng that really sucks like forgetting the little bit that attaches your camera to your tripod. The lighting was low and I needed to brace my camera on something. The event I was shooting was a trade show and there were plastic garbage bags packaged into small squares that were soft and squishy enough to act as a bean bag. I found a spot were I could rest the make shift bean bag and camera and took some great shots of the show. 🙂

  9. HA! Awesome post David! It really hit the nail on the head. If there had been a little comic speech bubble over my head when Ive been looking at my work lately, it would definately read “Man, I suck at this”

    Thanks for the pick-me-up!

    Looking forward to any seminars or what have you that you arrange now that Im moving back to BC. Even as an ‘Islander’ I’ll gladly make the commute.

  10. Too funny and, oh, too true. I am so happy to get one shot every once in a while that does not suck. As for the rest…. thank goodness for digital and the delete button.

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  12. I think it’s pretty cool how you manage to connect all your photonerdy rambling to the rest of life… and not only teaching the rest of us how to take better photos but also how to become better people at the same time. Which I actually think goes hand in hand like I heard some photographer say once; “to take more interesting photos you have to become a more interesting person”

    Yet another great post David and an even greater pic dude 😉

  13. I recall working in a group that used a data system to track bugs and issues. It was called “Sponge”.

    “I named it ‘Sponge’ because it sucked when I wrote it,” said the author when I queried him. “That was two years ago. It still sucks now, but it sucks better.”

    We used it for another five years. And replaced it with another data system that also … well, you can fill in the blank.

    I don’t think my work sucks, but I don’t call it great either. I pick and show what satisfies me … other people tell me whether it meets with their approval. I accept their judgement as separate from my own.

    Of course, I find flaws and failures even in my favorite photographs. But I keep that to myself. 😉

  14. Well, if you can sneak out you can eat over in my treehouse. I remember some similar conversations….

    Thanks again for the true words David. There are loads of pithy little phrases found at the bottom of motivational poster that I could fill this comment with, but you get the idea. And most of them kind of fall short, er, suck.
    It seems like some of my biggest steps forward come right after I get all bound up in an “I suck” mode. If I think I am going to fail, once I get past thinking I am going to fail, I can decide to have fun anyhow. Seems like that’s when the images rock. Cause I suck.

    And I still have a lot to learn.

  15. Showed a recent image to my g/f, and after a brief pause she said, “Well, it doesn’t suck.”

    I guess I’m improving.

    Thanks for the post, David. 🙂

  16. What a hoot! I’ve been trying to select four images for the Prof. PHotographers of WA print competition. As I’ve scrolled through my work, I hated it – ALL OF IT! IT ALL SUCKS! Here I am, a week to the day, finally making my selections – and then I read DD’s blog… HA!!!!! Dude – you JUST MADE MY DAY!!!!!!!!

  17. “My mother’s got your back and I’m probably already grounded without dinner.”

    Oh boy, that made me laugh!!! I’m 57 years old and happily my Mom and Dad are still around to give me the “evil eye”!

    And whether my photos suck or not, I’m having a blast with my camera! Like John B. I’m “just chilling and having fun.”

    As always, thanks for your inspiration! 🙂

  18. Good points & great perspective David. The trouble is I’ve just started shooting video as well as stills – and my current video work “truly does suck”!



  19. As a complete aside, my grade 8 science teacher would have been ok with “hot sh*t”, but if you said that anything sucks, you would have just earned 20 min of detention. It was a great policy.

  20. Great timing to read this!!! I find myself in the “this all sucks” mode and feel stuck. The truth is I push forward even harder to shoot, and create more. The truth is many of us will never reach what we consider perfection as this is a moving target. If our work was perfect we certainly would be here.

    I am printing this so as to always remember your words for inspiration! “Embrace Sucking”…”Now go take some risks”

  21. I believe that the biggest problem for feeling this way is the unfair self-comparison with others. Other people have different backgrounds and entirely different experiences in their life that make them who they are. It is not fair to yourself to make comparisons with your work and those of someone else… who may have had years of education and experiences in their lives that may be much more vast. While it may be fine to find inspiration for others, it is a better idea to develop your own work and vision from your own experiences and “education”.

    Also, when you are out there taking photos and enjoying the process for what it is without worrying or overthinking about the results, everything eventually tends to fall into place… 🙂

  22. I think we all feel that we suck from time to time, embracing it, and using it to take on new challenges is great advice.

  23. Boy did I need that. Today I felt like I was in the “suck-mode.” Thanks for the pep talk.

  24. Thank you David for this post. I identify deeply with those words, particularly these last weeks. Thanks for your sincerity and frankness.

  25. Reading your book, devouring it really, and what do I find but the icing on the cake over here. Nice post, made me laugh.

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