Perfectionism vs Creativity: Letting Go of the Need to Conform

“Perfect photographs do not move the heart.”
– David DuChemin, The Vision Driven Photographer

This is one of my favourite photography quotes, in fact one of my favourite quotes generally.

Now I’m not for one moment saying that this photograph will move anyone’s heart. But I am saying that it’s not perfect. It’s hazy and it’s soft, I’m not sure that any of it is in focus. Technically it’s really not good.

Some people will hate it but I’m okay with that.

Or at least I’m fairly okay with that. I took this photo for no-one other than myself. There’s no paying client, no need for me to conform to any so called “rules” of photography. It’s more or less what I was aiming to create. I say more or less because I only ever have a vague idea in my mind so nothing can be exactly what I aimed for—but soft, hazy, blurred, haunting were all words carried in my mind at the time.

Still, there’s a tiny doubt in my mind that stops me sharing this image on the day it was created. It needs to sit a while, I need to come back and look at it several times. I need to stop looking at it. Then I need to come back a few days later and look again. And maybe then I’ll be ready to share. Maybe then I will have decided that I’m happy enough with it not to really care whether it’s well-received or not.

Because I know some people will hate this photo. They won’t like that it’s not in focus, they will wonder why I’m happy to lose all the shadow detail, they’ll be dying to point out that there aren’t really any catch lights in the eyes and don’t I know that the light bit on the background wall is distracting.

So today I’m finally ready to say I don’t care. I know the rules. I know where I’ve broken the rules. But I don’t care. I can play by the rules but sometimes I just don’t want to.

How did a creative art form end up so bound up in its own rules that we all feel an ingrained need to comply with them? How did we come to value perfectionism above creative expression?

I have a question for you…

What if you let go of the need to conform, what if you didn’t worry about blown highlights, shadows that are too dark, images that aren’t pin sharp zoomed right in? What if all the rules no longer applied and you were free to express yourself without constraint?

What would you create?

About the author: Janet Broughton is a UK-based photographer, blogger, and copywriter. You can find more of her work on her website, or by following her on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.