The Photos That Were Never Taken


This article was originally published in August 2012.

When I look at the photos taken by my photographer friend Anita, she often comments saying that something is missing; in order to always make them perfect. In short, she did not take the photos as she wanted. My obvious question then—at least when I want to be provocative, which is most of the time—is why she did not shoot the photos as she wanted. And then I duck quickly to avoid her murderously upset glance at me. But really, any and every photographer can go on and on about the photos they did not take. And then they continue about the reasons for this non-appearance.

I was there, but my camera was not.

I was there, but my memory card was full.

I was there, but my mind was not.

I was there, but the light was not.

I was there, but nothing else was. But if anything had been there, the photos would be great.

Yup, there is no limit to what a creative photographer can come up with as an explanation about the photos that were never taken. It is of course also common to look at the photos that were actually taken and then complain that they would have been better if only something else had been there too, whatever that something may be.

If only there would have been a sunset in the background.

If only there would have been nothing in the background.

If only there would have been Aishwarya Rai in the photo. Or Priyanka Chopra. Or both. Mmmm… Yummy…

To serious photographers—and in a sense, they all are— the photos that were never taken are a bigger pain than the girl or boyfriends they have broken up from.

You know, I got dumped by eight girlfriends in the last twelve months, but man I miss not having taken that shot against the light of that couple walking along Marine Drive. Damn, how I regret that.

Yes, I broke up with my boyfriend of eleven years. But what really bothers me is the time he forgot to bring my camera for that dinner when the candlelight perfectly lit up the orchestra.

I have had girlfriends. I have had boyfriends. I have had no friends. But damn I wish I had had my camera the day my friend fell into the water.

If the light would have been there, or at least if I would have been awake, those shadows would have posed the photo of the century. Trust me. I am not wrong. I am a photographer.

And I suppose that this last comment sums things up; the more the photo was not taken, the better it would have been. The grass does indeed tend to be greener on the other side. And to many, photos tend to be better when not taken.

As for my friend Anita, I try to tell her that what she has actually shot is not bad at all. Furthermore, every missed photo is also an opportunity to learn, just like any other mistakes. And then I round it all off by underlining that no one gets everything perfect, not even photographers.

But I suppose that the photos that were never taken are a topic we can all reflect on. Just like reflecting on all those men and women we never managed to bed. And if we think too long and hard about this, then we can also be certain that we will miss many more opportunities—whether taking photos or bedding the right one. This will of course make us think even more about photos that were never taken, thereby making us miss yet more opportunities while we think deeply. And so on. The result is that the more we think about what we did not do in the past, the less we will do it in the future.

Ironically, it should also seem that many photographers got some of their best shots when they were not thinking at all; they were just acting instinctively. Imagine all the photos they would not have taken had they been thinking all the time…

Gabriel Fuchs is a Swiss-based IT and management consultant, as well as a keen hobby photographer. Gabriel is also a proficient writer of more or less serious industry articles, both on IT and photography.

Tags: Gabriel Fuchs, August 2012, Missed Opportunities, The Photos That Were Never Taken, Full Memory Card, Low battery, Bad Images