I took this photo of my friend Mat in Seattle this summer. We were at the Space Needle, and everywhere around me I saw people staring at their own pictures of the monument on their phones instead of actually enjoying it with their own eyes.
When I saw Mat start to take a picture of the tower as we were leaving, I wanted to get a picture of it myself to signify the one thing that I saw over and over again that day--people taking pictures with their phones, not with their eyes. I don't often have clearly defined ideas or goals when it comes to my photography, but this was one case where I had a specific idea of what I wanted out of this shot.
I got low to the ground to get the juxtaposition right, and took a number of shots. Nothing came out right. The photo above is the best I could get, and even after some serious post processing and clever cropping, I couldn't get what I really wanted out of this picture. I'm not sure if it was my location, my equipment, or if it was just simply a bad idea, but no amount of effort that I could reasonably put into this could make it satisfactory for me.
This is a difficult situation that people doing creative work probably find themselves in more often than they'd like. There can be a point in the course of a project where you hit obvious dimishing returns, and no amount of effort is going to get it to match the vision you had in your head when you started. But where you do stop? At what point do you decide that it's not worth your time to continue?
My solution doesn't fit in perfectly with every project, but the concept is universal and can have the potential to help immensely.
Get up, take a walk, listen to music, and do whatever you can to get your mind into a different space from the project at hand. The further away the better. Distraction, in this case, is incredibly helpful.
I've found that shortly after I get back to the project, it's pretty clear whether or not this is something worth continuing to work on. As an engineer, my decisions are almost always based on solid logic, but this is one of the few times when I feel it's best to trust your gut. Sit down at your desk, look at your progress, and either you'll cringe, or you'll see the potential in what you're creating. Coming at it with a clear head helps you see it from an outsider's prospective and decide whether or not it has any legs to stand on.
Lastly, if you decide to move on, do so quickly. Don't waste any more of your mental capacity ruminating on the situation at hand. In fact, many startups have become very successful by understanding the "fail fast" mentality. If it's clearly not working, walk away and move on. Quickly.
I'm a broadcast engineer, photographer, and writer.
email me: email@example.com