The Curse Of Indecision – And How To Find The Antidote

When I think about the times my photography has been most frustrating, it’s rarely been because of the final image.

Of course I’m often disappointed with the end photograph, but I’m happy frequently enough to feel I can continue to build a body of work I’m pleased with and proud of.

No, when I’ve felt stuck and annoyed with photography, it can nearly always be traced back to the same source. 

Indecision.

It might be that I can’t decide which camera to use. Or which lens to use, if it’s an interchangeable lens camera.

Which was of course much worse when I had 50+ of both.

It very often used to be which film to shoot next.

Should I pick one of my emerging favourites to increasing the likelihood of adding more satisfying images to my collection? Or a new (to me) roll of film, that might be an emulsion I’ve not tried before, something expired, or both?

Again this is amplified when you have literally hundreds of rolls of film in your freezer.

There have been a handful of occasions where I took so long to choose, I ran out of time to go where I wanted to go to photograph in the first place.

Which, when you have limited time for these pursuits anyway, seems ridiculous.

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So what’s the solution?

How do we overcome this curse of indecision and stop wasting so much time and energy debating, when we could be out making photographs?

The antidote is actually very simple. In a word, commitment. 

Once we commit to one camera, lens, film, and destination, we can put all of that deciding energy into enjoying the task at hand.

We don’t have to make this a commitment as permanent as a marriage or a mortgage. 

It can be for a much shorter time.

But we need to set that time clearly and without delay, then get going.

Plus it doesn’t have to be complicated and layered either.

Make simple pledges, like shooting with one camera for the next 14 days, or one film emulsion for your next six rolls.

For example, I’ve found my One Month, One Camera (OMOC) project this year hugely useful.

Once I’ve decided to use just one (digital compact) camera for that set period of time, then I have no further decisions to make about the equipment I’m going to use.

It becomes completely binary, yes or no, on or off. I go with this camera, or I don’t go at all.

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The challenge now is to find ways to make this work longer term. 

My third month of the OMOC project ended a little early, as I felt I’d reached a natural conclusion in using the Lumix TZ2, and indeed these dead cheap yet charming older sub 10MP digital compacts in general.

But this doesn’t mean I don’t think the project as a whole has reached its end. 

Quite the opposite, I love the freedom from indecision that it’s given me the last 90 days or so.

I’ll post an update soon about the next month of the OMOC project, and the equipment I’ve chosen.

In the meantime though, do you struggle with indecision in your photography? At what stage? What have you tried to help you overcome it? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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8 thoughts on “The Curse Of Indecision – And How To Find The Antidote”

  1. Oh good heavens have I ever been there. Now I tend to keep a film camera loaded at all times, and that’s pretty much the one I use when I want to go out for a photo walk. There are exceptions but now that I’ve mostly thinned the herd I have my main point and shoot, my main wide-angle, my main medium format, and so on, and it makes it easier to pick. And if I feel indecision my bottom line is to just grab my Canon S95 and quit agonizing.

    1. Jim yeh I think an excellent way to thin down is have one of each type or format of camera. After you’ve shot a dozen different SLRs or digital compacts, they are much more alike than different, plus you learn what you favour most and what you’re prepared to compromise on.

      Good tip about just grabbing a point and shoot digital when you’re feeling indecisive. Trouble is for me right now I have more of those than any other camera!

        1. Jim, I think having a default choice is a great approach – both in terms of a camera you default to, and settings within any one camera you default to. I have a post in draft about the latter!

  2. Totally agree with you Dan that commitment is a pretty hefty corner stone.
    Quick question : Have you made a commitment to your subject? Or style? Of course these are rhetorical questions as I know you certainly have (evidenced by your images and the range of subject matter) I feel one’s decision regarding this part of your craft is the more important one. Everything else is an end to a means.

    Yes technical issues are interesting and exciting when first confronted, but I’ve always felt that (my) fear of art held me back, and became my indecision curse. Until I knew what I wanted to see (in my own images) did I let go and found I had no need to romanticise about this or that camera. They are all just dark boxes…

    I guess you could say that technical issues (regarding your tool) that can’t be overcome, could be a stumbling block in achieving that image you have in you mind’s eye. This is where a good foundation of the craft is essential. Knowing what camera (format) is best suited to which style (or desired end result) is KEY. Knowing the fundamental difference between miniature (135mm) and medium or large format while guide your realisation of your desired end result. Once you’ve grasped that, using one particular camera over another (in the same format) is an exercise in futility and just drains the bank balance. William Mortensen wrote a good text book (incorrect term I fear) on the subject. Admittedly he was an odd character working with a pictorialist basis. But his point of fact way of explaining the craft is second to none. ‘Mortensen on the negative’ is a much better read and more concise than Our-Father Ansel’s epic trilogy (Camera, Negative and Print)

    Just my usual meanderings. Pay no attention to me sat in in the corner waxing lyrically about days gone by 🙂

    1. Hi Anton, please meander on, always thought provoking!

      Yeh I think I have found a style and range of subject matter overall. So the challenge with my One Month One Camera project this year has been can I commit to that style and subject matter, despite the apparent limitations of cheap old digital compacts. And now I’ve done that, the appeal of continuing the same thing over and over is less.

      I do still enjoy this challenge to some extent, and the variety. So maybe for the rest of the year I’ll broaden the type of camera I use. Or maybe I’ll just stick to the core handful of digital cameras I’ve come to love. I can’t see a return to film anytime soon, and DSLRs are just too bulky, so digital compacts and mirrorless are likely to be my choice of camera for the foreseeable future.

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