How to Fail and Not Totally Lose Your Mind.  by Simeon Smith

Last night, after two epic darkroom fails (literally, entirely black prints) I started writing an article about experimentation, how it bloody well sucks, but how without it we’d never learn skills. It wasn’t very positive. So here’s attempt 2.0:

Experimenting with vaseline smeared on a lens filter.

Experimenting with vaseline smeared on a lens filter.

I have a process for film photography. It works. 

I bulk load Fomapan 400 into my Leica IIIa’s,  shoot using the light meter on my phone, or just by guessing exposure, develop in Ilfosol 3 for 8 minutes, skip stop-bath, fix with Rapid Fixer, and take the negatives down to the local lab for scanning. 

That’s my process. 90% of the photos you’ve seen of mine on social media or this website were taken this way. A lot of experimentation got me to this process, and it hasn’t really changed.

But I’ll never learn. I love to experiment. Sometimes I get great results from my experiments, like when I bought an old TLR without really knowing what it was and it turned out to be a landscape beast. Sometimes my experiments fail miserably, like last night in the darkroom. 

You might think that experimentation is just about messing around, but since yesterday evening I’ve been thinking about the right and wrong ways to mess around. 

Experimenting with double exposures.

Experimenting with double exposures.

Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something. - Jake the Dog

Chances are the first time you try something out, it’s going to suck. But keep going, try things out a few times, and learn from people around you. Ask lots of questions, try to act on the answers. Google stuff. 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein

Sometimes, you need to adapt your processes, sometimes you need to get help and find other ways of doing things. Sometimes you just need to cut your losses and admit defeat. There are cameras and processes I love the idea of, but they just don’t fit with my way of shooting. I loved the idea of the La Sardina camera when Lomography launched it, but it just didn’t give me the results I wanted. It didn’t stop me from returning to that same camera time and time again to learn the same lesson again and again. 

Remember, kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down. - Mythbusters

Share. The internet is an amazing tool for accessing the entire wisdom of humanity… provided they’ve uploaded it. That (along with shameless self-promotion and rambling rants) is what this blog is all about. You don’t have to write a blog, but if you overcome a significant hurdle, tell people about it! You’d be amazed at the number of times I’ve searched “How do I get this to work?!” only to find an old forum post from someone who solved the issue! 

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. - Martin McLuhan

Sometimes you might want to experiment, but you might not want to spend a fucktonne of cash on the experiment, but know that sometimes your experiments might fail because you’re not using the right tool. For years I thought the walls of my house were impenetrable, until I used a friend’s posh drill and drill bits. It’s the same with cameras. I thought medium-format film was overhyped until I tried a nice TLR. Do your homework and spend your cash wisely! The old, “buy cheap, buy twice” doesn’t always hold true; there’s good gear that’s cheap, and rubbish gear that costs the earth, but with the internet on your side there’s rarely an excuse to buy rubbish gear. 

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. -Thich Nhat Hanh

Be kind to yourself. Some experiments will fail, others will have amazing results. Remember and celebrate your successes, and don’t beat yourself up about failures, just learn and move on. 

How I raised four times the amount I was hoping to on my first kickstarter by Simeon Smith

Last week my first crowdfunding campaign finished. I raised over four times the amount I was hoping to. I’m not telling you this because I want to brag, after all it’s the people that backed my campaign that deserve the credit. I’m telling you this because I want to tell you how I did it.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been at the receiving end of my month-long campaign to get people ordering my book, but if I somehow missed you, I crowdfunded the production of my first photography book called Every Shot Matters: A Minimalist Film Photographer’s Scrapbook. It’s full colour and over 180 pages, so was pretty pricey to produce, hence the crowdfunder.

I must admit, I was pretty apprehensive about spending a month basically asking people for money. 

I’m British, and asking for cash isn’t something that comes naturally to us. Besides, I’ve seen a lot of people get burnt by the whole crowdfunding thing, either not meeting their target, or barely meeting their target and then struggling to deliver a large project for a tiny return on investment. So I read. And read. And read.

The great thing about Kickstarter, Indiegogo, et al. is that they really want people to succeed in their campaigns, because, well, the more money you make from your campaign, the more money they make from you. These companies put a lot of effort into material on how to run a successful crowdfunder, so much effort that there’s a hell of a lot of blog posts, videos, tutorials and podcasts out there about running these campaigns. It can be really overwhelming.

I read all the blog posts and tutorials, watched all the videos and listened to all the podcasts out there, because that’s the kind of sad, obsessive I am. But in an effort to save you from doing the same here are my top 6 things you need to get right for your first crowdfunding campaign.

  1. Be Passionate - Nobody knows your story better than you do. Get in front of the camera and tell it. A video for a crowdfunder doesn’t need to be elaborate, doesn’t need to be professional (unless you’re raising money for a film!), but it does need to be YOU. Over half the people that backed my crowdfunder were my family and friends, they care about my passion and my story more than they care about a book of photos I’ve taken. They wanted a copy of my book, but most of all they wanted to see me succeed. Turn the camera on yourself and talk about your project with passion and a smile on your face.
  2. Be Honest - I see so many crowdfunding campaigns that just appear a bit dishonest. We’ve all seen campaigns with a target of £20,000 that leave you thinking, “Yeah, they could do that for half the amount”. My target amount was literally the cost of getting 10 copies of the book printed and sent out. I also provided a breakdown of my costs, and a info on what I’d do with any profits. Keep your target low and honest.
  3. Be Prepared - There’s two sides to this, firstly put in all the work you can BEFORE the campaign. For me that meant that all the writing, all the photos, all the formatting and all the editing was done before launching my campaign. It was a lot of work, but I’d never expect someone else to invest money into a project I couldn’t be bothered to invest my time into. You might have a great idea, but develop it properly before trying to sell it to me. The second part of this is that if you have done all you can before the campaign starts, you’ll have something to show for it. In my video I had an actual test-print of the book. People could see the quality, the size and the design before choosing to back the project or not, and a lot of people said how impressed they were by the test print. Prepare as much of your project as you can pre-launch, and show off your work.
  4. Be Proactive - You’re putting out a video asking people to get their card out of their wallet and give you money. If you can do that, you can write a press release asking professionals to give you space in their publications, on their blogs, and on their podcasts. Every interest-group has a tonne of blogs that just post reviews of gear they’ve gotten for free and rehash press releases. Without social media posts from brands like Lomography and Analog Cafe, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. Find people with a bigger reach than you have, and get them on board!
  5. Be Persistent - I launched my campaign and was 100% funded within 4 hours. So I kept on promoting the campaign. Two days later the first stretch goal, 200%, was met. So I kept on promoting the campaign. Lomography picked up my story and promoted it further. So I kept on promoting the campaign. The day before the campaign ended I was just blown away by all the support I’d had. And you know what I did. I kept on promoting the campaign.
  6. Be Open to Failure -  I feel like I should by telling you about survivor bias. I’m writing this on the back of a successful campaign, but there are plenty of other people who have done all the right things, but had campaigns that failed. Maybe timing was wrong, maybe they just had bad luck. Very few will want to tell you about their failure, and they might not know what went wrong. There’s a big buzz in the business world at the moment about “Failing Forward”, using unsuccessful projects to learn and to gain resilience. The best way to fail forward is to plan to fail. What are you going to do if no one backs your crowdfunder? Chances are you’ll be able to progress your project a different way, but if you’ve already planned what that looks like, it’s easy as switching from plan A to plan B and reflecting on what went wrong. If you fail without a plan the emotional toll is a lot higher. And don’t just plan to fail; plan to succeed. Plan to blow your target clean out of the water. When the rewards from your campaign have all be sent out there’s still work to do, and you might as well plan that work now. On the back of my successful crowdfunder I’ll be appearing in two magazines, have an exhibition at a gallery that got in touch with me, and have a book launch at a venue that contacted me to set it up. The future is amazing - plan for it.

by Simeon Smith

Tonight at @chk_one is the last gig of the year for me! It’s been a crazy year for my music, playing @londonfashionweek, working on soundtracks, making a movie for the @pres_ence project, and releasing “All is Undone”, my newest and best EP. I’m closing the year, musically speaking, in style in #Bristol, the birthplace of so much great electronic music. If you’re anywhere in the midlands, you have no excuse not to be there! My #doublebass and #analogue synths are already in the car, and I’m picking up @5thspear and his #drums en route! See you soon, #england!

Tonight at @chk_one is the last gig of the year for me! It’s been a crazy year for my music, playing @londonfashionweek, working on soundtracks, making a movie for the @pres_ence project, and releasing “All is Undone”, my newest and best EP. I’m closing the year, musically speaking, in style in #Bristol, the birthplace of so much great electronic music. If you’re anywhere in the midlands, you have no excuse not to be there! My #doublebass and #analogue synths are already in the car, and I’m picking up @5thspear and his #drums en route! See you soon, #england!

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