Someone asked me the other day if I ever seriously screwed up at my job, and what did I do about it. By “serious” I assumed they meant something worse than spelling Marcy “Marcie.” I told them, in hushed tones, that yes, once, I did very seriously screw up. The hushed tones are no long necessary, obviously, since I am coming clean here in my public forum.
I once photographed someone with an unloaded camera. I know. Richard? A recruit trick like that? But yes, sure, anyone can make a fundamental mistake. When I discovered my mistake, I slunk back over to the woman I’d photographed and told her a half-lie: the image didn’t work out the way I wanted and could I shoot a few more.
I never made that mistake again, for two reasons: first, my reputation was on the line, and I might not be able to quietly fix it next time, and second, I started religiously using a protocol, which I use to this day. Simply put, I never ever ever closed a camera back (in the film era) or close a camera card door (in the digital realm) without new media installed. The same goes for batteries. Never close a battery door without a charged battery inside.
These protocols are fairly universal. Never start an airplane without removing the “Remove Before Flight” flags. Never holster an unloaded pistol. Never close a circuit breaker someone has opened.
It’s been years since I screwed up big enough to have to reshoot something, but life is full of potential mistakes, and if I do drop the ball, my hope and intention is that I will do whatever it takes to make it right.