Some of the best scientific discoveries have been encountered by mistake, and photography is really no different. Here are 71 photo screw-ups that should, for all intents and purposes, be wretched to look at. But they're not. They're downright beautiful.

Winner - Pine Paint

I shot this picture of a pine tree in my front yard with a Panasonic GH2. I took the instructions to heart and started snapping pictures with abandon as soon as I got home from work. On this one I set a slow shutter speed and tilted the camera up and down the tree as I snapped the picture. I knew I would get some blurry, trailing images but I was amazed at how much it made the tree look like a painting on a canvas. I love these type of photographic abstractions. I'll be doing a lot more of this.
-Brad Clark

Evening Traffic

I read the shooting challenge information page and immediately knew what I was going to do; long-exposure car photography, at night! So I took my camera and set it to bulb mode at f/18 and I waited for cars to come and I held the shutter button down and moved the camera in every which way. This was the resulting photo and I think it looks pretty nice! Equipment and Settings: Sony A200 with 18-70mm Kit Lens, f/18 with 15 second exposure (Bulb mode) at ISO 100.
-Nathan Boettcher

Swimsuit in Black and White

So, doing a photoshoot with a model and had the shot obviously set in my mind, thought I had autofocus on, and took a shot, looked back, and went "d'oh!", readjusted and went on my way. Hours later, doing the importing and ready to just delete when I looked at the blurry pic again and went "what a perfect fail!" Kicked the contrast and black levels up a few notches and converted to b&w, and voila, a Fail of a photo that's perfect for Gizmodo's Fail Contest. Also, to complete the fail, while shooting this, I was in the water...and left my wallet full of cash and a paycheque in my back pocket. Total Fail. Nikon D7000, Nikkor 85mm f1.8, ISO: 125, Shutter Speed: 1/1250th
-Marc Wrzesinski

The Broadcast

I've been meaning to start doing the Shooting Challenges forever, and this one seemed as good as any to start. When I first started studying photography some of my favorite photo's were the ones I totally fucked up on. I work in a broadcast control room, and thought that the light from the monitors would be really interesting, if I shot it completely out of focus. I shot this on my Canon 5D at 50mm 1/25 at f/2.8 at 400iso. I set the focus to macro and stood about 8 feet back.
-Sean Hamrock

Drunken Fisherman

Oops I "accidentally" kicked the bottom of my tripod. Not really much of a story about this photo. I took the train to get there. That's exciting right? Ohh, and some drunk fisherman seen me setting up and showed me a photo of a rainbow. He took it with his cell phone and was real proud of it. Being nice I told him that it looked great. Then I gathered my stuff to walk to the other side of the park. Canon Rebel XSi, ISO 100, f/22, 55mm, 0.6 sec, Bit of fail.
-Tim Drivas

Happy Accident

Taken with a Canon Rebel XSI with an 18-55 mm kit lens. My friend and I decided to try to take bokeh shots with traffic lights, but I couldn't seem to get it quite right. Eventually I became tired of trying and set my shutter to bulb and shook my camera around! This is the "happy accident" that resulted.
-Chance Eads


I decided to fail by shooting at a far away subject on long zoom, with a slow shutter speed, while attempting to get as clear a shot as possible. I chose a few tower cranes on the horizon, zoomed up close, and set my camera for a 1 second exposure. I loved the way this one turned out, so I adjusted the contrast a bit and voila. Pure, beautiful fail. I also (unintentionally) failed at meeting the 8 AM EST deadline this morning. I hope you will forgive me.
Canon SX210IS, ISO 400, 70 mm, f8 at 1 second.
-Matthew Sweeney

Blue Vinyl (Skin)

The combination of recently purchasing my first DSLR and the River Roar boat races gathering some crowds in my small river town (Marietta, Ohio), finally pushed me to attempt one of these challenges. After several poor attempts at taking interesting bad pictures I remembered this SUV covered in vinyl skins with ridiculous patterns that is normally parked down by the levee. I weaved through the crowd and found the SUV in a mostly empty lot. I focused on the back window, set my shutter speed to a half of a second and spun the camera as I took the picture. There was no further manipulation. I find the result to be strangely like several of the Windows Vista default desktops I've seen. Shot with my Canon Rebel T3i, 18-135mm, ISO 100, f/36.
-Jason Pyles


I have had my shares of photography fails before, but one that I had a lot was motion in my photos, since I didn't have a tripod. Now that I have a tripod, I thought it would be perfect to have a controlled motion fail. This was shot on my Canon XSi (Tripod mounted) 1.6", F/2.0, iso 100 with my 50mm 1.4 lens. I twisted the tripod after releasing the shutter to give the motion blur.
-Seth Porter

Unexpected Pregnancy

Well I was taking some long exposure photos of this multicolored led lamp on my desk; and after a bunch of shots I was messing with the zoom not knowing I had hit the shutter button, so I built on it and this is what came of it.
Canon EOS 60D, EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, f/5.6, 1sec, ISO-100, No Flash.
-Josh Romero

Almost Canceled

My friends and I were doing some light painting while camping, so I wanted to see if it was possible to cancel a photo once you press the shutter when using Self-Timer. Apparently you can, but I couldn't stop this one. So I just started walking while the picture was being taken.
Canon T2i, 30sec, f/3.5, ISO 3200.
-Diego Ramírez

Free Lensed

I was on my way back from Salt Lake City when I saw this photo op so I promptly pulled off the free way and tried my hand at free lensing which I love doing now and again. Inevitably there was some serious FAIL involved before I got the shot I wanted but I think I almost like the fail image more than the "proper" one. Shot with a 5D Markii, 85L f/1.2, free lensed, processed in LR and PS.
-Kyle Ford

Lily Contrast

This picture was taken at a lily pad on Lake Sammamish in broad daylight. The lily petals were incredibly bright compared to the leaves and murky water. My fail was to dramatically underexpose the shot as a whole. I set the lens to f/11, the shutter speed to 1/2500 sec, but stuck with ISO 160 to reduce noise. I touched it up a little in Lightroom. I used a Panasonic G3 in shutter-priority mode with an old manual-focus L39 Russian 55mm f/2.8 lens.
-David Lee

San Franciscan Apple

After arriving in San Francisco from a vacation I noticed that there was a perfect shot of the full moon ready to be taken. I meant to take a picture of it with full exposure (to give it a more majestic look) but while trying to get in the right spot to take it, I tripped over luggage. I ended up with this picture of cars speeding by the sidewalk in the airport. Btw I took this with my HTC EVO smartphone at 1250 ISO. Also, incase your wondering I still got that picture of the moon:)
-Sinjin Treharne

Thanks to all the participants this week who really put their failures on the line - I thought the concept might be a bit esoteric, but you totally embraced it. Find the galleries below and full size shots on flickr. Oh, and if you're waiting to see results to our cinemagraph challenge, our apologies. They won't run until next Wednesday (over a week from today) as we encountered some bugs with the way our system handles animated gifs.

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.