There are many skills which we need to learn to become “good” photographers. At least, that’s what we all think. And, for the most part, it’s true. But (and it’s a big BUT), are we “bad” photographers if we can’t do everything perfectly?
I study the work of other photographers, watch lots of videos online, read interviews and so on. On many occasions, I have heard an ability discussed. An ability which I have, and still do, struggle with. That ability is knowing when to push the shutter. Having a talent for predicting events which allows you to pull the camera up and press the shutter at the perfect moment, translates into this revered skill. A skill which has always eluded me.
[REWIND: NIKON RAW NEF FILE QUALITY OPTION COMPARISON TESTING | 14-BIT LOSSLESS VS 12-BIT COMPRESSED]
The negative consequence of these “must-have” photographic skills is the knock to our confidence that they can present. What if you don’t possess this skill? Are you an inferior photographer? Those thoughts and feelings are dangerous. They can do more damage to your progression as a photographer than anything else.
The Beauty Of Video
Prior to becoming a photographer, I worked mostly with video. Video production has an enormous number of challenges which photographers are lucky to do without. However, so long as your camera is pointed in the right direction, at roughly the correct moment, you will capture the event; whatever that may be.
As a result, when I made the move over to photography, this skill of capturing the moment was something I was relatively new to. I knew the technical side very well, but couldn’t get this magical skill down. I felt inferior, I fed the inner critic and told myself I was not a good photographer.
You know what? I’m still learning this particular skill, and I think I will be for many years to come. The difference between me then and now, is that now, I don’t care. Plus, I’ve realized it doesn’t actually matter. The only thing that does, is the final product. I don’t care how I get there, so long as I do. And guess what? Neither does your client.
Photography Tip #1 To Help You Capture The Moment
Do not misinterpret what I have said thus far as meaning that I do not value this skill. I do. However, you can still be a good, dare I say great, photographer without this skill. I firmly believe it is something which will come with practice. But what do you do in the meantime?
The simplest and most obvious solution is to use the burst mode on your camera. You see the event approaching, but before it does, you hold down your shutter and capture a selection of images. Once at your computer, pick the best. Simple. I use this technique all the time when photographing children. They are some of the most unpredictable subjects!
You will inevitably capture many more images and, as such, will need larger/more memory cards. You’ll also take a little longer to edit all the photos as there will be more to look through. Lastly, this technique will not work if you’re using Strobes and Speedlights. Not many lights can keep up with your camera in burst mode, especially if you’re asking them to pump out lots of light.
Photography Tip #2 To Help You Capture The Moment
Become an expert in the operation of your gear and the techniques you plan to use. What do I mean by this? I’m not saying you should be able to recite your camera manual on queue. Instead, imagine a soldier, blind-folded, disassembling and reassembling his gun. I’m thinking Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket (great film). If changing the settings on your camera is second nature, you can focus more of your attention on what’s going on in front of the camera.
Thinking about anything other than your subject, is the enemy of this skill. If you can eliminate as much time as possible focused on other things, you’ll be far more likely to catch that “perfect” moment.
Just as you need to know your camera like the back of your hand, you need to know the techniques you plan to use. It’s no use wasting time wondering where to put a light while your subject does the most beautiful, natural thing behind you. Know the technical, so you can focus on what’s really important.
Photography Tip #3 To Help You Capture The Moment
Create the moment and direct your subjects. You may struggle to anticipate when a moment worth capturing is going to occur naturally, but there is no harm in taking control and manufacturing these moments. It’s not possible, or perhaps not ethical, to do this with any sort of documentary style but for anything else, there’s no harm. I’d go so far as to say it’s desirable as it gives you much more control over the final photo.
You can take this method as far as you feel comfortable. Create scenes (as I call them) in which your subjects can interact, micro-pose people, or just tell people to walk in a particular way. A practical example would be the photo you see above. I had scouted this location in advance and hence knew exactly what I wanted before my subjects arrived. Once they did, I asked them to walk in a line holding hands. I asked the parents to talk to the children as they walked and keep them engaged however felt natural.
Photography Tip #4 To Help You Capture The Moment
Keep one eye on your camera and one on your subjects. That was a tip told to me by a documentary filmmaker who was speaking quite literally. I don’t necessarily advocate that, but the basic premise of his advice is solid. Keep an eye on your subjects at all times.
People are unpredictable. You never know what they are going to do or when they are going to do it. If you focus too much on your equipment, you are likely to miss some gold. That being said, focus solely on your subjects and our gear won’t be set up correctly. It’s a balance. One which you will find with experience. While you’re learning, remember that focusing your attention on your subjects is very important. Just as important as your camera.
Chin Up, You’re Not A Bad PHOTOGRAPHER
Consistency is the sign of a true professional. You may not have every “must have” photography skill which we so often hear talked about, but that does not make you a bad photographer. Becoming a master of your equipment is a big step in the right direction to learning this particular skill. As time progresses, you’ll be able to think less and less about the technical, affording you more time to focus on everything else.
Always keep in mind that you’re on a journey and try not to get impatient with your own development.