Thursday, July 29, 2010

3 Suggestions for Capturing Fleeting Moments (Basic)

There are dozens of things that need to be right in order for a photo to be perfect.  The smallest imperfect detail can ruin a shot.  At the same time, with candid and family photos, moments that are worth photographing last only a few fleeting seconds, making the use of a checklist impractical.

Instead, here are suggestions to increase the probability of getting at least a satisfactory photograph.

1. I suggest creating a database in your head by analyzing your own photos and those of others. What worked, what didn't and why.  Doing this frequently will improve your instinct for recognizing what would look good.

2. To execute your vision quickly enough, you need to build unconscious competence, which comes from a lot of practice. For example when I started learning about lighting, I had to think a lot about what are the correct settings to use, especially with balancing flash and ambient. After doing that thousands of times, I no longer need to think about it. I know what settings to use and how to adjust quickly. That way, I can focus on other aspects such as the concept and the composition.

3. Previsualization.  Even though the nature of candid and family photos almost always precludes setup, it is possible to visualize a shot ahead of time and anticipate the moment when the shot is most likely to occur, such that when it happens the only thing you need to do is press the shutter.

The image above isn't great, but it illustrates the point.  At the time I was about to take the shot, our baby was just playing around in his crib. I imagined a shot from a high point of view, and framed and focused the shot accordingly.  When he finally lifted his head, all I had to do was to press the already half-pressed shutter the rest of the way.

What about continuous shutter release?  I think it does have its use for very fast moving action but I didn't list that here because in my view it drains attention and focus, causing us to miss the perfect moment.

Any other techniques you find useful? (Please post in the comments.)