This afternoon I was sitting in the office of a colleague of mine, looking at some new pictures of his baby. The pictures were spectacular, and clearly professional. I asked him where he had been taken, and was very surprised when he told me that it was in a studio at the mall. Then I thought about it for a minute, and realized that the reason these mall studios were able to be successful, is that they were able to take out the majority of the technical variables for making a good picture. The lighting is set up, the camera is all set, the backgrounds are in place — the technical details are all taken care of.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it means that their photographer is unskilled. What I am saying, is that they have been able to optimize and lock down enough of the technical process that it limits the skill set the photographer needs to get good results. The thing that struck me so powerfully about these images was was how natural the baby looked, and how excited and engaged she clearly was. Getting that an expression is an incredible skill, and by having the technical issues solved ahead of time she was able to focus on relating to her subject and making a great picture.
Of course there is a downside to this, her creativity with how to set up the photographs is limited by the locked down technical setup. A truly skilled, imaginative, creative photographer, with full command of all of the technical issues, as well as having the ability to relate well to a subject will make much better and more innovative images. But, I realized something as I thought about this. It really comes down to knowing when to push the button on the camera that takes the picture. Yes, you need all of the other skills, the technical issues dealt with either by your own skill or by being in a preset studio. However, even if all that is done, it still comes down to the moment that you push the button. Knowing whether you need to push the button right now, or a split second from now. It really does make all the difference.
This all reminded me of the tittle one of my absolute favorite books about photography, The Moment It Clicks by Joe McNally. Joe is an incredible photographer and teacher of photography, and this book is filled with amazing images and stories about how he made them. If you want to check out the book, click on the Amazon affiliate link below.
It occurs to me, that this idea of moment is an important one in many areas that I’ve experienced, I’d like to hear in the comments about times when you became aware of the significance of having that sense of the right moment. I’ll look forward to your posts.