How Do You Know When You’ve Got the Shot?

Frozen garden plants, after the thaw. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Frozen garden plants, after the thaw. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

You’re out photographing, working a situation, looking for the best angle, the best light, the right lens. You’re thinking, framing, composing, then BAM! You shoot an image that you JUST KNOW is the one! The question is, what do you do then? Do you stop? Do you move on? What do you do?

This is the hardest part of the story….the overwhelming tendency for ALL of us at that moment is to STOP: As in stop shooting that situation and move on. Ever notice how as photographers we frequently act like buffet grazers, moving down the line, sampling lots of things but never really savoring anything?

Ever notice how as photographers we frequently act like buffet grazers, moving down the line, sampling lots of things but never really savoring anything?

I’m here to tell you that you need to learn to RESIST this urge to stop. You need to force yourself to keep shooting, keep thinking! OK, so you have one good version…don’t let up! Keep shooting, keep working! I PROMISE you that you won’t be disappointed. Sometimes that first good image will indeed turn out to be ‘the one,’ but just as often, something else will click later on, a new way of seeing, a new bit of light suddenly hitting your subject, some new element enters into the frame which transforms everything! THEN you’re glad you didn’t give up after that first good photograph.

Frozen garden plants, after the thaw. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Frozen garden plants, after the thaw. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

This is the hardest lesson to learn. I’m just as guilty as everyone else on this score. I think the two mental qualities most needed for this approach are PATIENCE and TENACITY.

It takes great patience to keep shooting when all you really want to do is get up out of that cramped position you’re in and stretch your back. Patience to stay slow, with your subject, in the moment.

Frozen garden plants, after the thaw. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Frozen garden plants, after the thaw. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

It takes great tenacity to force yourself to keep going, to never be completely satisfied, to keep pushing yourself. If you don’t have sufficient tenacity, you won’t improve as a photographic artist. Believe me, this is a personal journey you are on as a photographer. No one else will care if you improve or not. Only you will know if you are giving it your utmost.

Frozen garden plants, after the thaw. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Frozen garden plants, after the thaw. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Back when I shot film, we had a superstition: you never talked about your photographs until you had seen your negs. Then you knew what you had. You knew if you had nailed the exposure. You knew if it was in focus.

Now of course with chimping, you have a better idea almost instantaneously, which is a good thing. But I find that lots of discovery now happens in front of the computer. Once I start doing the real edit, opening images up in Photoshop, cropping, toning, experimenting—this is when I find out how successful I was on any given shoot.

This lesson—about not giving up when you get that first successful image—is one of those things that separates good photographers from great photographers. I know a lot of photographers, and they are as varied as their individual personalities. But the most successful ones are always the ones that work the hardest. Never underestimate how important this concept is, if you want to improve and grow as a photographer.

Other posts about patience and photography:

Patience & Photography, Darren Rowse at DPS

Patience is a Virtue in Photography, Ezine Article

selfport1aHi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog


Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

5 Comments on "How Do You Know When You’ve Got the Shot?"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. BayouBill says:

    Having just reentered the SLR world via the digital route after years away from film SLRs, I am really having a hard time getting used to, and taking advantage of, the fact that I can capture literally thousands of images to a single memory card rather than the 24 or 36 images I used to get on a roll of film. When using film I was very conscious of the cost of each image and tried to shoot economically (I didn’t have free access to a commercial photography lab like some people we know!).

    Now I have the reverse problem. I’m worried that when I get over the psychological barrier of still thinking in terms of “film economy” and start capturing more images in a session, I won’t have the time to browse all the images I’ve captured to decide which ones I want to keep. So many images, so little time! Where is the balance?

    Also, Andrew, can you recommend some less costly but still adequate alternatives to PhotoShop and/or some sites that compare post processing software?

    Thanks!

  2. You’ll find Photoshop Elements adequate for your image processing at this point in your development. Also, for free, check out Gimp. I haven’t used it myself but it looks like it can handle most image processing requirements. This is something I need to research myself, Bill, maybe for a future post.
    Andrew

  3. David Joachim says:

    Another free processing service is Google’s Picassa. It is limited, but extremely user-friendly. It also has a nice web album component for photo sharing. Its limitations are somewhat of a blessing, in that it forces you to be more disciplined when you shoot, so that you don’t succumb to the temptation to “fix it in post.”

    David Joachim

  4. True. In the pre-digital days, photographers were forced — or, maybe the right word is “accustomed” — to work hard for that perfect shot. Fast forward to this digital era and some photographers have become somewhat flaccid. Photoshop has their backs. 😉

Post a Comment