Capturing the moment
So many different elements go into capturing the right moment.
The technical settings of your camera for the given scene. How the light & shadows fall and shape everything that’s around you. How everything in your field of view (even if it’s out of focus) can be used to compose & frame the photo.
These are all a mixture of technical & artistic decisions that help capture the moment.
But there is one element that is probably more important…
…and that’s timing.
Not all styles of photography require timing as a necessary element. But when it comes to taking photos of people, especially people interacting with one another, then timing is extremely important and can make or break a photo. You could have the perfect camera settings, amazing composition and lighting, but if the couple in the photo are not shining at their best then in my opinion, it’s a wasted effort.
I’m not talking about the couple looking awkward or uncomfortable. I’m talking more about their interactions with one another and how they breath life into one another. They are a couple for a reason, and it’s my job to capture that. It’s a little too easy to press the shutter release button as soon as you see them smiling and/or looking into the camera. But if you have more patience or better "timing", you may capture a special moment between them.
So how do you capture that special moment?
Well sometimes it will happen by chance and you get lucky. In the right place at the right time. I would imagine that most people would see this as the obvious answer. But a lot of the times you can actually anticipate it.
I look through my lens at people all the time. But I’m not just taking photos of them. I’m also observing them. I watching their interactions and body language. Watching what makes them laugh and smile. Watching what makes them upset or uncomfortable. The whole time I am keeping an eye on their steps, how their body is leaning or where their hand is moving too.
These simple gestures help me anticipate potential moments that I want to capture. Having a one second warning is sometimes enough to make sure I can pre-compose the photo and capture something beautiful.
Of course, having great timing and capturing the right moment doesn’t mean much if all the other elements are lacking. Sure, the main content and emotion is there, but the consistency and professionalism that is evident in other photos will be missing.
Everything needs to work in unison to capture the moment in the light that it deserves.
Technical errors can generally be salvaged afterwards (unless it’s a focus issue), but it’s not ideal and just adds onto the work load. Having poor composition is a lot less forgiving and apart from cropping, there really isn’t a lot you can do.
If the photo looks bad, but captures a beautiful moment then you are left with a bitter sweet feeling. It feels like a snapshot that you got lucky with. For me this is a missed opportunity as the photo doesn’t do the couple justice.
Along with observing people I am also making mental notes of possible framing options and the lighting conditions, making changes to my camera along the way or changing lenses. Already knowing in your head how you would take the photo is crucial in reacting quickly enough to a spontaneous moment. Not all moments can be anticipated before hand.
When the right moment comes along, you need to be ready.
Occasionally you can entice special moments out of the couple. It all completely depends on their personalities. For some, giving guidelines on how to stand is enough as they quickly lose themselves in the moment interacting with one another as if I'm not there. For others, I may need to ease their nerves and get them to focus on something other than the camera. Generally asking a personal question about each other is enough for them to look at their partner in the eye and smile, remembering a heartwarming moment that they shared together.
Capturing the right moment is a combination of many different elements that are always in flux. From being in the right place at the right time, to actively seeking out and anticipating what may happen. Timing plays a huge part in it. But successfully merging all your techniques and artistic skill with a good sense of timing, will help you produce photos that capture special & beautiful moments, through your eyes.