Finding Your Decisive Moments

As documentary photographers, we are faced with the uncertainty the world gives us. However, instead of succumbing to this, we face this challenge head on. We find the light, we compose (and compose again), and we constantly search for the decisive moment to click the shutter and make the frame.

If only the trifecta is this easy to execute.

To make a really good frame, we need our photographs to make the viewers feel something. Light and composition are important for conveying the visual read of the image, but to me, moment plays the biggest part in making the viewers feel and resonate. It has the power to best influence the story you are telling.

Choosing the moment is all about your right-brain. It is entirely dependent on your artistic voice and how you respond to the world around you. When you click the shutter, you are creating a frame that others will react to because of how you see and express your response. It is a beautiful and continuous exchange of cause and effect.

Let’s break this down. You are observing a scene. You are responding to it when you feel emotions – try and identify what they are. What is it about what is happening that is making you feel a certain way? Does it make you want to press the shutter? Why do you feel the need to make this frame at this moment?

For the purposes of focusing on moment, quiet the voices that say “Oh this is beautiful light; look at all the lines and graphic patterns!” Find the ones that make you feel something as you take in the scene. This is what will elevate a photo that already has nice light and/or lines to something even greater – by including a moment that speaks to you. What you find funny may not be as hilarious to another; what you empathize and want to shed tears over may not be the same for someone else. If you have missed the moment, file that information away. See if you can anticipate it again. Moments are missed ALL THE TIME. You simply cannot stay on top of all of them. However, cumulatively, the reasons that make you want to press the shutter at any given moment represent fingerprints to your personality. Once you realize that, you will let go of the notion of what moment is theoretically right to capture. Instead, embrace and acknowledge your creative response, and just click.

“There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.” ~Henri Cartier-Bresson

The next time you pick up the camera, set up your frame (for light and composition), observe, anticipate, and feel for the moment. Pay extra attention to what your muse(s) is saying, listen to your own responses, and then let your intuition move your forefinger to press the shutter. Experience the world, and discover the details that are remarkable and enigmatic to YOU and express that in photo.

confused new parents with new baby and baby carrierElderly woman smiling at her great-granddaughterDad trying to stop the silliness of his daughter in front of the mirrorMother watching her daughter's love for their latest newbornMother comforting her crying daughterlittle kids reaching out for help at the playgroundA family Boulder hopping in the ocean Excitement between sisters of celebrating a birthdayToddler trying to remove a helmet off her headDad carrying a boy sideways who is trying to pinch his noseMom holding her newborn feeding her older son his lunchMom empathizing with her son feeling sad while dad is oblivious Father anticipating a kiss on the cheek from his daughter

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