The Forgotten Photographer’s tool

Posted on September 28, 2011


I write this after getting an earful of how you can never get that special shot and who video will take over photography as we know it from a photographer who is a machine gun shooter. You know the kind of photographer – hold the shutter down and hope for the best. He reminded me that there is one tool that everyone who uses digital forgets: patience.

As a portrait photographer, it is also one of those things that the mass quantity photographer at the front of a supermarket can’t do because they are under the premise that you can shoot 15-20 portraits an hour. They rush to get people in, trip a few images, then move to the next person. I honestly don’t beleive you can capture a good portrait this way – people don’t have time to get comfortable with you and being in front of the camera. You just don’t have time to see and get the subtle nuances that each person will give you.

Back with film, this was the first thing we did. As photographers, we relaxed and thought about what we were shooting. There was a cost to every image. Depending on the film used, we take longer between clicks of the shutter and systematically work through the images. With digital, there isn’t a cost, so we fall into the trap of “why not, it isn’t costing us anything” mentality. But, there is a cost – we feel it in post production work while deciding what we will do with all the images we captured (and wondering why we clicked the shutter so much). Slow down and savor the moment.

Many portrait clients who are always in a rush find photo sessions with me a bit overwhelming and unique. With me, they start out wanting to go fast and get the session over. By the end, they are wanting it to not stop. You work first by slowing down your client, getting the to not think about other things and talking with them. With women, this is easy as makeup and hair work lend to this process. With men, it is a little more difficult. The key with both is finding a place to shoot them that is away from everyone else where they can relax and slow down. Outside, it tends to be parks. Inside tends to be a studio or bed and breakfast. We talk, and I casually capture images. This works for all ages.

The one thing that all photographers are losing is patience with digital image capture. The best thing to do is slow down and capture the person who you are photographing, but you can’t do that if you are rushing through clients to capture that special moment. Instead, take your time, and get the client to relax. Besides, this is a tool that is free.