Observing happens with or without your camera. What is going on around you? What is happening with your subject or subjects? Make it a practice to look around and notice things around you whether you have your camera with you or not.
While observing, you might notice something you want to photograph. Maybe you noticed a moment you would have liked to photograph but missed. Who knows it may happen again, or something better might happen. Or maybe you just sense something good is going to happen that you’d love to capture. Either way, find an angle that gives you the best composition and lighting condition, then anticipate and be ready to shoot.
When I took this photo with a 85mm prime lens so I moved back as far as I can against a wall. I set up the composition, pre-focused and waited for the action.
3. Be patient
The moment you were anticipating may not happen right away, or it may not even happen at all. But be patient and stick around. Something good may happen. Even after you think you got the shot you wanted, resist the temptation to look at your camera and scroll through the images. Stay longer because something unexpected may happen.
4. Shoot a sequence of images.
This is the most important point I want to make in this post. Shoot a sequence of images, and use burst mode if the action is happening fast. The iPhone even has burst mode that shoots faster than some DSLR cameras. There’s a difference between shooting multiple images with a purpose, verses the “shoot & pray” method of shooting a lot and hoping you get something good. With digital photography it’s easy to rapid fire and photograph way too many unnecessary images. Instead of shooting aimlessly, try shooting with a purpose.
You already have an idea of what you want to photograph because you were anticipating it, right? When you anticipate that the moment you were anticipating is about to unfold take multiple images around the moment. Even when you think you got the shot, stay longer. Maybe you’ll capture something you were not even expecting.
As you can see, it took me six photographs to get one good image for this particular moment. Sometimes it takes twenty or more images to get a good photo, or it may take three. I always shoot a sequence of photos.
Shoot a sequence of images. If you expect to capture moments but only click the shutter once, look at the back of your camera to see if you got it(a.k.a. “chimping”), you’re going to get disappointed a lot.
If you think every amazing photo is taken with only one click, that is most likely not the case. That one amazing photo is most likely selected out of a sequence of photos.
If you look at contact sheets of legendary photojournalists, they photographed sequence of images. Even the godfather of photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson, known for his “decisive moment” photographed sequence of multiple images. The decisive moments are not captured with one click. A “decisive moment” is often selected from a sequence of images. Read more about it on this BBC article.
Even sports photographers do this. Do you remember Odell Beckham Jr.’s amazing one-handed catch? A lot of photographers captured this catch from different angles, but Al Bello, one of the best photographers in the industry, had a great angle and captured the iconic image. You can read the rest of his interview in the New York Times article, but here are couple of his quotes I’d like to highlight:
“I remember thinking to stay on the receiver, don’t shake, be steady, keep focus, keep frame. As they went up for the ball I pressed the shutter on the camera and kept firing as they fell to the floor. I then switched cameras again to my wide angle zoom lens as he ran closer to me to celebrate the touchdown with his teammates.”
“As the play was unfolding I just relied on my past experience by staying calm and shooting the play through.“
Notice he said he pressed the shutter and kept firing…, and he photographed until the play and celebration was over. He didn’t stop when he photographed the catch. He kept shooting. We won’t get to see the whole sequence of images he took before and after this catch, but I bet you he shot a whole lot of photos, especially because the Canon 1DX he was using can shoot up to 12 frames per second!