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Take your time for better pictures

Pictures that are rushed look rushed.


A snapshot of a desert scene can be taken by anyone. But, the photographer who takes the time to wait for the light of the setting sun will capture a memorable, moody desert picture to be proud of.
A snapshot of a desert scene can be taken by anyone. But, the photographer who takes the time to wait for the light of the setting sun will capture a memorable, moody desert picture to be proud of.

Slowing down a little, even lessening the normal pace of your life, may be all you need to do to make memorable pictures. We tend to rush from place to place, hoping that scenes we come upon and shoot quickly will make good images. Sometimes they do, but it is the photographer who takes time to carefully observe and to consider a scene's potential who will be consistently successful in producing quality pictures.

If you want to make truly excellent photographs, you must give them the time they need. Good photographs require thoughtfulness, creativity and patience, all of which require an unhurried approach.

What does this mean in practice? Let's look at some examples of when it can be best to take your time.

  • Waiting for the right light, or for an action to take place.
  • Considering a scene's composition and how to improve it by changing your camera angle, shooting height or framing.
  • Looking for color balance, an interesting foreground or the right expression.
  • Thinking of how you can integrate the elements in a scene into a harmonious, interesting composition that will captivate viewers and tell a story.
  • Taking the time to organize a group photograph so that it is well-balanced and everyone looks their best.
  • Checking your camera's settings to be sure they will give you proper exposure.
  • Taking a short break in the middle of a photo session to double-check that your settings haven't changed.
  • Asking yourself if there is anything you can change in the scene to improve the composition.


A photographer in a rush will usually take pictures that look rushed, with elements out of place or imbalanced. You will make better photographs by walking around a scene than by hurrying in and out; by stopping, observing and waiting rather than just snapping the first item of interest before moving on; and by changing your position to give you a fresh perspective - even sometimes moving through a scene - instead of just tripping the shutter when a scene looks "good enough." Keep in mind the adage, "Good enough is not good enough," especially when your pictures can be great if you make the effort and take the time.

SOME SCENES CAN'T WAIT

It is true that some photographs must be taken immediately, before the opportunity for a great shot is gone.

These may include sports action shots, scenes where an animal is displaying unusual behaviour, moments when a person's countenance has an unexpected expression, and so on. In these instances, to delay is to lose the moment. You must take a quick picture. Such opportunities rarely present themselves again.

We are not talking about those kinds of importunate pictures here. Although, when you are able to anticipate the moment of action or predict that once-in-a-lifetime shot, it pays to take the time to prepare in advance to capture it at its best.

You won't get a second chance to photograph a scene like this, taken in Tucson, Arizona, during
You won't get a second chance to photograph a scene like this, taken in Tucson, Arizona, during "John Dillinger Days." This a scene that couldn't wait, but the photographer took the time to be in a good shooting position beforehand.

Sometimes a person or even a pet just doesn't want its picture taken. It is almost always better to postpone the shoot and wait for a better time.
Sometimes a person or even a pet just doesn't want its picture taken. It is almost always better to postpone the shoot and wait for a better time.

SOMETIMES IT IS BETTER TO POSTPONE TAKING A PHOTOGRAPH

There will be occasions when people you are about to photograph don't look their best. They may not be feeling well or dressed suitably. It may be that they just aren't happy with their hairstyle at the moment. If they don't look right or feel right, it is almost always best not to photograph them. Neither you nor they will probably like the resulting images, and you may even risk losing their confidence in you as a photographer. You don't want to be remembered as the "photographer who took those awful pictures" or the one who made someone pose when he or she didn't feel up to it.

It can be an annoying inconvenience to delay a photo session for a better time, but the annoyance will be long gone later on, when you view the pictures you took afterwards when conditions were right. Then, you can take credit for having initially called a halt, as the right thing to have done.


Pets can sometimes be too feisty, excited or uncontrollable for a good picture of them. It is best to allow them time to calm down, maybe get to know you a little and to be comfortable with your presence. Pets can also be having a bad day, too. They are sometimes remarkably sensitive, and it can be best to postpone taking their picture until they are "feeling themselves" again.

Babies can be irritable from the need for a nap or to be fed. Don't attempt to make a baby do something it doesn't want to do; it's a losing battle. Take a time-out. Read a chapter or two of a novel while the baby naps, or has a diaper change or gets fed. The relatively short waiting time will be worth it in the end.

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE TIME TO SHOOT A SCENE OVER, AND MAYBE OVER AGAIN

It will happen that you take a picture that you just aren't happy with. You did all the right things, but something was still wrong. The picture may not have the magic you envisioned, or the objects in it were not all in the right spots. The light may have changed or the wind came up. There can be any number of reasons why it makes sense to shoot the scene again.

Make sure you take the time to do that.

Don't just say "Oh well, that's the best I'm going to get," and walk away. It's not. Take the time to consider what is bothering you about the pictures you took.

Digital photographers have the advantage of being able to review their images right after they were taken. Do so. Look for what it takes to improve them. Then, make corrections, and try again.

If you have to do it a third and even a fourth time to get the picture you want, persevere and it will pay off. Taking those extra few moments and putting in that additional effort may make all the difference between a snapshot and a great shot.

It takes perseverance to shoot picture after picture until you get just the right shot.
It takes perseverance to shoot picture after picture until you get just the right shot.

Taking the time to wait for the hawk to fly from behind its cover paid off for the photographer.
Taking the time to wait for the hawk to fly from behind its cover paid off for the photographer.

PATIENCE DOES HAVE ITS REWARDS

Wildlife photographers provide excellent examples of photographers who are prepared to take the time for great photographs, and whose patience pays off.

We have all seen remarkable pictures, both still shots and movies, of wild animals that we know needed a lot of waiting and careful observation before they were shot.

Consider these photographers as rolemodels and think of their great patience when you have to slow things down to wait for something to happen before you can take just the picture you want. If you reflect on the many hours, sometimes days and even weeks, that experienced, professional wildlife photographers must plan and wait for that just right moment, it may make your own waiting time seem insignificant.

Having patience means taking your time. The two go hand in hand.

Having patience will probably also mean that you will produce superb pictures that you could not have gotten if you were in a rush.

GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF TIME

We encourage you to always allot enough time for your picture-taking so that you and your subjects don't feel rushed, and so that your pictures can be well thought out and properly composed. You will thank yourself afterwards when you review the excellent pictures you have taken, and realize they are so good because you took the time to make them that way.


Related topics...

Babies

Balancing colors

Brightness of Light

Can we learn good composition?

Determine your photography objectives beforehand

Don't rush your picture-taking

Photographing Pets