So much of good photography is timing. If you can press the shutter at the critical moment, right when your subject is at the peak of emotional expression, you’ll get the shot. But if you think too much about what you want, you’ll end up a second too early or too late. To get where you want to be as a photographer, you need to learn how to relax and trust your instincts. Try out some of these techniques the next time you’re taking pictures of friends and family.
Watch the scene unfold outside of the viewfinder
It’s all too easy to get stuck behind the viewfinder. You want to frame the scene correctly, so it makes sense. Next time, frame your scene beforehand, and watch it unfold. As soon as you feel like something interesting is about to happen, press the shutter button.
It helps to setup a tripod beforehand. Tripods allow you to take your eye away from the viewfinder for a few seconds. As long as your subjects stay in the shot, you’ll be able to spot the action before it happens.
I can’t stress how important this is when you’re taking pictures of action or sports. You need to be a part of the game, and that means watching it from outside of your viewfinder. That way, you’ll know when the big move is about to be made so you can start capturing it the moment it starts.
Set your camera to continuous fire mode
Most cameras start off in single shot mode. This is okay if you’re trying to conserve space on your memory card, but most professional photographers keep their cameras in continuous fire mode all the time. Why? Because you might as well take as many pictures as you can. You can always delete the bad ones to make room for more.
You can find continuous fire mode in your camera’s main menu. Just go to shooting mode, and make the change to continuous fire. Now never change it back!
As soon as you think the action is going to intensify, press your shutter button and hold it down for as long as you need to. Somewhere in that long stream of images, you’ll find your keeper.
Learn as much as you can about your friends
You know them better than anyone else does. Spend some time figuring out what makes your friends smile, and prepare your trigger finger for that moment. Just don’t think too much about it. Learn to be zen. Your brain already knows a lot about the emotional states of others. Press the button when you feel your instincts telling you it makes sense.
If you’re doing a more professional shoot (and not just hanging around the living room with your camera), say things that will elicit a response. You know what will make your friends laugh, so say it. The timing will happen on its own when you let go and embrace the moment.
Be mindful of flash and shutter lag
Some cameras don’t take the picture the second you press the shutter button. It usually takes an extra second for them to finally snap your pic. This is called shutter lag, and you need to be aware of it so you can factor it into your timing. The more you use your camera, the more you’ll know about its shutter lag. The only real remedy is to get out there and take more pictures.
Onboard flashes are known to cause shutter lag as well. Sometimes they are the worst contributors to the problem because flashes can take awhile to recharge. The flash on one of my Nikon Digital SLRs is so slow that it takes up to two seconds to take the picture. Anyone who takes pictures for a living knows that’s impossibly long.
I don’t usually say this, but an intolerably long shutter lag is a good reason to upgrade to a better camera. Timing, in photography, is everything. You’ll be impressed with what you can do when you’re longer restricted by your camera’s shutter lag.
Just let it flow. You brain is doing bajillions of calculations in the background, and a lot of those calculations have something to do with other people and what they’re up to. When something interesting is about to happen, your brain will tell you about it. Trust your instincts, and press the trigger. You’ll be surprised with the results!
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