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The 10-Frame Methodology

I used to be a spastic shooter who’d shoot a picture, and move, shoot another picture, and move again. It wasn’t until one of my mentors suggested I slow down, stay in the moment, and follow through that I self-implemented the 10-Frame Methodology. It is my guideline for solving nearly all photographic problems while on assignment. The concept is simple. Slow down and become more deliberate in your photography. Don’t jump on the first item or scene that you see. Spend some time looking for the best subject or greatest vantage point. Spend more time looking and less time shooting. Once you’ve found the ideal composition, sit and wait for the right moment. Let the action come to you. Make 10 frames without moving your composition. If you commit to making a picture, then really commit (Figure 4.33).

Figure 4.33

Figure 4.33. A U.S. Army soldier stands guard near a window while his buddy takes a break in front of the television, which is playing Iraqi cartoons, during a raid in Baqubah, Iraq.

Lens (mm): 17, ISO: 800, Aperture: 2.8, Shutter: 1/100, Program: Manual

I’ll walk into a situation and assess what’s happening—not only with the subjects but with the light, too. I’ll move around the room until I find the best possible vantage point and advantageous light. Once I’m satisfied, I’ll hunker down. I can look back at a day’s take and see sequences of various scenarios where I haven’t moved a millimeter (Figure 4.34).

Figure 4.34

Figure 4.34. This is one of my contact sheets, which shows how I use the 10-Frame Methodology while shooting. The variances of the action happening in each frame are small, but those little differences pay huge dividends in the end. After all, it is the simple change of gesture, posture, or expression that transforms the entire mood of the picture.

In high-stress situations, it’s easy to let the pace of actions happening around you dictate how quickly you shoot. You go from being selective and thoughtful to the “spray and pray” method: shooting randomly without any idea of what you’re actually doing. You slam the shutter release button at anything that moves and pray it turns out. That’s when it’s important to remind yourself that there’s always something going on. There are always moments you’ll miss. All you can do is be ready to make a successful picture when the time is right and the action unfolds in front of you.

My final thought for this chapter is to be patient and allow time for all of the factors we discussed to fall into place. Be an observer of light and color—use it to convey a message or emotion. Your technical routine must become second nature so your mind can be free to focus on the story.

Once you settle into a scene, think about how to make a picture that best tells your subject’s narrative without bias, as creatively as possible. Focus on the action as it comes into your frame; let the action come to you—don’t chase the action. When it feels right, release your shutter.

When you’re in an out-of-control situation, you’re still in control of your camera. Be present enough in the situation to know the dangers around you, yet block out the unnecessary distractions that may detract your focus. Set yourself up for success. The world will continue to spin even if you’re not shooting. So take the time to put yourself in the best possible place to capture the story and it will come to you.

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