This excerpt is from the Rough Cuts version of the book and may not represent the final version of this material.
The increments of time have been sliced and diced into smaller and smaller pieces. Life moves like a time-lapsed movie. The day-to-day details are lost and sometimes disappear. We drive to work but don’t really remember what happened between leaving the front door and pulling into our parking spot. Such speed deadens our senses. Memories blur and moments become fuzzy. We listen but don’t really hear. There is just too much to take in, so we don’t.
For the casual observer, this isn’t ideal. For the photographer, this is a dangerous state and contrary to who we are.
We like to look at pictures of people who are present and engaged. It slows us down. It draws us in. It reminds us of our own needs and fortifies our resolve to stay strong. Even more, quiet pictures reflect how our memory captures events. We remember the iconic still moments, those moments where time becomes quiet and time is momentarily frozen. Creating pictures like this is an extremely difficult task in a way you wouldn’t first guess. It’s difficult not because of the person being photographed but because of you.
To create people pictures that are still and serene, we have to model and embody the tone or mood we want to capture. Sound simple? It’s much easier said than done. We live complex lives, and interacting with people intensifies life. It is a mixture of excitement, nervousness, anxiety, hope, and connection. We are easily swept away by it all.
It’s almost like giving in to the temptation to read a really good book too fast. Drawn in by the plot, characters, and story we want to skim and skip ahead. Yet, such speed would only lessen the value. We would miss the nuances, subtle expressions, and intriguing use of words. We would find out what happens, only to have missed the main point.
In my own experience, when I have rushed a photo shoot the picture taking was exciting. Afterward, the resulting photographs made my stomach ache. When I have taken the time to be quiet and to slow down, reviewing the final photographs was a process full of delight; each photograph was a surprise! Silence, slow pace, and patience are worth the extra effort. There is a greater chance for the pictures to speak with their own words.
What You Do with the Time
What does it mean to be quiet and to slow down? Is this really possible? Making people pictures requires you to think on your feet and react to light, expression, composition, movement, and tone. With people, sometimes you have 3 minutes, other times 30 minutes. Is it about having more time? No. It’s about what you do with the time that you have. And that’s true with life as well, isn’t it? Regardless of how much we wish it weren’t so, there are never more minutes in a day. Living life, and taking pictures, is about making the most of each minute that we have.
Perhaps it is about approaching a situation with a bit of serenity? Or even better, becoming a more stress-free and observant person. Taking good pictures is not only about your gear and subject, it’s about you. Becoming a good photographer is about becoming someone who is different than the crowd. Develop a calm and quiet disposition, a peace of mind that isn’t dependent on situations or circumstances, and your photographs will speak volumes.
- Sharpen observation skills.
- Become a more patient photographer.
- Learn to connect with a subject without words and develop nonverbal communication skills.
- Build the habit of pressing the shutter release more intentionally.
- Create quiet and strong pictures.