A photograph is a visual moment frozen in time. Whether you have captured the sunlight shining through a rolling breaker wave, or a fleeting expression on a mother’s face at a wedding there is an enduring and captivating magic in the ability of the camera to freeze time– to take a little slice out of our experiences and preserve it as an artifact.
This is the moment. Sometimes you know it’s coming and you wait for it and make a picture very intentionally of the decisive moment. Sometimes you don’t know when exactly it’s going to happen but you put your camera in the right place and the generally right time and you manage to capture that magical moment. Sometimes it’s just blind luck, but somehow you got the shot. Sometimes you are trying to make a picture of one thing, and something happens in the frame that elevates everything making a totally unique photograph. Whatever the case, the decisive moment is quite often what distinguishes a good photograph from a truly great one. But even more importantly, especially for us in the digital age, editing– where the captured images are reviewed and processed at least enough to help us see what is possible, is where you will discover (or miss) the great shots.
So let’s talk about editing. An editor is someone who reviews a creative work and suggests changes, usually cuts of content. A photo editor is someone who reviews the images taken, makes selects and then processes them either to completion or sometimes to an intermediate “proof” stage. I use Adobe Lightroom and use their star system for sorting my photos. This process of looking at each of your images and deciding which ones to look at again is absolutely crucial and is often neglected. Take the time to review your catch. Look for those moments where everything was perfect. The composition is right, the exposure is good, the moment is perfect.
Let me say a quick word about tools. Today with digital media being plentiful I routinely look at my camera and see I have over 1000 images left on my card. Along with that space is the opportunity to use a motor drive that runs about approximately 10 frames per second. And if I really want to test the limits I can shoot 4k video at frame rates starting at 24 and going up from there, depending on the camera. All of which is to say that if you are in the right place at the generally right time it’s never been easier or more accessible for someone to actually capture that moment.
But just capturing the images is not enough, editing is where the gems are found. Looking at that computer monitor is where you are going to find the great images, especially the ones where you got lucky. You have to take the time to review your own work, and find those images. Also, take a lot of photographs. If you want the right moment, and right now the capacity of your camera is practically unlimited, don’t be stingy about taking photos.
So finding that decisive moment, especially today, is about editing, as well as putting yourself in the right place at the right time and then waiting for the right moment.