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Home > Patience Is Beyond Virtuous in Photography

The full moon is creating a spectacular white glow over the savannah. As the parade of elephants near, you take cover in the tall grass.

Patience Is Beyond Virtuous in Photography

You slow down your shutter speed to give your photo that extra sense of movement and light. The largest elephants are about to pass you by. Wait for it…. now! You take your shot, then another. From behind the leaders of the herd, a baby elephant suddenly emerges. Running to catch up to his elders the baby passes just inches by the grass where your lens is positioned. You’ll have to readjust shutter speed or your image will be lost to blur.

But, just as soon as the moment presented itself, the opportunity passes as the baby falls back into the herd and into the protection of the larger elephants.

While you’re very happy with the shots you took, waiting a moment longer could have produced a winner.

Photography captures a moment, and the beauty of say, wildlife or street photography, is that everyone of those moments presents an opportunity. As a photographer, deciding which of those moments to keep frozen in time is about telling the story through your eyes. Telling that story requires a lot of patience, sometimes minutes, sometimes days.

You might have an idea about what you want to photograph as you set up your tripod, but as your environment and subjects change, you might also change your mind about what you are trying to capture.

If you know what to expect you can set up and prepare your scene. If your subjects are skateboarders in a park, you can see where they’ll make their jumps and frame your composition accordingly. Expect a lot of blurry duds before getting the perfect shot.

Photography is about playing with light, mid afternoon sun can either create too strong a shadow or might make for a boring backdrop. But wait till about 5 or 6 o’clock when you get that golden glow. The sun will have moved behind your subjects, creating powerful silhouettes. Of course, if your skateboarding subjects aren’t friends who you’ve arranged to do a shoot with, they might be out of there before the right light hits – that’s the nature of the beast. Not every outing results in the perfect shot.

Prepare. Find out when the skaters (or elephants) usually come out. Bring an extra battery, find the most interesting angles and place markers. Get it all ready before your optimal light conditions or you’ll miss the shot when the moment arrives. And, importantly, be persistent. You might have to come back every day, but keep at it and your patience will pay off.

If a subject is worth photographing, it’s worth the time and energy you put into capturing it. Don’t just look at your screen, call it good enough and move on; depending on the scene, something could happen to make your image that much better, and you’ll want to be around when it comes. Waiting for the right moment can be what differentiates a great photograph from an Instagram snapshot.

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