How observation and anticipation impact a photographic moment

  • Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.

How observation and anticipation impact a photographic moment

The one constant, since the beginning of my trip into photography, has been observing and anticipating moments that inspire me to pick up my camera.

Before I even knew what that meant, or what genre of photography that was, I found myself just waiting for the right time to hit the shutter. The sense that the life moments that were happening around me were important and necessary to document has always been there.

Shooting as practice has become part of my daily routine and recognizing that there are potential “document-worthy” moments among the mundane and spontaneous is the crux of the documentary photographer in me.

In the years since I discovered photography, I have taken mental notes on the times and ways that being a natural observer and patient shooter has impacted my photography and the way that I document our lives.

Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.

3 ways OBSERVATION impacts capturing the moment…

You will…

Discover something interesting in the ordinary:

So much of what is worth documenting is what happens within the fleeting, ordinary moments of our days. Being a mindful observer will give you a more assertive approach to shooting your everyday.

Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.
Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.

Distinguish significant moments from the insignificant:

The reality is, you’re not going to document every single moment of your life. Nor, would you want to.

Being a good observer, however, will better your skills at deciphering between the moments worth documenting, and those well… not worth documenting.

Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.
Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.

Empathize with your subjects:

One of the skills a “great” observer should possess is the ability to empathize with their subjects. Empathy, is not only a great human trait to have, but as documentarians, is a crucial skill to better your understanding and ability to tell others stories.

The more we can empathize, or “walk in someone else’s shoes”, the more perspective we can gain…and the documentary approach is very much about perspective.

Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.
Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.

3 ways ANTICIPATION impacts capturing the moment…

Allows you time to compose and determine what is included in your frame:

What you choose to include in your frame is and should be intentional. By anticipating a moment, and pausing for the right time to press the shutter, you are giving yourself time to compose the frame of your image thoughtfully and purposefully.

Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.

Enables you to capture gestures and suspension in your subjects actions:

Anticipating a moment essentially sets yourself up before the moment even happens. From beginning to end, when you are mentally ready, you will be able to capture the climatic moment or “suspension” of that movement, action, or gesture.

Thoughtfully pressing the shutter as these moments unfold in front of you, gives you the opportunity to capture the image that holds the most suspense, tension, or excitement.

Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.
Here are a few ways that observation and anticipation will influence your ability to capture key moments of the everyday and how they work hand-in-hand.

Gives you the ability to consider and/or change your perspective:

Your point of view can dramatically change a scene or moment. Interpretation can make or break the story.

You often have split seconds to make these choices, but if you are anticipating a moment, you are allowing yourself more time to decipher which perspective tells the best story.

At the end of the day, there are so many important and complex components to capturing, creating, and documenting the stories as they unfold in front of you.

As documentary photographers, we bring so much of ourselves into the way that we shoot, yet we all follow and break similar rules to our best abilities to tell the stories that we want to hear. We all navigate and follow our own roadmaps of creativity.

Becoming astute observers and exercising anticipation are just two of the important ways to to dig deeper and make stronger, more compelling documentary images.

If you are interested in taking a trip further into this conversation, then join me for my Click Photo School Breakout, Daytripper: A Roadmap to Shooting a Day in the Life. (Live run starting Jan. 23-Feb. 1) Hope to see and hear from you!

About the Author:

Casey McCauley is a silly, loud-talking, music making, coffee addict. She is a family documentary photographer living in central Illinois where she spends the majority of her time juggling and documenting life at home with her two boys, two giant furry ladies, and her comic-book making husband. In her spare time you may find her dancing in the kitchen, planning her next road trip, or riding the occasional roller coaster. (arms up, of course!) Visit Casey McCauley online.
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