Saturday, January 17, 2009

The best shot you never took.

"I can't tell you how many pictures I've missed, ignored, trampled, or otherwise lost just 'cause I've been so hell bent on getting the shot I THINK I want." -- Joe McNalley

I recently bought Joe McNalley's "The Moment it Clicks." This book has inspired me more than any other photography book has in a while. As photographers, we often get so caught up in just getting something, completing the job, pleasing the client, that we forget what got us doing this stuff in the first place. The excitement of finding something you didn't expect and could not have planned for. The surprises. Above, Joe is talking about a job where he was dragging heavy equipment along the Savannah River in the early morning hours. Tired and overthinking things, he turned around and saw a magnificent sight. A Baptist march heading for the river in the misty dawn. He threw up a tripod and took a shot in the dark (no pun intended). The tungsten film in his camera gave the image a gorgeous blue tone and the slow shutter speed made the figures glimmer. As he puts it, "It was the picture of the day, and the day hadn't even started."

A couple weeks ago I had a job for a national publication I've never worked for before. I was terrified. When the time came, I was so nervous I could barely breath. And, all I kept thinking was how am I going to make this amazing. I over thought how to light it, where to put the subject, what to have her do. I over thought everything. In the end, I came away with a usable picture, but nothing spectacular. I don't expect a call back. Later when lamenting to a colleague and showing my images, he pointed out how nice it would have been if I had just shot it natural light. It had never even occurred to me. I never really stopped to see what was around me.

Maybe this is why for so many photographers, their personal work is their best work. Because they just do what they do, without over thinking things. Of course for the best of the best, their daily work is their personal work.