How to Get That Great Shot. (Maybe the fish just weren’t biting? …Maybe there were no fish?)

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A random collection of Thai Street Photography

Have you ever been in a photography situation where you just could not find a good shot? In the past I have heard many times that “the shot is here, you just have to find it.” And I used to believe that, I would always think to myself that there has to be a good angle or if I waited long enough the light would be just right. But sometimes I just never found the angle and the good light never came. Most times I would walk away and feel defeated or have a feeling that maybe I’m just not experienced enough to find the good photo. I would often sit and contemplate about what a “better” photographer would do. How do “they” do it? How do they find the “good” shot? Sometimes I would get this hair-brained idea that “maybe there never was a good shot” and soon I would just put that idea right out of my head because… well there has to be a good photograph to be found in every location or situation. Why? Because “they” said so. Who are “they?” “They” are the information that I came across years ago in the multitude of photography books I read, websites, blogs and videos and even face to face with other photographers. Why I even preached it myself, but only because it sounded like the thing to do. But I have to admit I stopped preaching it, I stopped thinking it and I just more or less let it slip away from my mind. Although I did not tell anyone until now I really did change my mind and it put me at peace with myself. Now sometimes I just say to myself “there is no good shot here today.” Maybe it will be here tomorrow or later, but it is not here now and it’s a done deal and I move on.

After listening to Scott Kelby and RC Concepcion briefly discussing this very topic on the Grid show the other day and I’m so glad they did because it gave me validation that “yes” it is a big peace of mind to know that there is not always a good shot in all situations. Even in situations where you the photographer are in control and creating an image such as one would do with a photo shoot using a model, you may have it all planned out and then there is just something missing. Now I will agree that while you may have control over a photo shoot and may not be getting the results you’re expecting, you do have the ability to correct and make changes to give you the desired outcome. But let’s not look at a photo shoot; let’s use a location for example. Many times photographers like to shoot around or inside of abandon buildings; they are looking for that raw urban decay feel. Or maybe it is Street photography and you’re out looking to capture that special image that is going to “light you up” inside and make your day. And no matter how hard you try it just doesn’t happen. Sure you come away with images that are creative with all the rules of composing and various uses of bokeh or maybe some intense HDR work, but it is all just… “Flat” as I call it. There is nothing to light me up inside. I think Scott hit the nail on the head when he equated it to fishing. As a young boy growing up I loved to fish and one of the hardest things to do was to come home with nothing. Actually coming home with nothing was very easy, but the feeling of defeat was horrible. I would have all my gear packed and ready to go for the morning, I would rise up before dawn and head out for the day with a heart full of excitement, but at the end of the day nothing. Maybe the fish just weren’t biting? Maybe there were no fish? I remember thinking that many times. What if there were no fish? You could not see under the water and we didn’t have all the electronic gadgets that are available today, so what if I was standing where there were no fish. What if the fish were on the other side of the lake? So I have put my own mind at ease and I do have a lot more fun when I go out shooting Street photography now. If I come back with nothing too great, then so be it. Now the other side to this coin is that you can train yourself to look for the so-called “good” shots and this can be done in many ways. For starters just keep plugging away and keep shooting. As in keep going out and shooting, if you’re a landscape photographer well keep getting up early and heading out the door or if you’re a Street shooter keep going out and shooting. There is no harm or foul in the fact that you keep trying. Just as long as you know that sometimes there is no great shot to be found. Look for it… please always look for it, but be ok with not finding it.

Another technique in training yourself to find a great shot is to look at other photographers and see what they do. This is something I know everyone already does. Surely you look at what other photographers are doing and maybe you try to emulate their work and there is nothing wrong with that. But what if you did the opposite? What if you looked at a particular shot of a particular subject or location and shot it differently? There are also the obvious techniques such as changing angles, shooting high or low or maybe shooting at dusk as opposed to morning or afternoon. Maybe shooting in the rain? I shot a local steam engine as it came down the tracks in the rain. Boy was I mad that day; I just wanted a nice shot of old #60 as she came down the line. As the train was approaching the rain went from a mist to almost a full pour. Somehow I found something special about that shot and so did others. In fact a year later the local town chose that photo to be used in a Christmas tourism campaign and it graced the cover of all the flyers, signs and even the website. Not to mention all the prints I sold. Here I had the special shot and never fully realized it. That old train has been shot thousands of times but nobody ever shot it in the rain. Looking back on the whole thing it was kind of embarrassing to learn that so many people loved the image of ole #60 coming down the line in the rain. And while some loved it there were a few photographers who regularly shoot #60 who asked in a surly voice “what Photoshop plugin did you use to create the effect?” Laughingly I always tell the truth and say “I stood in the rain, that’s all.”

So in hindsight it can really be summed up and stated that truly there may not be a good shot to be found on a given day at a given location.  …Or did you already capture the “great” shot and you haven’t a clue that it is already sitting on your memory card. Kind of like the girl who had a crush on me and I never knew.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day.

Original edit for print and Historical Flemington website.

Original edit for print and Historical Flemington website.

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