Photography, especially street photography, is an art form.
And as with any art form, success is achieved by capturing something deeper, an essence, a meaning, something visceral and emotional, something real and complete.
A photographer doesn’t just show and take photos for better or for worse. Many of us want to capture what is known as the crucial moment.
Here, a more visually pleasing image is combined with a deeper meaning by capturing the essence of what happened when the shutter button was pressed.
It’s the difference between good looking pictures and perfectly capturing real moments of action, emotion, and meaning.
When the crucial moment is captured in a picture, people tend to stop and study the picture to extract the wealth of information that is expressed in the art form.
“I’m not interested in the photo itself. I just want to capture a tiny part of reality. ” -Henri Cartier-Bresson
The defining moment is a concept popularized by the famous French street photographer and photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson. During the 20th century, as smaller, more mobile cameras became available to photographers, the ability to capture real, unstaged, and truly honest parts of life led Henri Cartier-Bresson to build on the concept of the defining moment.
And although this concept arose from street photography, it can be used in any other genre.
With every move or moment, be it someone walking down the street, catching a baseball, or two lovers saying goodbye at an airport, there will always be a split second that sums up the meaning of the entire scene.
Too early or too late and it will be missed. These crucial moments always come before they go away.
The following strategies and tips have been used by Henri Cartier-Bresson as well as newer photographers around the world.
Timing and anticipation
I would recommend photographers first of all pay close attention to the timing of a scene and practice their anticipation skills. If you see the crucial moment and you’re not ready, it’s gone when you’ve adjusted and focused on the camera.
Learn about your motives, their movements, and their behavior to anticipate and predict when a crucial moment will come. The more you practice this, the better your anticipation skills will become.
Timing and anticipation alone are of course not enough. You need to have found the right composition in your environment and background. The scene needs to have the right exposure, which depends on the time of day. Other elements in your scene need to focus on the specific moment, movement, and general expression that create the defining moment.
Think of this as a framework for the crucial moment.
Patience and intuition
One technique that many photographers use is to put yourself in an environment with the right composition and wait for a subject to pass. For example: you can wait and see pedestrians walking by near a busy intersection or sidewalk with the right exposure and background.
At some point you will experience many decisive moments, such as a couple looking at each other holding hands or the bubbling fascination of a child for something everyday. You can see the kindness of strangers, bravery, fear and anything that captures a perfect moment of expression and meaning. Studying scenes like this and practicing predicting what’s next will help you better know when the moment is coming and when to take the shot.
Meaning and emotion
At the core of any photography, meaning separates an amazing (but meaningless) image from a truly crucial moment. The crux of the crucial moment is making sure that there is a meaningful element in your frame that makes a statement or inspires and expresses a core emotion.
Meaning is best found in actions, and meaningful actions take place around us every day. Even without my camera, I study the people and places around me to focus on what meanings I want to capture.
Think about what you think makes sense in your own life and experience as this is the easiest to identify. You can think about what other people think makes sense, be it a stranger on the train or someone in a coffee shop. Meaning is everywhere and with practice we can predict where it will be found. Everyday scenarios and emotional moments such as weddings are just a few examples.
Play with movement in your pictures
Since there are crucial moments in movement and action, I find playing around with depicting movement in images an amazing way to capture the energy and pace of the subject. You can do this by using either fast or slow shutter speeds.
Fast shutter speeds stop the movement in its tracks and enable better focusing on the smallest details. However, using a slower shutter speed can reveal the range of motion, capture it in slow motion, and allow us to enjoy it. These two approaches are both useful, and I recommend that you practice using both to control and capture different aspects of a scene.
So far we’ve looked at the defining moment, mostly in street photography, but it also has its place in landscape photography. You need to find the right composition in the area, e.g. B. Time of day and lighting, cloud patterns, weather, etc. Your subject is the environment. So find out when it looks best on the day / week / month / year serves as a timing and anticipation part.
Then watch what forms of meaning happen and find the crucial moment, like the perfect sunset or sunrise.
For beginners or anyone practicing the Henri Cartier-Bresson defining moment, you can practice finding the perfect moment using a continuous shutter setting. I am not a fan of the “spray and prayApproach. It serves as a great learning exercise, however. When a crucial moment approaches, take a selection of shots.
Then you can go through those snapshots until you find the one who captured the scene. Study the pictures before and after the “moment“And ask yourself,”Why was that especially best of all?”
In this way, you can also see the construction up to the crucial moment and better see when it will take place.