Don’t Shoot Right Now!

We have the ability to store thousands of shots in one small memory card, making us think that the more we take photographs, the more chances we have to end up with good ones. But I have a scoop for you: if you want to make better photographs, you first need to relax, get a cup of coffee, and read this.

Now that we aren’t limited by the number of rolls of film we’ve got in the bag nor by the number of exposures left on them, it has become hard to strive against the temptation of capturing every moment that could have the slightest interest. Those of us who don’t feel guilty, please raise your hand!

Lot of us have become modern world trigger-men and I think it is time to stop for a minute and think about it. Not everything is good to photograph. Over the years, I have seen myself taking less and less shots resulting in better photographs. Some might say that’s because my skills as a photographer have improved. They definitely have, but it’s not only about the skills. Something else happened here: I have learnt to take the time to make photographs.

It’s not the photographer who makes the picture, but the person being photographed. — Sebastiāo Salgado

For the last part of my trip last winter, I have lived with the Tsaatans, the reindeer herders of Mongolia, for about 10 days. It was an awesome experience but I didn’t feel like shooting from the first days despite the short period of time I’d be spending with them. Instead, I spent most of my time getting familiar with the people I lived with and their culture, going from teepee to teepee, drinking tea, trying to talk with the few Mongolian words I knew, playing cards and getting chased by their sometimes ferocious dogs. In two words: having fun! This forged the beginning of a bond between us, a mutual trust. I only started shooting a few days before I left, but it felt so good photographing people I knew that I can still feel it in the resulting photographs — not yet published. Ten days is clearly not enough if you really intend to document people’s lives the way I do. Some photographers spend years for that purpose. However, even if I just ended up with a handful of decent shots, I’m glad I took the time to make these photographs, not “steal” them.

Photography is about capturing the ideal moment, as well graphically as emotionally. In order to make it worthwhile, we need to understand the context surrounding this moment. That’s why I think it is necessary to learn about the people, the culture or the place we’re in and to live in this context. Only then will you be able to apprehend what’s going to happen next and be ready to capture the moment. Spending time to adapt to a different culture or a different place will never be wasted time. So next time you’re going to make photographs, don’t shoot right now, take your time! The people you’re photographing, the folks watching your photographs and even yourself will thank you for that.

 

Are you a slow-photography or a fast-photography disciple? Do you try to become one or the other? It would be a pleasure to discuss about your opinion and experiences in the comments.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of #MakePhotographs or feel outraged by what’s written here, please read this.

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