First Wait, then Shoot

0Comments

By Nizar Bredan

Articles, magazines and books about photography provide a lot of useful information for photographers of all levels, but they usually do not do sufficient justice to one major element.

Waiting, and consequently anticipating, are in my opinion essential habits that every potential photographer or hobbyist should always practice. In fact, keeping those elements in mind and being consciously aware of them can bring a much higher potential to most of the photographic situations you come across. So here I will focus on how you can contribute to the quality of your photos simply by making use of your patience. I will go through examples to explain in detail the process of waiting.

At first, you might say “but what happens around the subject are completely external factors that I cannot control.” You’re right, you can’t control them, but you can learn to integrate them in many cases. It can bring emotion into your photo, it may contrast with something in your frame, it can add a whole different dynamic to the composition, and most importantly, it can give soul and meaning to your photo.

The examples I will be sharing with you are not meant to be about me or my work. They are only there to illustrate the message I want to get across. And I think that explaining personal experiences is the best way to achieve that. Hopefully, you will gain something from them.

Passive waiting vs active waiting

Innocent Exploration – Madrid, Spain

When I came across this metal statue, I was impressed and thought it was worthy of a picture. So I walked around it, testing different perspectives, looking at the lights, shadows and reflections, searching for a good angle. Then, once I decided to take a profile portrait and having found my position, I stood there and started waiting.

First, my waiting was passive. I waited for the people who were taking tourist pictures to move away. In tourist locations, this by itself is a good exercise in patience. You do not leave a good subject only because you have to wait for a few people to move away. (Of course, if you are using an ND filter it’s a different matter, as it makes the exposure time longer and can blur moving objects to the point that they vanish).

So passive waiting is what you do when you are already in position, with your subject framed, and you are ready to shoot, but you have to wait for your scene to meet the basic conditions. This could be waiting for people to move away, or the sun to show up again during a partially cloudy day, or a bus that just stopped in your field of view to move away, or the street to become free of cars so that you can take position in the middle of it to get the best angle.

As the scene cleared of people, a mother with her little daughter started coming closer to the statue, watching it from a few meters away. At this point, I became more alert and my waiting became active: I started waiting for the little girl to come into the scene I had chosen.

When you are actively waiting, you are on the tip of your toes: the precise right timing to shoot might come at any moment, and you should not miss it. You are much more alert, you are on the watch for any action, and you are vigilantly anticipating the perfect moment.

The girl first contemplated the statue from the front, and then she started walking around it towards the back. Of course, at this point I was ready behind my camera, and there was only me, the scene, and the little girl. Everything else ceased to exist. I waited a bit, and then, as she came back in view … BINGO! Her small hand came up to touch the big rough ear, contemplating this strange, huge, baby head, the sun hitting her light dress contrasting with the back part of the head in the shadow. Innocence and curiosity were embodied in her pose and gesture. It was the perfect moment.
Now, just imagine the same picture without the little girl. It would be a completely different picture, and would lose its meaning and impact, won’t it?

Wait for a specific event

Delayed – Paris, France

Talking about waiting, I was waiting for my train on this platform. Thanks to the lighting, the mood of the scene was very interesting. So I tried to capture every aspect of the lighting: the rays of light throughout the space, the long shadow of the man, the spots of direct light on the platform and the matte reflections on the concrete ceiling. As you may have noticed, I shot the picture precisely when the woman on the bridge above came into the light, blocking the rays and casting a long shadow. This small detail was planned and plays a role in capturing different aspects of the lighting in this scene.

Escape – near Charleroi, Belgium

As I was walking by this field and reached the curve ahead, I thought it would be a fine perspective to shoot from. So I took out my camera, and as I was preparing my settings and framing, I saw a cyclist riding from far away coming in my direction. I felt that he would bring life and movement into the picture, so I had to hurry up to be able to shoot him on time. And here it is. Without the cyclist, this photo would’ve been rather empty.

Wait for a surprise

My Golden Kingdom – Madrid, Spain

The bird was just sitting there. Once all my settings were ready and the framing was chosen, I stood there waiting for the bird to make a move. Perhaps a couple of minutes later, it made this wide movement with its head, and that created an interesting tension in the scene.

Waiting & creativity

People might think that waiting does not apply to static subjects because nothing could potentially happen. This is not always true. In architectural photography, for example, the presence of people (usually very few) can add richness and a sense of scale to the photo. So even with static subjects you can combine patience with creativity to add a new dimension to the scene.

Straight Lines and One Oscillation – Paris, France

As an architect, I visited the famous Arab World Institute in Paris, designed by Jean Nouvelle. This photo illustrates the idea of using more than what is presented in the scene. In addition to its unusual perspective, it also integrates a complementary element that adds life and a point of color. I intentionally waited while small groups of people walked by, until that man came into the frame alone.

Not missing the right moment

Now, once you develop the patience of waiting for something special that adds a new dimension to your photo, you have to be careful not to miss the magic moment. There is some gambling in this: if you shoot half a second earlier or later, you might just miss the right moment.

Morning Flight – Brussels suburb, Belgium

In this shot, the pigeon obviously wasn’t flying when I decided to take the picture. Both of them were sitting on that electric cable, so I aimed at them, waiting for “something” to happen. I didn’t know one of them was saying goodbye, but I was ready, and again, BINGO! Of course there’s an element of luck with this kind of shot, but you always have to be ready for every opportunity if you want to catch any!

Hung in Time and Space – Madrid, Spain

So when you see a dynamic potential in a situation, I suggest that you keep your eye behind your camera for a while. You wait for something in particular to happen or you try to be ready for something unpredictable. In most cases, patience is your friend, and you will be really glad that you waited with your finger on the button.

Please feel free to share some examples where your patience had brought your photos to life!

About Nizar BredanI have been practicing photography as a hobby for several years, and recently I adopted it as a part time profession besides my main activity as an architect. So I haven’t studied photography formally and I am not a professional photographer, but my passion and curiosity led me through the treasures of this realm of possibilities. You are welcome to visit my website www.nizar.be, it is open 24/7!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Guest Contributor This post was written by a guest contributor to dPS.
Please see their details in the post above.

Become a Contributor: Check out Write for DPS page for details about how YOU can share your photography tips with the DPS community.

  • Good article. Certainly applies to wildlife photography when anticipating behavior and then waiting for the right moment are so important:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/African-Mammals/G0000FIcyAEFOesQ/I00007aHgUgVm8Zk

  • Thanks for sharing your creative thinking in such a concrete and and concise way, Nizar.

  • And sorry for the and and typo. Cut and paste has its drawbacks.

  • Loved yor article. Starting out in newspaper photojournalism I always just found it was best to identify potential in a situation, even if nothing was happening at the time, and then wait for something great to happen. It didn’t always produce results, but exponentially increases the chances. I just never considered the aspect of passive and active waiting. Thanks for your perspective.

  • This is an excellent article and the examples really drive home your point. I’m heading out on a two week trip soon and will try to slow down, wait, and remember your teaching.

  • I have definitely learned the art of waiting, but I wanted to comment on another aspect that happened to me a couple years ago: I was yelled at 75 feet behind me one time, “Get out of the way! You’re in my shot!” by a guy set up. Yelling at people to move out of “your” shot was the wrong thing and I have to say that tone made me do the exact opposite. I don’t walk in folks’ shots purposely EVER but barking like that from 75 feet away and expecting to keep that much distance clear of people is ludicrous and unrealistic.

    I’ve had passers-by ruin my shots countless times, but keep my calm, recompose, sometimes move, and wait a little longer for the next one. It’s not going to hurt my professionalism to wait around a little longer and sometimes you get an even better shot than you anticipated originally.

  • Very nice article! Thank you for shairng your experience.

    It remembers me of a shot I tried to take.
    This was the best one I could capture:

    [imghttp://farm9.staticflickr.com/8424/7807025022_7f420039fa.jpg[/img]

    I waited for one of the kids to turn around with a happy face and icecream in their hands.
    Didn’t happen because a woman walk right into the frame at that very momemt.

  • Taking this picture definately made me sit and wait. Great article again guys.

    Here is my picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25177906@N06/7866896558/

  • fred hamilton

    Nice work,Nizar. Your message is right on time,always.

  • raghavendra
  • cpgregorio

    Waiting patiently yields great rewards. Priceless captured moment.

    [eimg link=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/68606017@N03/7278104162/’ title=’_DSC9121′ url=’http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7099/7278104162_6a23906cf7.jpg’]

  • cpgregorio

    Waiting patiently yields great rewards. Captured arre moments.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/68606017@N03/7278104162/in/set-72157629915276828/

  • cpgregorio

    Typo. Rare moments.

  • Totally agree, it doesn’t matter if it is about people or nature. It is always good to be a bit patient and wait a bit http://pixhektar.com/2012/08/spider-in-the-sun/?cat=0

  • Scottc

    I agree with concepts, with a little waiting comes a lot of anticipation but it is often worth it.

    Perhaps I should’ve waited one second longer…….

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5852829477/

  • Great article, I know exactly what it means to wait patiently. I go to Disney World multiple days a week and waiting is sometimes the only way to get a good shot of a ride or otherwise busy area.

    http://www.livingdisney.com/2012/08/photographs-of-week-827-92-2012.html

  • Agnelo Thangaraj

    Thank’s for good idea and tips

  • Cartier Bresson is the King of the Decisive moment!! here are some of my own
    http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/strolling-new-day-new-moments/

  • ccting

    Hi Nizar Bredan,

    I love your systematic way of waiting process… I can see how you compose the first four photos using your exisiting architect skillset.

    ;D

  • A long time ago as a teenager, I was working as a deckhand on a fishing boat in southeastern Alaska. On a day off another crewman and I were hiking up Anan Creek, now famous as a bear watching destination. The salmon were so thick in the little stream that my crewmate waded in and grabbed a fish and held it up for me to photograph him holding the salmon. What he didn’t see was the bear coming down the opposite bank of the stream. I waited to get all three in the photo – the man, the fish, and the bear (in the days of film, you didn’t waste a shot). But unfortunately just before the perfect moment arrived, the bear smelled the man and snorted. My story – only a small exaggeration – is that the bear charged back up the opposite bank; the man charged right over the photographer, and the salmon became airborne. If only I had had my digital Canon 7d with eight (?) frames per second.
    So, while you are waiting for the perfect shot, don’t miss all those pretty good shots.
    Like Mr. Bredan, I am also an architect and photographer.

  • JP

    Many years ago I practiced waiting while hunting moose. It was productive. Same for photography, be patient.JP

  • grannysmith

    Your interest in both architecture and photography is no surprise to me as I have similar interests. The combination of science and art in each of them makes them a good match. In my own case I would add ceramics or pottery.

  • Dave S

    Maybe this is a completely irrelevant question for the subject….this is the first newsletter I’ve received and I really enjoyed it. But I was wondering, when you are publishing photos in a newsletter like this, did you need to get photo releases for the people in the pictures?

  • Very nice and useful article!!

    This is my experience waiting for a chance.

    http://500px.com/photo/7757912

  • Those are some seriously stunning shots. Great work.

  • Patience is the key to everything and it holds good for getting a good picture. This image i waited for long time in the intersection of a traffic light junction and shot the perfect expression of the motorcyclists’ eyes cautiously scanning the road to get to the other side.

    [eimg link=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/msranjith/7877183552/’ title=’Cautious’ url=’http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8425/7877183552_6ba8676944.jpg’]

  • Very interesting post, the element that makes the moment special is most often lacking when I scroll through images even from good photographers. Very often they show images that are reproducible: even the most breathtaking landscape images in the early hours of the day can be reproduced, the girl on the statue however is unique.
    My personal image in which I was able to show a special moment is this horse buggy. When I found myself all of a sudden in this foggy forest I felt already that the surroundings where right to shoot some interesting pictures. When I spotted a location I waited deliberately for some walkers to enter in the frame (often they thought they would disturb me and politely they waited behind me or made a big circle for not to enter the photographers frame, I had to encourage them to just walk through the scene). Than, I saw this scene with the forest framing some illuminated spot with some benches. I only had my 105mm prime lens, so I was still some hundred meters away when I heard the noise of hooves. I prepared and made the necessary adjustments to the camera and when the horse buggy arrived I shot several images, in each the proportion of the car and the surrounding forest was different. Afterwards I selected this one and hey, I am sooo proud 🙂

  • Well, here is the URL of the photo, it doesn’t show:

    http://500px.com/photo/3993092

  • Hi guys,
    Thanks a lot for your comments. You shared some very nice and expressive shots !

    The simple fact of being aware of the ‘potential of waiting’ is a huge step towards great and memorable photos.

Some Older Comments

  • Nizar September 17, 2012 07:29 am

    Hi guys,
    Thanks a lot for your comments. You shared some very nice and expressive shots !

    The simple fact of being aware of the 'potential of waiting' is a huge step towards great and memorable photos.

  • Florian September 2, 2012 07:13 pm

    Well, here is the URL of the photo, it doesn't show:

    http://500px.com/photo/3993092

  • Florian September 2, 2012 07:11 pm

    Very interesting post, the element that makes the moment special is most often lacking when I scroll through images even from good photographers. Very often they show images that are reproducible: even the most breathtaking landscape images in the early hours of the day can be reproduced, the girl on the statue however is unique.
    My personal image in which I was able to show a special moment is this horse buggy. When I found myself all of a sudden in this foggy forest I felt already that the surroundings where right to shoot some interesting pictures. When I spotted a location I waited deliberately for some walkers to enter in the frame (often they thought they would disturb me and politely they waited behind me or made a big circle for not to enter the photographers frame, I had to encourage them to just walk through the scene). Than, I saw this scene with the forest framing some illuminated spot with some benches. I only had my 105mm prime lens, so I was still some hundred meters away when I heard the noise of hooves. I prepared and made the necessary adjustments to the camera and when the horse buggy arrived I shot several images, in each the proportion of the car and the surrounding forest was different. Afterwards I selected this one and hey, I am sooo proud :)

  • Ranjith September 1, 2012 04:03 pm

    Patience is the key to everything and it holds good for getting a good picture. This image i waited for long time in the intersection of a traffic light junction and shot the perfect expression of the motorcyclists' eyes cautiously scanning the road to get to the other side.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/msranjith/7877183552/' title='Cautious' url='http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8425/7877183552_6ba8676944.jpg']

  • Kumar August 31, 2012 11:42 pm

    Those are some seriously stunning shots. Great work.

  • Leonardo Bravo August 31, 2012 09:28 pm

    Very nice and useful article!!

    This is my experience waiting for a chance.

    http://500px.com/photo/7757912

  • Dave S August 31, 2012 01:29 pm

    Maybe this is a completely irrelevant question for the subject....this is the first newsletter I've received and I really enjoyed it. But I was wondering, when you are publishing photos in a newsletter like this, did you need to get photo releases for the people in the pictures?

  • grannysmith August 31, 2012 11:22 am

    Your interest in both architecture and photography is no surprise to me as I have similar interests. The combination of science and art in each of them makes them a good match. In my own case I would add ceramics or pottery.

  • JP August 31, 2012 08:10 am

    Many years ago I practiced waiting while hunting moose. It was productive. Same for photography, be patient.JP

  • Terry Watson August 31, 2012 03:07 am

    A long time ago as a teenager, I was working as a deckhand on a fishing boat in southeastern Alaska. On a day off another crewman and I were hiking up Anan Creek, now famous as a bear watching destination. The salmon were so thick in the little stream that my crewmate waded in and grabbed a fish and held it up for me to photograph him holding the salmon. What he didn’t see was the bear coming down the opposite bank of the stream. I waited to get all three in the photo – the man, the fish, and the bear (in the days of film, you didn’t waste a shot). But unfortunately just before the perfect moment arrived, the bear smelled the man and snorted. My story – only a small exaggeration – is that the bear charged back up the opposite bank; the man charged right over the photographer, and the salmon became airborne. If only I had had my digital Canon 7d with eight (?) frames per second.
    So, while you are waiting for the perfect shot, don’t miss all those pretty good shots.
    Like Mr. Bredan, I am also an architect and photographer.

  • ccting August 29, 2012 10:29 am

    Hi Nizar Bredan,

    I love your systematic way of waiting process... I can see how you compose the first four photos using your exisiting architect skillset.

    ;D

  • Mikhail Anand August 29, 2012 03:14 am

    Cartier Bresson is the King of the Decisive moment!! here are some of my own
    http://mikhailanand.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/strolling-new-day-new-moments/

  • Agnelo Thangaraj August 28, 2012 02:12 pm

    Thank's for good idea and tips

  • Elizabeth August 28, 2012 12:25 pm

    Great article, I know exactly what it means to wait patiently. I go to Disney World multiple days a week and waiting is sometimes the only way to get a good shot of a ride or otherwise busy area.

    http://www.livingdisney.com/2012/08/photographs-of-week-827-92-2012.html

  • Scottc August 28, 2012 09:42 am

    I agree with concepts, with a little waiting comes a lot of anticipation but it is often worth it.

    Perhaps I should've waited one second longer.......

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5852829477/

  • bobek August 27, 2012 10:20 pm

    Totally agree, it doesn't matter if it is about people or nature. It is always good to be a bit patient and wait a bit http://pixhektar.com/2012/08/spider-in-the-sun/?cat=0

  • cpgregorio August 27, 2012 03:54 pm

    Typo. Rare moments.

  • cpgregorio August 27, 2012 03:54 pm

    Waiting patiently yields great rewards. Captured arre moments.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/68606017@N03/7278104162/in/set-72157629915276828/

  • cpgregorio August 27, 2012 03:50 pm

    Waiting patiently yields great rewards. Priceless captured moment.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/68606017@N03/7278104162/' title='_DSC9121' url='http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7099/7278104162_6a23906cf7.jpg']

  • raghavendra August 27, 2012 01:53 pm

    I waited to take this picture for a long time.

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2010/09/one-fine-evening.html

  • fred hamilton August 27, 2012 07:16 am

    Nice work,Nizar. Your message is right on time,always.

  • Simon August 27, 2012 06:45 am

    Taking this picture definately made me sit and wait. Great article again guys.

    Here is my picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25177906@N06/7866896558/

  • Hannes August 27, 2012 04:03 am

    Very nice article! Thank you for shairng your experience.

    It remembers me of a shot I tried to take.
    This was the best one I could capture:

    [imghttp://farm9.staticflickr.com/8424/7807025022_7f420039fa.jpg[/img]

    I waited for one of the kids to turn around with a happy face and icecream in their hands.
    Didn't happen because a woman walk right into the frame at that very momemt.

  • Jason Dries August 27, 2012 12:38 am

    I have definitely learned the art of waiting, but I wanted to comment on another aspect that happened to me a couple years ago: I was yelled at 75 feet behind me one time, "Get out of the way! You're in my shot!" by a guy set up. Yelling at people to move out of "your" shot was the wrong thing and I have to say that tone made me do the exact opposite. I don't walk in folks' shots purposely EVER but barking like that from 75 feet away and expecting to keep that much distance clear of people is ludicrous and unrealistic.

    I've had passers-by ruin my shots countless times, but keep my calm, recompose, sometimes move, and wait a little longer for the next one. It's not going to hurt my professionalism to wait around a little longer and sometimes you get an even better shot than you anticipated originally.

  • Richard August 26, 2012 11:20 pm

    This is an excellent article and the examples really drive home your point. I'm heading out on a two week trip soon and will try to slow down, wait, and remember your teaching.

  • Mark August 26, 2012 01:59 pm

    Loved yor article. Starting out in newspaper photojournalism I always just found it was best to identify potential in a situation, even if nothing was happening at the time, and then wait for something great to happen. It didn't always produce results, but exponentially increases the chances. I just never considered the aspect of passive and active waiting. Thanks for your perspective.

  • Gustavo J. Mata August 26, 2012 09:41 am

    And sorry for the and and typo. Cut and paste has its drawbacks.

  • Gustavo J. Mata August 26, 2012 09:40 am

    Thanks for sharing your creative thinking in such a concrete and and concise way, Nizar.

  • Matt Jones August 26, 2012 08:22 am

    Great tips. Here are a couple of my examples of waiting on the shot.

    Not missing the right moment:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=390488381012082&set=a.390488001012120.86825.390156561045264&type=3&theater

    Active waiting:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=390493911011529&set=a.390492581011662.86830.390156561045264&type=3&theater

  • Steve August 26, 2012 06:26 am

    Good article. Certainly applies to wildlife photography when anticipating behavior and then waiting for the right moment are so important:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/African-Mammals/G0000FIcyAEFOesQ/I00007aHgUgVm8Zk

Join Our Email Newsletter

Thanks for subscribing!


DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed