Iconic Advice: the key to taking a great photo
Last week, a friend asked me, “What is the key to taking a great photo?” Although many important things are needed for a good photo such as: an interesting subject, composition, exposure and depth of field; a great photo is often due to great timing.
For example, have a look at the two photos below. The one on the left was taken only a few seconds before the one on the right. So many of the elements of the photos are similar including the contrast and composition. The only real difference is timing.
Another example is from the famous photographer Andre Kertesz in Meudon (1928). Again – many elements of the photo are the same. Some would say the main difference is the subject matter; which is true, however, the subject matter wasn’t achieved by Kertesz positioning the elements, it was achieved by perfect timing. Notice how he has captured not only the train midway across the bridge, but also the instant the man carrying the package makes eye contact with him. The reason “Meudon” is one of the most famous photographs of all time is due to the impeccable timing.
Many people could take a picture like that on the left, but very few can take the picture on the right. You need to have everything ready; a stable camera, the correct exposure and the right composition. Then, you need to wait. Kertesz not only had skill, he also had patience.
Next time you are taking photos of your kids in the backyard or playing sport, think about timing. Compose the photo and wait. Think about Kertesz waiting for the train to arrive and the man to look at him. Wait for the moment that ‘makes’ the photo. Whether it is kicking the ball or that little smile; wait for it. You’ll be glad you did.