The Decisive Moment


The Decisive Moment is that point in time that you choose to press the shutter.  It is the point that everything comes together and you get exactly what you are looking for.  If you are a photographer that does nothing but “spray and pray” you may not be fully aware of what I am referring.

So, how do you get a decisive moment?  You get it by observing your subject, studying the scene, and anticipating what comes next.  Yes, we have superfast motor drives on our cameras that can certainly aid with capturing the moment but what happens if you only have a single shot?  The image in the post happened in a fraction of a second.  This would have been simple to capture with a motor drive that does 8 frames a second just like the one in the D700 I used.  However, this room was very dim and the only light source affecting the subject was coming from two Elinchrom strobes at the back of the room.  The recycle time was between 1 and 2 seconds.  There was no way to use the motor drive to capture the image I wanted.  Just a few seconds prior to the action he practiced.  He wasn’t the only one.  Each time he came down I tripped the shutter.  Well before he came down on the blocks I had composed the scene, observed his movements, and finally I anticipated the action.

Actions scenes like this one aren’t the only times you want to observe, study, and anticipate a given scene.  It happens all the time during wedding ceremonies.  By understanding the flow of the ceremony you know when the first kiss is going to happen.  You can tell observe and anticipate when the pastor is going to pause so you can get a shot where their mouth isn’t open. 

It can be used with family photos as well, particularly in between the “formal shots” when the family is interacting with one another.

Don’t simply rely on the rapid frame rate of your camera.  If you do you may miss the moment.

Still, high frame rates are awesome and can be useful when combined with a decisive moment!