Turning Posed Shots into Moment Shots

“Most good photographs capture the spirit of a subject, conveying any unique aspects of features and giving it expression and meaning”

— John Hedgecoe, in “John Hedgecoe’s New Book of Photography”

Mr. Hedgecoe’s book is no longer new – it was printed in 1994 in London. But it’s still a fine, oversized hardback, with beautiful illustrations. I was fortunate enough Wednesday to find a copy for $2 at a thrift store in Philomath, Oregon. I’ve only scanned it and read a few pages of text, but I already know I will learn from it.

Anyway, I didn’t set out to write a book review. I set out to talk about turning a posed, rather static photograph into a moment shot. I think this photo illustrates the concept well.

This is my father-in-law and three of his four sisters. They were at our house for a family reunion my husband and I hosted. His dad and aunts were facing other family photographers, clowning around for a few moments before they got serous for the posed, plastic-smile shot. I was playing paparazzi, and standing off to the side so they wouldn’t be looking directly at me and my camera.

Please don’t get me wrong – posed shots are a classic sort of picture, and they certainly have their place. They just don’t happen to me my favorite. I like realism, what is actually happening in the moment. That preference may come from my journalism background.

I am attached to this shot. Not only because I’m very fond of the people in it, but because it captures an aspect of each of their personalities.

I took senior photos of my beautiful niece yesterday. We did a photo shoot at their farm in Toledo, Oregon, with her dogs, cow and horse. Then we went to the beach in Waldport, Oregon, to get shots in the sand, in the surf, in the woods, on a wooden bridge, with her feet dangling over a creek bank, and in a meadow of wildflowers. I am posting this in between sessions of photo editing today – I have two more senior photo shoots scheduled tomorrow at a water garden in Albany, Oregon.

As I was telling my niece yesterday, I love the moment shots at any shoot, and the parents usually like those shots, too, because it captures how they see their loved ones. For the subject, however, the facial expressions, laughter, or silliness captured during one of the real moments is not necessarily how they see themselves in the mirror, or in their own mind’s eye, and they may not care much for those photos.

Best bet? At a photo shoot, have your camera settings in place and your camera up and at the ready, so you can capture both types of photographs – the planned as well as the unplanned.

Copyright Danita Cahill. All rights reserved.


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