Blog #4: When to push the trigger?

Picture yourself… you’re about to take a portrait of someone special, but you are only allowed to spend one frame. One shot. That’s it. What would be your criteria’s? When the subject smiles and looks handsomely into the camera? Or when something out-of-the-ordinary happens? Or when You feel it’s the right time? Should he or she look directly into the camera? Or look out the window? Maybe the right time is when the subject is taking a sip of water? Or bursting out in a laugh?

Today, in our digital era, we do not to think too much about finding the exact moment. In reality, many cameras today let us hold down the trigger and shoot a burst of 7–10 frames a second. I guess at least one of them would be useful, or? And then we have to plough through hundreds of megapixel files.

I know a great Swedish portrait photographer – Hans Gedda – who almost always was using an old analogue Hasselblad. His technique was simple and direct. Regardless if you were the internationally famous singer Al Jarreau or great musician Arthur Lee, political and ex-prison and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, Swedish politician Olof Palme, movie star Jane Birkin or film guru Ingmar Bergman, the sitter came into Hans Gedda’s studio, positioned where the best light was. Hans then reached for his vintage Hasselblad and shot one roll of film. And according to him even this was not necessary, he knew that he usually got the photograph he wanted after just a few frames. When I talked to him, he also confessed that he didn’t want to end up developing too many rolls of film.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

I guess the difference between great portrait photographers such as Irving Penn and Annie Liebovitz (Americans) and Hans Gedda (from Sweden) is the amount of mileage they’ve walked (so to speak). Even in their early years they have done their 10.000 hours. The have practised and practised a lot! The knowledge and skill to determine when to press the button on the camera comes from many years of doing it. So, if you end up in a situation as mentioned in the beginning it is all about training.

I started off using analogue cameras and did so for years (well there was no digital option at the time). Then, when the digital cameras started to arrive I switched to that too. A few years on and I realised that I had digitalized myself. Shooting bursts of frames. Thinking more about technique than idea. But the images didn’t improve (at least not in the way I wanted them to). So, I went back to shot with an old Hasselblad 500CM and Mamiya RZ67, both with film. I did this for one reason… I wanted to slow down, to think first what kind of end result I was looking to achieve. And one roll of film (10 to 12 frames depending on the camera) made me slow down.

This back-to-basic training made a better photographer, I think. I am now fully back into digital photography again, although not thinking in terms of analogue or digital anymore. For me, it is all about the end result. Not so much the technology.

J.

PHOTO: ©CORBIS (Annie Liebovitz on assignment for Vogue Italy, with Jerry Seinfeld in the background).

Inspiring music…  “Hommage a Tonton Ferrer” with Orchestra Baobab (2002).

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