JACKSON, Tenn. – I always look forward to fall like my grandson looks forward to a handful of blueberries. Without much effort at all I can envision it. My mind’s eye shows me an amazingly accurate image of the days surrounding that first frost.
Seeing ahead, anticipating what just might happen, is near the heart of our best photography. Based on all that I’ve been seeing and hearing around me, I know that the first frost is on its way. And in the same way, when you are about to make a photograph, your awareness of the moment – all you see and hear – helps you visualize what is likely to take place.
When it comes to seeing, God has created us in an amazing way. We can’t actually see through God’s eyes, but by using our imagination, linked with past experiences, we can often anticipate what will happen next. Through this ability to imagine, we can be better prepared to capture our subjects in a far more creative ways. One of the best ways to catch a glimpse of how God sees is to pray that God will show you what He wants your audience to see. Prayer is often the most important part of a successful assignment.
Whether you are on assignment or making a photograph of a family gathering, envisioning what might happen can serve as your guide to the best image. Ideally, you will have time to wander and explore for the best perspectives to position your camera, but often time is too short for much of a search. This is when our mind’s eye can come to the rescue.
Simply look around the space you’re in and imagine what it will be like if you position the camera somewhere other than where you are standing. What if you move here, or over there, or what if you step up on that chair, or sit on the floor beneath your subject?
Before even going there, “see” in your mind what it will look like through your camera. Anticipate where the subject may be facing and if there might be any distractions appearing behind them. If others will be involved in the moment, how might they change the scene?
Even though this may sound like a lengthy process, it’s really not. If you concentrate on the possibilities, you will find this mental exploration takes only a few seconds.
As you begin this search, think about those who will see the image, and what you are trying to show them. Consider the perspective that will help tell the story of the moment in the most interesting way. Many times we see a worthy subject, raise our camera and click, without really asking ourselves if this is really the best the scene has to offer.
All too often we make a picture from a common, readily available perspective. The outcome can only equal our investment. The truly interesting perspective is often close by, sometimes only a slight adjustment from the current position.
Once you’ve zeroed in on the perspective, it’s tempting to shoot quickly and call it a day. Try your best to resist, and wait on the best storytelling moment. Watch how everything in your frame begins to come together. Wait and shoot. And remember that just when you think the moment has passed, that’s often when the best things happen.
Pray. Imagine. Anticipate. Watch. Wait. Wait a little longer. The first frost will be here soon.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Veneman is a freelance photographer in Jackson, Tenn., and president of the Baptist Communicators Association who has served as director of visual communication and assistant professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)