The Art of Creativity

Finding Your Photographic Method

Finding Your Photographic Method

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It does seem to me that there are two different types of photographers, at least broadly speaking. Some photographers get to their photographic destinations and start taking photos immediately. The entire session is filled with rapid-fire bursts of photography. These photographers are quick, efficient—they don’t want to miss a thing when they’re “in the groove.”

The other type of photographer moves more slowly. They’re more measured in their interactions with their scenery, generally preferring to hang back and spend a while getting to know their surroundings before they take a few photographs. These are the photographers who will sit down against a tree trunk at watch the forest go by until an image takes shape in their minds.

Let’s call the first type the “shot chasers” since they’re the ones chasing shots before something about the scene changes. The second type we’ll refer to as the “thinkers,” the photographers who prefer to mull things over before pressing the shutter button.

Now, the first thing to understand about shot chasers and thinkers is that there is no one right way to go about photography. Each method has its merits—both are perfectly valid. But, you will almost certainly fall in one of these two categories, or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle. So how do you know which you are? Experienced photographers will likely already have an answer to that question, but if you’re unsure, let’s take a peek into both types of photography.

How Shot Chasers Work

So who are the shot chasers? These are the photographers who don’t want to miss a minute of the action. They take photos quickly because they don’t want the light to fade or they don’t want the scene to change. Their driving force is that they want to capture things as they are before something becomes different.

The photographs of a shot chaser often have little in common from one image to the next. There is an immediacy to the work, almost an urgency. Shot chasers are talented at catching those fleeting moments that most of the rest of us will miss. Things like a bird in the moment right before it takes flight, the strike of lightning, or people in the midst of some activity. You may think shot chasers are often sports or news photographers—and there is some truth to that, most likely—but they’re also the photographers who excel at candid moments, too, because they immerse themselves in the scene and keep taking images until the exact right moment happens and magic is made in front of their lenses.

How Thinkers Work

As I mentioned before, the thinkers are the photographers who take their time. Often, the camera doesn’t even come out of the bag for the first hour or two, sometimes longer. They’ll walk around or sit down, and only after careful study of their environment do they take out their cameras to snap a few pictures.

How do the photographs of thinkers differ from the shot chasers? Often, a thinker’s photographs are moody, or they carry a strong theme. Thinkers often create a series of related images or take the time to thoroughly study and photograph a single subject. And with that, thinkers also sometimes create images that are abstract in nature because only after spending large amounts of time studying their subject material do the abstractions about it come clear. Unlike a shot chaser’s images, images created by thinkers don’t feature a sense of immediacy, but of permanence.

Those of Us In Between

What if neither of the methods I’ve described quite matches your own photographic methods? Well, that means you might be somewhere in between. Most photographers bridge the gap between thinkers and shot takers at some time or other. Sometimes, a photographer hangs back to study a scene, and then, when the inspiration comes, they take photos rapid-fire. These types of photographers will often be found photographing crowds or people at work. They take the time to do some observation, just as a thinker might, and then once that observation period is finished, they morph into a chaser, having fully considered the scene around them.

And then there are different situations that call for different things. If you find yourself in the middle of an idyllic landscape, you may feel the temptation to merely enjoy your surroundings for a while before you begin photographing. But if you’re attending a football game, you’re taking photos as fast as you can in order to document every play as it happens.

Which Way is Your Way?

Again, I want to stress that there is no right or wrong way to approach photography. You might be more of a thinker, or you might enjoy chasing shots. Depending on the situation or your mood, you may flip back and forth between those two extremes, or perhaps you settle somewhere right in the middle.

One interesting thing to think about is what kind of work you might produce as a chaser or a thinker. Chasers often excel at producing amazingly strong standalone images—the kind that feature prominently as the focal piece of artwork in a display. This is because chasers have a natural inclination to flit between subjects rapidly.

And thinkers, on the other hand, as I mentioned before, often work in themes. These are the artists who are likely to put together books or a documentary series. Why? Likely because they give themselves more time to develop themes, to put together longer trains of thought that tell a story over the course of several images, whereas the chasers are reacting in the moment to the things that they see, then moving on to the next moment. When it comes to choosing one over the other, the only way to go about it is through experimentation. Try both methods, or a mix of methods, and eventually, you will discover your own unique method.

Will Moneymaker

About the author

Will Moneymaker

He is a photographer, family historian, a husband of twenty-five years and devoted father of four. The arts have always been a part of his life. Join Will as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography.