It has almost been written and used to death. The ‘decisive moment’ has been the topic of many, many articles on documentary photography. And not just documentary photography. Even studio photographers talk about the decisive moment these days. In a way, there can be a decisive moment during a studio session, but I think that’s not what Cartier-Bresson meant, when he talked about this subject. Instead, HCB, who is regarded to be the ‘inventor’ of the decisive moment, explained that:
There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever…
On the other hand, he also said this:
There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment…
So studio photography IS all about decisive moments. Anyway, for me, as a documentary -wedding- photographer, the decisive moment is crucial. In fact, I always tell my customers that I’m not interested in perfectly sharp pictures without any emotion or story telling. If a picture is able to convey an emotion or tell a story, I’m not put off by it’s technical imperfection, up to a certain limit of course. That’s also why I keep my shots simple and don’t use any tricks. It is all about the things that happen in the picture.
Let’s have a look at some shots I took.
Here I was just hanging out at a little square in Buenos Aires. I watched two kids playing with a car. I got a little closer and suddenly, one of the boys took this position, looked between his legs and I noted the huge tear in his pant. I focussed on the first boy in a reflex and hit the shutter. Technically, the image would have been better if I would have focussed on the second boy, but to me, the pictures tells the story I witnessed that day.
With this one, I was a bit lucky. I saw the two kids and I liked the pink leash and shoes. When I focussed, framed and hit the shutter, the dog made a move and the boy jumped away. There is blur in the boy and the dog, but for me, that makes the picture just better.
This one is one of my wedding favourites. I’ve been awarded for this shot with a WPJA award and I truly love it. The couple was laughing about some jokes and it looked funny, so I focussed on the groom, who seemed to have the most fun. Then they cracked another joke and they went totally mad. I quickly hit the shutter and the moment was just right. I used the Monochrom for this one, by the way.
The key thing here is to be ready. And that means exposure set and ready to focus, or pre-focus. Being ready at the right time means training, even more than with a DSLR. If you get it, the reward is tremendous.