For us street photographers there are those special days when shooting feels effortless, when we take risks as if our balls are titanium, and when we have no problem shoving our cameras in people’s faces. Those are what I call Bruce days. You feel like Bruce Willis and you shoot like Bruce Gilden. But these kind of days are short and rare. For all we know, after lunch that confidence we were enjoying may wane and hesitation may take its place. And hesitation is bad — no, fatal to street photography.
If you have some experience as a street photographer, the following scenario might sound all too familiar: The subject looks intimidating, and you hesitate. He’s gonna hear my shutter go and he’s gonna confront me. But this is a great shot, I should get it. Well, by this point you should have already got it. But because you were hesitating and lingering your subject spotted you on his radar and is now looking suspiciously right at you and that camera hanging from your neck, and… yep, no shot. Time to walk away, awkwardly.
In street photography hesitation is the direct opposite of the decisive moment.
A good example I can offer to better illustrate my point is this: imagine you are trying to catch a train and as you approach the platform you hear the signal announcing the train’s prompt departure. If at that very instant you book it (decisive moment) shoving everyone out of the way, you are probably going to make it. If you begin to sorta-kinda power-walk your way through the crowd while calculating if you’re going to be better off just waiting for the next train (hesitation) — don’t even bother.
So if you see a potential picture and you want it then you’ve got to step in and get it. Or forget it.
If hesitation has ruined many shots for you and you are finally determined to kick its ass but don’t quite know quite where to start, here’s a tip:
When I was a kid my father once said to me as I was about to jump off a high diving board: “The longer you stand on the edge looking down, the scarier it gets”. Your job isn’t to analyze the potential significance of the photograph-yet-to-be-made or the ethics of the situation, nor is it to dread how uncomfortable you’re going to feel if the subject yells at you. As a street photographer, your job — your only job — is to expose frames without hesitation.
More on this later. Stay tuned.