Your first shot will not be your best one

If you expect to nail your idea with the first shot when you are on location taking photos, you are greatly mistaken. Nobody nails the first one, this is not how photography works. 

Creating a good photo is a process and it starts with your vision, with an idea in the back of your head and not with your camera and fiddling with settings. Almost every iconic photo you have seen and know is the result of that process. 

So, how should we approach creating memorable photos? First of all don’t be satisfied with your first shot. Explore the scene in front of you, change you angle, try different lenses, different focal lengths, go higher or lower.

Take more photos!!!

Digital photography is cheap, there is no need whatsoever to not taking more photos. Your best photo will most likely never be the first one you take.

This is very easily visible when you explore the contact sheets of some well known iconic photographs.

But what is a contact sheet?

Take a look at the two example contact sheets bellow. You will probably recognise the first and the fourth photo on the second roll of images. Explore the rest. The photographer – Rene Burri – made the most of the scene by trying different angles, vertical and horizontal compositions.

(C) Rene Burri 1963. CUBA. Havana. Ministry of Industry. Ernesto GUEVARA (Che), Argentinian politician, Minister of industry (1961-1965) during an exclusive interview in his office.

Another example is one of the iconic photographs of Jonas Bendiksen during his trips in the Altai territories of Russia in the 2000. You can find the photo on the fifth row. 

(C) Jonas Bendiksen 2000. RUSSIA. Altai Territory.

So, what can we learn by studying these contact sheets? 

Both photographers did not take that one special shot and move on. Rather, they took multiple shots of the same scene, and afterwards chose the shot that resonated the most. 

Exploring contact sheets and studying them is a great way to learn the process of creating good and meaningful photos. 

Would you like to know more? Consider attending one of my photography workshops in Brussels.

If you are interested in learning more about the photography process I highly recommend you buy this great book released by Magnum: