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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Setup and Snapshots?
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05/02/2002 01:39:33 PM · #1
Someone asked how much setup time each person needs for their shots. Many people spend a lot of time setting up, but then try to make the photo not look too contrived. Others just snap a whole bunch of pics (we are not wasting film afterall!) and then crops to the desired photo post-process. They sometimes get accused of taking 'Snapshots'.

Heres how i see it.

One of the most profound things I have read so far about photography was a statment of the difference between a snapshot and a photo. A professional photograopher stated when he cane upon a subject, he immediately pulled out his camera and shot it. Before anything else, he just shoots it. Then he goes through his typical setup to try and capture a photo. Often the first snaps are what went to print. and as he continued, a greater majority of those initial 'Snapshots' are what would become his final shot.

He saw the image he wanted and took it immediately. Sometimes you can never capture that again. As a professional, he took the time to apply both procedures when he could, take the snaps and try to arrange the photo. But as his eye and instinct imporoved his setup and photo time decreased.

Why does this hit me?

It is a prime example of what I like to call 'Zen Photography'. I for one know the 2/3 rules, and centering, and all the other guidelines and rules of good video/photo. i am new to my digicam, but have worked with imaging and graphics, rendering, video, etc... for years. But often it is the off balance photo that catches my eye. Trying to catch a bird in flight and actually having IT be the only thing blurry... intrigues me. It breaks away from the 'norm' at times, but it is interesting.

As for setup, I think many more people should risk their photos being called snapshots and just shoot from the hip from time to time. If you want to try for the photo afterward, great. But if you feel that every instincual snap of a camera, with an out of focus and non-centered subject is going to be a waste, your missing one of the truly magnificent things about photography.

We can now see the beauty of existence, and capture that exact moment and impression for future reflection. Looking at this as a buddhist, i find it to be a great allegory for the nature of existence as a whole.

Nothing is permanent.

The past of merely a reflection.

The future has yet to be.

And as we go through the stream of life, all we are ever experiencing is a single instance of time as we percieve it, and then it has changed and is gone. there is only now, and now cannot remain. Now is an illusion as we move through constant change.

And with a photo we can capture an illusory image of the illusion of a momnt as we percieve it. that moment is no more or less real than the photo iself. and now in the digital medium, it is not even what it seems and is mutable.

Trust your instincts, open your heart, ans take those damn snapshots. Some truly great things can be found, even if they are only great to you.
05/02/2002 01:59:15 PM · #2
You make a very valid point, that a lot of great pictures are certainly not 'setups' and some of my most favourite pictures I've taken are ones that I stumbled across. However, I suspect that most of the pro's 'snapshots' as you describe them still have an almost instinctive composition and technical correctness to them, that simply comes from being experienced with the tools.

I'd contend that you have to have a certain amount of basic technical and asthetic understanding to be able to take really well executed 'snapshots'. It doesn't have to be consiously 'forced' as in a setup shot, but I certainly noticed as I've been learning things I'm starting to 'frame' things as I walk around, even without a camera.
05/02/2002 02:15:08 PM · #3
Most assuredly...

In Martial Arts, computers, Sports, anything... that is the Zen. Learn the tools and techniques, then forget them and let it flow naturally.
05/02/2002 10:46:42 PM · #4
To me, the time between the thought, 'there's something' and the release of the shutter doesn't define a snapshot. It's the preparation that goes into the capture. Some of that preparation occurs over the years that the photographer spends learning the craft. More goes on when he loads up the camera bag and sets up his gear before going walkies. When I'm out with my camera, I try to keep the exposure settings somewhat consistent with where I am, so that if I see something worthwhile I can get on it quickly. What says "snapshot" to me is P-mode, autofocus, subject (usually) dead center and plenty of distracting elements included for want of a quick zoom or step to one side. You can take a photo that's not a snapshot quickly if you've done your homework ahead of time, and with experience it becomes just as natural as point and shoot.
05/02/2002 11:01:02 PM · #5
One of my favorite photographers, Neil Turner (dg28.com), makes the distinction between 'made' and 'taken' images. To paraphrase; the made shot is preconceived and generally lighting assisted, whether it's artificial light or using the available light or reflective surface to best advantage. Great if you've got the time, and hard to call a snapshot (although there are certainly badly-made made images). I think that, once you've got a grip on the use of available light, it's a very interesting area to explore. Learning to have control over the light in an image is certainly worthwhile, and will help your available light shooting, as well. I really can't understand some people's distain for 'set-up' images. The ability to bring an image from concept to completion is hard-earned and highly valuable. In the fine arts, just about everything is 'made'.
The taken image, while not as challenging in terms of gear, throws the elements of luck and timing into the equation. Being in the right place at the right time and/or having an inspiration relating to composition or exposure that elevates your capture above the point-and-shoot 'snapshot' and makes it someting more is what the taken image is all about. It's probably more appealing to some in that it's the more accessable of the two kind of images (from the photographer's standpoint), but I've yet to hear a convincing argument that it's somehow superior.
05/03/2002 06:22:55 AM · #6
i believe that it's a moot point: if you look at the vast majority of challenge winners, they are 'made' shots, not 'found' shots.

if you agree that the challenge results represent the 'will of the people', then the people are telling us: Made shots are usually better.

Now, that's not what *I* am saying. I would never limit myself in such an arbitrary way to one thing like that. I'm saying that if you interpret the vote results as being representative of the majority opinion, which they are, then the shots that are most often succeeding are 'made shots'

but maybe there'd be something to doing a site that had categories. just 'found shots', just made shots, freestyle ...:) hmm, is that a good idea?



* This message has been edited by the author on 5/4/2002 7:17:39 PM.
05/03/2002 07:47:23 AM · #7
I think the reason I'm currently trying a lot of 'setup' shots for the challenges is about control. I have a brief, I conceptualise an idea for it, it is very difficult then wander around until what you thought of happens.

Most of my other photography has been a case of finding things and then working out the best way to present what I've found. But these challenges encourage more previsualisation or preconception and that then leads to more set up shots.

Also, I think taking good found shots is harder - as the zen comments allude to, you have to be damn good and almost instinctive to get everything right, quickly, for a found shot. I think that's also why I haven't yet had much success taking pictures of people (I wrote shooting people, then changed my mind - living in Texas and all...) I don't yet have the skill to get things right quickly enough. Mostly it needs practice I think
05/03/2002 08:27:12 AM · #8
Originally posted by GordonMcGregor:
Mostly it needs practice I think

practice for sure, but also overwhelming luck that all of the stars and factors have aligned coincidentally and perfectly right at that moment.

another thing about found shots that's important is 'context.' Many images that are interesting in a certain context derive a lot of that strength from knowing what the context is. take away the context, and a lot of the power of the photo can be lost.

05/03/2002 09:12:12 AM · #9
Well, it's all about the "mindset" to use a Neil Turner idea.

I think that made shots are easier for most because it allows people to stop and think about an idea and visualize in their mind what the shot should look like.

Taken shots mean that you have to be faster on your feet, see something that may not have been on your mind at the time, compose and get the shot all before the moment is gone.

Gordon mentions something about taking people shots and how he doesn't get as many as he would like.

I think there are two factors there. Fear that people taking the picture have of approaching someone to get a picture and having the subject not become too self conscious that his photo is being taken.

Something about a camera makes people flip a switch and go into posing mode that just pisses me off. Even if it means a simple little thing like the person just acting DIFFERENT than what caught my eye in the first place. Cameras are so powerful.

I was out and about taking a few shots for an idea I had for the latest challenge and I actually drew a crowd! These folks acted as if they had never seen someone taking photos. Granted the fact I was taking an object and putting it in unusual positions had something to do with it ;-) but people really are so infatuated with a lens.

Thats what I love about cameras (like my G2) that have a flip out lcd which allows me to get sneaky IF I can get close enough for a good shot.

Anyway, I don't care if an image is made or taken as long as its neat to look at. :-)
05/03/2002 09:30:19 AM · #10
Originally posted by hokie:

Taken shots mean that you have to be faster on your feet, see something that may not have been on your mind at the time, compose and get the shot all before the moment is gone.

Gordon mentions something about taking people shots and how he doesn't get as many as he would like.


You are right about some of the human interaction issues (people posing, worrying how people will react to you taking their picture) but my main blocks are not being assured enough with my camera. If I felt
I could approach someone, ask them if I could quickly take their picture and then not fumble around for a while, wasting their time while getting camera ready, then I'd be happy. Also noticed that the
long autofocus period on digital cameras is not very suited to taking 'semi-posed' people shots - people smile, then start looking bored about the time the AF is read and I can actually shot. I need to work better on my letting people know when I'm taking the picture technique! That or get a decent SLR...

As an aside, here's one of my few candid pics I'm moderately happy with.

<img border=0 src="//www.pbase.com/image/1902351/medium.jpg]

05/03/2002 09:56:09 AM · #11
Exactly Gordon...Being new to digital myself (a few weeks) you mention a very good point about the auto focus time making the capture more difficult.

And I agree 100% about getting comfortable with the equipment before going to live subjects. Live subjects have a much shorter attention span and the magic is lost if you can't get the shot together quickly.

The focus thing was buggin me. My wife looked at the shots I was getting in the first week of owning the camera and said "they sure do suck" but I just came back from a business trip this week and had some shots and she said "hmmm..you must be getting used to the camera..these are much better".



05/03/2002 10:12:35 AM · #12
that pic would again fall into the category of deriving relevance more from context than from photographic 'perfection.' i think that strong context can really give strength to a pic - hence the entire field of photojournalism.
05/03/2002 10:23:14 AM · #13
Originally posted by magnetic9999:
that pic would again fall into the category of deriving relevance more from context than from photographic 'perfection.' i think that strong context can really give strength to a pic - hence the entire field of photojournalism.


I'd agree, it certainly isn't a very good photograph, bad reflections, the big pole, poor lighting etc, but I just really liked the different
styles in the two people and found it interesting to think about the relationship when she takes her boyfriend home to meet her parents...
05/03/2002 11:11:37 AM · #14
oh definitely. esp the parent's thing.

i actually do a lot of street photography. i work near a big train station/mall. it's pretty amusing what one comes up with. and it's a skin-thickening process too, in that the more i do it the more cavalier i get. just look at how unfriendly the hostile bored tourists are in the face of my shooting. i had a great 'caught lovers' pic but i can't find it. but here are some candidswalking around in DC near where i work.

note that the picture of the rear end is just a store mannequin!! :)





* This message has been edited by the author on 5/3/2002 11:12:39 AM.
05/03/2002 11:51:43 AM · #15
Nice candids. Here are a couple of my favorites from a temple raid over Chinese New Year.
<img border=0 src="//genjaro.image.pbase.com/u10/irae/medium/1903491.fortune3.jpg]<img border=0 src="//genjaro.image.pbase.com/u10/irae/medium/1903489.fortune2.jpg]
In the bg are fortunes which each correspond to a wooden slat kept in an urn. You draw a slat, then go take the matching slip for your fortune. These were surreptitious, shot from the waist at full zoom, but I'm pretty sure I was busted.


* This message has been edited by the author on 5/3/2002 11:54:07 AM.


* This message has been edited by the author on 5/3/2002 11:57:53 AM.
05/04/2002 08:55:27 AM · #16
i like those, irae. particularly the first. that's a great shot, and interesting story behind those. i assume that the fortunes aren't free. do these places get a lot of business?

i've got to get over there and check that place out ...


* This message has been edited by the author on 5/4/2002 10:41:39 AM.
05/04/2002 09:10:56 AM · #17
Better hurry. After July I won't be able to show you around, and the Red Chinese should be finished buying the joint shortly thereafter.
05/04/2002 10:40:00 AM · #18
When in July??
05/04/2002 05:06:06 PM · #19
after all is said and done isn't it the image itself that is the important thing. how it arrives there and what you take it with are irrelevant.
05/04/2002 06:17:02 PM · #20
That's what we would like it to be but it doesn't really matter what you do... Someone will complain about it being setup and others will complain about it being a snapshot. There is a very diverse group of photographers and voters here. I think the balance here is a little more on the side of the casual photographer. I had rarely taken any photographs seriously until I found this site. I had done some neat stuff with the camera but here, you have quite a group to impress. If you take a look at the score mix for some of the past winning photos, you will see what I mean :)

Originally posted by stormbikes:
after all is said and done isn't it the image itself that is the important thing. how it arrives there and what you take it with are irrelevant.


05/04/2002 07:13:48 PM · #21
absolutely. however, i think that some people are saying they don't enjoy certain methods of getting that picture as much other methods, whereas some other people are saying that there's something worthwhile to be gained from everything .. : ))

Originally posted by stormbikes:
after all is said and done isn't it the image itself that is the important thing. how it arrives there and what you take it with are irrelevant.


05/04/2002 07:25:09 PM · #22
nothing at all 99, and you might chase it with a little gasoline and a match too. don't breed 99
05/04/2002 07:30:46 PM · #23
Originally posted by jmsetzler:
That's what we would like it to be but it doesn't really matter what you do... Someone will complain about it being setup and others will complain about it being a snapshot. There is a very diverse group of photographers and voters here. I think the balance here is a little more on the side of the casual photographer. I had rarely taken any photographs seriously until I found this site. I had done some neat stuff with the camera but here, you have quite a group to impress. If you take a look at the score mix for some of the past winning photos, you will see what I mean :)


I like the student feel to this site. Although I have used photographs in some of my work projects over the years I have never really concentated on just the photo like I have at this site.

Plus, I usually have used elements of a photo and relied on photoshop type software to piece togehter what I wanted.

Here we concentrate on getting as close to the final shot in the camera which helps me develope my skills on digital camera work and not on photoshopping.

So whether the shot is a setup or a grabbed shot its all cool to look at and find new things.
05/04/2002 07:32:58 PM · #24
my goodness, david .. did we wake up on the wrong side of the sociopath this morning, or have we just been watching too many snuff films? ;-)

I will also except running out of medication as a possible explanation.

Originally posted by David Ey:
nothing at all 99, and you might chase it with a little gasoline and a match too. don't breed 99


* This message has been edited by the author on 5/4/2002 7:43:30 PM.
05/04/2002 07:35:58 PM · #25
I agree with you on the 'student' feel of this site.. Mousie is gonna be a good instructor :)

Originally posted by hokie:
Originally posted by jmsetzler:
[i]That's what we would like it to be but it doesn't really matter what you do... Someone will complain about it being setup and others will complain about it being a snapshot. There is a very diverse group of photographers and voters here. I think the balance here is a little more on the side of the casual photographer. I had rarely taken any photographs seriously until I found this site. I had done some neat stuff with the camera but here, you have quite a group to impress. If you take a look at the score mix for some of the past winning photos, you will see what I mean :)



I like the student feel to this site. Although I have used photographs in some of my work projects over the years I have never really concentated on just the photo like I have at this site.

Plus, I usually have used elements of a photo and relied on photoshop type software to piece togehter what I wanted.

Here we concentrate on getting as close to the final shot in the camera which helps me develope my skills on digital camera work and not on photoshopping.

So whether the shot is a setup or a grabbed shot its all cool to look at and find new things.
[/i]


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