Tip by Steve Simon
During my many years as a photojournalist, I developed the habit of taking time at the end of the year to look back and pull out my best work to enter into various contests. I continue this practice, which forces me to take a critical look back at the year that was. It’s a kind of photographic road map from which I can update my portfolio; track my progress and spot weaknesses that I can work to improve.
But the somewhat surprising and ultimately disappointing reality I find after completing this exercise, is that when I pull out my best from the yearthose truly special, magical moments when something extraordinary happens in front of the camerathere are just not that many of them. Which brings me to my tip.
You should always work hard and long on every assignment or photograph-making opportunity. But learn to recognize “the magic,” when it happens to make sure you maximize those rare opportunities. I remember following two boys, each carrying a painting, with their dad lagging behind. I have to say that I’m not unhappy with the resulting photograph, but the experience taught me a lesson. When the boys turned the corner, I stopped and went the other way. Why did I stop? I’m not really sure.
I figured I had a decent image. The fact that I didn’t follow and continue shooting nags at me and reminds me not to take anything for granted. I won’t give up on a moment, on a potential great photograph, even if I think I already have something good. I’m committed to follow it through until the light fades, the subjects are tired, or the moment is gone. Photography is fun, but it’s important to push limits; work a little harder and see where it takes you.
I always remember what photographer Melissa Farlow once told me. She said that often, at the end of the shoot, when she thinks she has her picture and it’s late and she’s tired; she will put one more roll into the camera. Sometimes that last roll pushes her to a place she never could have predicted. It’s all about working the opportunities and taking chances.
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