SUBTITLE – The 15 Minute Rule
This is a short post aimed at getting you to consider something few photographers do these days – changing up your shooting position when you’re in the field, and doing it on a regular basis. Changing your position gives you different compositions to choose from when you are selecting your favorites.
While I developed this policy while photographing birds, it may apply to all sorts of photographic genres so give it a look and see if it makes sense for the kind of photography you do.
When I am out shooting birds, I try to move my position or change my point-of-view about every 15-20 minutes. Why? I don’t want my portfolio filled with shots all made at the same angle and with the same background and the same perch. It looks staged. (Trust me – birds do not take direction well AT ALL but still…)
Take the first two photos in this post.
They appear to be the same bird to the untrained eye, but one is a curve-billed thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre) and the other a long-billed thrasher (Toxostoma longirostre). What adds to the confusion is that they were taken on the same day, using the same background and the same perch in the same light with the same lens and from the same seated position all within five minutes of each other.
Both are salable images. I like both images. But I get uncomfortable when too many of my bird photos are made in the same place. This just happened to be luck. There were 10-12 species at the same south Texas watering hole near the same perch and I took the low-hanging fruit.
It was after looking at these photos later (and many more I made that same hour of different birds at the same perch with the same background, etc.) that I developed the 15 minute rule.
It goes like this… Every 15 minutes or so I change my angle, my lens, my POV, my position or just outright move somewhere else altogether.
It’s not something I am anal about. There are exceptions, for instance when I am working on flight shots and I see a bird returning after landing on the same perch time-after-time I will stay with that bird because flight shots are difficult and you never know what you will get. There are other exceptions but you get the point.
It’s not something to be dogmatic about, rather something to remind you that changing up SOMETHING in one shot to the next makes your photography more interesting to your viewers.
Sometimes the change is minimal but it is still impactful.
Take the next two shots made on my recent trip to Florida. This black skimmer (Rynchops niger) was obliging enough to feed in one little canal at Viera Wetlands for about 40 minutes. It was perfect light, a nice bird and decent surroundings so I stayed IN THE AREA for 40 minutes, but I changed my position three times. Here’s why.
In the first image I am sitting down low on the bank near the water. This yielded a fantastic image of the bird feeding. But after 10 minutes I had a bunch of these and decided to move 10 yards to my left, higher on the bank and decided to stand up to change my POV. The second shot with the bird in full wing spread was the reward for that move. This second shot would not be possible from the other position. I couldn’t get the entire wing spread open to the sun angle from that low POV.
Sometimes this pays off and sometimes I get shut out. But every time I am working hard to make a powerful image and most of the time I get the images I was hoping for.
If you’re a landscape photographer, sports photographer, portrait photographer or any other kind of photographer try the same thing. Move around. Change the height of your tripod. Get closer or move far away. Shoot with a telephoto then a wide-angle lens. Get low – go high. Etc., etc. etc.