There’s a saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” While it’s usually true that if you’re going to take the time to do something, you should do your best at it. However, I’ve also learned that getting something done is often better than doing it well. “Done is better than good” applies to portraiture in an important way.
Done Is Better Than Good
Whether you’re photographing a wedding or family portraits or your own family reunion, there are certain pictures you simply must make but they are not necessarily going to be art. Sometimes they are documentation of everyone who was at an event in a huge portrait or little groups, and sometimes they are simply important details. While we try to do our best, it’s more important to move on to the important pictures than it is to perfect the shot. The bride may not forgive you if you miss the flower toss because you were sculpting the perfect light and perspective on the sign-in book. Similarly, when making family portraits the group portrait is probably most important, but moms also expect to have portraits with all the kids together, the boys together, the girls together, etc. The big group had better be where you spend your effort making a perfect picture, but you still need to get the others done.
Think Like A Parent
Parents master the art of prioritizing which things must be done well and which things must simply be done. At my family reunion this week, I had a great opportunity to make a picture in front of a stunning backdrop. However, the available light was mediocre and the kids were starting to wear out. I knew I had only moments to make a picture before I lost them all. So we made the most of it. The pose isn’t perfect and it’s a miracle that I got even one with everyone’s eyes open. I’d love to have everyone smiling and laughing, but getting it done in this case was more important than taking more time to get it done well. It’s not the most important picture of the week, but it’s one that was worth making.
When you’re shooting, keep in the mind which pictures are absolutely essential and spend effort getting those done well. Do all the necessary pictures, too, but it’s ok if they aren’t masterpieces. By all means, do your best on every shot, but it’s ok to do your best under the current circumstance.
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