Some believe photographers shouldn’t be seen nor heard during a shoot — they should blend into the background capturing candid shots. Others believe in order to get the shot, you need to cause a reaction to make it happen.

With my outgoing personality, I tend to make the shot happen but I also know the value of blending in and waiting for a special moment to unfold, letting it happen. It’s up to you to decide which photographer you need to be for the situation presented to you.

Making it happen

During a golf event a few years ago for an accounting firm, I started to get bored taking the traditional team photo on the green. So I decided to make a few shots happen. I saw the CEO nail a nice shot and it just missed the sand trap.

I hoped that it had landed in the trap so I could get a great shot of him hitting it out. I developed a good relationship with him from the following year’s event and knew he had a good sense of humor.

I quickly ran over and marked where his ball dropped and then kicked it in the trap. As the other balls made their way to the green, I took my position. He approached the green, saw his ball in the sand trap and my marker. He looked confused until he saw me smiling. He started to laugh and said, “Let me guess, you want a shot in the sand trap?” The group busted out laughing and I got my shot.


Let me point out, this is risky with golfers. If I hadn’t known him this well, I would have asked him if we could get a shot of him hitting a ball out of the sand trap. I would point out how marketing could use the image to parallel how a CEO can handle difficult situations.


Here’s some practical advice to make a shot happen:

  • Create action and snap a shot of the reaction to the reaction.
  • Get your subjects involved in your shot by having them say or do something to each other without the other doesn’t know what’s going on. I like to have elderly couples give a surprise kiss to their partner. Then I shout, “Get a room.” It’s great for an after laugh reaction.
  • Children are the best. Give them an assignment like walk the dog up the hill quickly or tell me a joke.
  • When photographing an event, ask the art director what images they are looking for, then go out and make it happen. Does he want people to ask a question by raising their hand? Ask someone to raise their hand before the class starts so you don’t disturb them.

Wait and let it happen

While I was teaching a workshop in the Bahamas, we spotted a Bohemian family sitting on a curb laughing. A buddy of mine wanted to go over and ask them if he could take their photograph. I asked him to wait for a moment and sent another friend ahead of us.

I pretended to take her photo as I framed the shot of the family. I ripped a few frames before my buddy went over and ask to take their photo. They shook their heads and said no, then continued to chat with each other. He came back with a sad face as I smiled, I showed him my shot.


Before you accuse me of invading their privacy and I start to defend my view, I will concede. You’re right. I should have shown the family the photo and offered to send them a copy or pay them a few dollars. If they didn’t like the photo, I would have deleted it.


Here’s some practical advice to let the shot happen:

  • Dial-in your camera settings. Have one value of exposure — ISO, aperture or shutter speed — set on auto mode.
  • Observe your surroundings and look for interactions. Try and predict what will happen next.
  • At a wedding, look for reactions during key parts of the ceremony.
  • For street photography, find a beautiful background, frame the shot then wait for someone to walk into your scene.

Going forward

Look back at some of your favorite photos and ask yourself, how did I create this shot? Did I make it happen or let it happen. This understanding will enhance your skills when faced with a difficult shoot. Share your stories in the comments below.