When I was in school for my photography degree, one of my instructors said something that stuck with me, and I think of every time I pick up my camera: Just Wait. Whether you shoot events, landscapes, portraits or architecture you can almost always benefit by waiting for that moment, or the light. Here are a couple of examples.

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This first one is from the 2016 Denver Comic Con, photos of the actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan (He plays Negan on The Walking Dead). When you are taking event shots, it is easy to think you have a decent enough shot, when you get one like this. Sure it tells the story, he is holding the mic, and he’s apparently delivering a story about something interesting. From a technical standpoint, the white balance is pretty close the exposure white and black points are reasonably close but the viewer doesn’t really connect with the person in the image, they see it as just a standard journalistic or documentary type image he sat there and told us a story.

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However, if you wait for that moment when hes smiling or making a hand gesture he feels more animated and the audience for your image connects better because your subject looks more interesting. This becomes another example of “it is your image”. You as the photographer need to convey to your viewer what you want them to see, and how you want them to see it. Most likely your viewer didn’t attend the same event and they don’t know if he was angry or boring or what. You need to take the image that you saw and choose the shot that best reflects how you felt about the event you attended. I saw him as happy and appreciative of his fans and genuinely having a good time talking about his new role on The Walking Dead as well as his previous projects, and this is the image I would choose to convey that to my viewers.

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The second example was taken at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz ca. If you are a landscape shooter, I bet you have had the experience where you jump out of the car or come around that corner and think “this is the shot” you set up your gear and click and BAM you got the shot you wanted. Both of these examples are shots right out of the camera, I adjusted the exposure and the white and black point a bit to make sure I had the right contrast in the image but otherwise neither are HDR or use any wacky effects. The first shot is very reflective of what I saw when I got to the beach, I setup my stuff loved the way the clouds were looking used 100 ISO, f22 to make sure to get foreground and background in focus and that called for a 1/5th of a second shutter speed. It is a reasonable sunset image I like the yellow in the sky, overall a reasonable shot. If I was going to do some heavy adjustments to this image, I would remove the green from the sky and make it a bit warmer. At that point I felt like I could pack up my gear and head home, however I heard the voice saying over and over in my head “Just Wait”.

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The second shot was taken 16 minutes later, by that time, the clouds had changed and the sun had set more and the yellow hue in the sky went to a deep reddish orange. I like the first shot, but I love the second. And all I did was change the shutter speed to compensate for the sun setting and less light being available on my scene. I could likely bring the first shot closer to something I would be happy showing people, but with almost no adjustments the second is a stronger image for me.

When I setup my gear to shoot a sunrise or sunset, I always follow two personal rules, I always wait until the light is completely gone — because you never know what the sun is going to look like, and when I get the shot I was looking for, I always turn completely around and shoot behind me. There is always something going on behind you during a sunrise or sunset.