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    Spontaneous photos ' s versus phased photos ' s


    The post Spontaneous photos ' s versus phased photos ' s appeared first at Digital Photography School. It is written by Simon Bond.

    This is a subject that touches on the core of what makes photography special for many people. The convulsions that many had when Steve McCurry decided that he was in fact a visual storyteller, show how passionate people are about this topic.

    Indeed, a more recent copy of this took place when it appeared that a winner of a photography competition had submitted an allegedly staged photo. To some extent, we have romanticized photography by believing that great photos are all about the moment of shooting. That is certainly an idea that many travel or photo magazines have encouraged. In this article you will learn about staged photos, spontaneous photos and why learning both approaches will improve your work.

    A shard of light was used to illuminate this man's face.

    Spontaneous photos ' s

    The moment of recording is often what a photo takes or breaks. Landscape photography is not always about this, but a lonely walker in your landscape photo can add a story. Of course, street photography is almost always about the moment of shooting. So what can you do to increase your chances of adding that x factor to your frame?

    Visit places with a lot of action

    If you want to train your body, go to a gym, visit the swimming pool or go running. If you want to become good at taking spontaneous photos, you must visit places with many decisive moments. These places train your eye to be razor-sharp and alive for the potential of a decisive moment before it happens. This is the opposite of a phased photo.

    You want to visit the following places:

    • The local market – Discover where your local market is and when it will be the busiest. Some markets are night markets, while your local fish market is the busiest of the day. Suppliers who prepare their stock, street food is prepared and interaction with customers all have great potential for a decisive moment.
    • An event – Events are also great places to practice. This can be sporting events, festivals or parties. Again interaction between people caught at the decisive moment. You often need a lens with a longer focal length to be effective in this setting.
    • A busy street – Of course, street photography is what many people will think about if you want to take photos at a decisive moment. Grab your 50-mm prime lens on the camera and head out on the street looking for interesting characters. It is often a good idea to choose a location and stop there for a while. Look for those moments of imprisonment to come to you – perhaps against the backdrop of an interesting wall.

    An event such as the balloon festival is an opportunity to capture moments.

    Experiment with the focal length

    Most of the decisive moment photos that you take are street photos. These will be on the street, or perhaps in a street market. The general rule here is to use a 50 mm prime lens, although experimenting with other focal lengths can also lead to good results. If you use a longer focal length, you can stand in a less conspicuous location, allowing the action to unfold naturally for you. You also feel more comfortable from a distance and you can anticipate your moments of recording and build up your skills to anticipate. Once you are well prepared, use wider angles and see how your results come out. Of course, as mentioned earlier, sports and often event photography need longer focal lengths to capture the action.

    A longer focal length of 135 mm was used in this photo. Markets are great for interactions between people.

    Wait for the moment to come to you

    This looks a bit like staged photos, except that it is a natural moment. One could argue that this is the opposite of spontaneous, but it is nevertheless a moment of imprisonment. When you take this type of photo, you have a pre-assembled frame and you wait for a person to walk in the right position within your photo. You will need a lot of patience because you can wait at least an hour.

    • A frame – Set your photo and wait for a person to enter the frame on your photo. This immediately gives your photo a bigger story. If possible, wait until more than one person walks in that frame so that you can choose the most interesting topic.
    • A shard of light – A great technique for practicing a decisive moment is to wait for people to walk in a shard of light. This gives you a defined condition when you have to press the shutter button, so you have to be fast. Look for an indoor location and a hole in the roof to let the light through. Then expose around -2 or -3EV for the background and normal or slightly underexposed for the sun-drenched area.

    The scene was pre-composed on this photo. I then had to wait for people to walk down the path.

    Be quick in the draw

    Of course there are times when you just have to be super fast. You will have to have eyes everywhere, be constantly alert to opportunities and see things on your side. Already setting your camera setting is essential in this scenario. A more forgiving aperture of, for example, f / 8 instead of f / 1.8 will also help with a fast focus.

    In some cases, you must use a larger aperture in accordance with the light levels in which you are shooting.

    If you have practiced in the market and there are many opportunities to capture a decisive moment, you will get the camera in your eye sooner and take the photo right away – the same skill that you used to capture people who encounter a shard of light.

    There are times when you have to be alert and very quick. These monks cross a fraction of a second.

    Phased photos ' s

    The opposite of spontaneous photos are phased photos. This way of photographing is what you regularly practice when working with models, or perhaps you take photos of people before the wedding. Of course, the recent controversy surrounding this has focused on travel photography, which must all be natural moments. However, if you want to have the most striking photo, the ability to master all aspects of the photo gives you maximum creativity. So what goes into a successful photo of this type?

    Doing a photo shoot with other members of a photo club can be a great learning experience.

    Solo against the group

    The photographer who recently ran into problems with their winning image, reportedly used a photographed photograph of a group photography event.

    Of course it is quite possible to make a staged photo look natural and convey a powerful message. If that is not the case, you must go back to the drawing board.

    However, the question is, when you are shooting with a group of other photographers, how much do you control the creative process? How much does that photo of yours cost because you pressed the shutter button?

    Learning with the group is a great way to improve your work. However, in order for your own creativity to really come to the fore, it must be you (and only you) who determines how the photos are staged.

    Organizing a photo session with a friend or a model where you work one-on-one gives you much more control.

    The narrator

    Determine the story and you get the photo. To be a good visual narrator, you need your photo to have that strong story while you guide the viewer's eye through the frame. So you no longer have to record the decisive moment. You are going to make it instead.

    To do that, you must consider the following:

    • Design elements -You can choose your location to perfectly adjust the photo you want to take. Use frames, or maybe even create your own. Leading lines such as paths or tunnels ensure good photos. Good compositional skills and a composition that harmonizes with the story that you are going to tell are things that you are looking for.
    • The story – This may mean that your subject is looking into the distance, cooking some food or perhaps talking to a friend. The goal is to make these moments look as natural as possible, even if they are staged.
    • The background – Finally, the background must take care of itself if you have applied the points for design elements. However, keep an eye on the background. Unless you are in a studio, people can walk to the background of your photo, influencing the story of your photo.

    This photo has been staged. A flash is placed outside the camera to the left of the camera to illuminate the ladies face and smoke from the cigar.


    The management of the photo can go further than the above list. You really want to put your photo on micromanages. That means control over all aspects of it, from lighting to what people wear in the photo.

    • The time of the day – The position of the sun is going to dominate your photo. With phased photos ' s there is absolutely no excuse for getting this aspect of the photo wrong. The same applies to spontaneous photos ' s. You should only try this with the sun in the right place.
    • Lighting – You must decide whether you want to use only natural light. If you only use natural light, you still have the potential to use reflective surfaces to make light reflect where you want it. You can also use flash units and give your outdoor photo a studio look.
    • Clothes – Prior to the photo session that your model organizes, what they will wear is another aspect that can be checked. Spend the time contacting them so that the clothing matches the location you have in mind.
    • Place – Where you choose to take pictures can be checked for any type of photo, whether it is spontaneous or not. You have to think about how this location will play against the model and the story you hope to achieve. Do you want the area to be busy with other people, or is it better to choose a quieter time of the day?

    On this photo the frame is made by sticking pieces of rice paper together with tape. The chef makes fresh spring rolls with rice paper.

    Creative techniques

    Unlike spontaneous photos, you can use creative techniques with your phased photos. In most cases, creative techniques need time to set them up – time you only have when you take the photo. There are many ways to be creative in your work. It is not always necessary to use such techniques. So take the following as some ideas that you could use:

    • Light painting – You will have to take photos at night, but light painting is a great way to make your image more interesting. You also need a model that can stand or sit still. Consider the pose position. Some postures are much easier to be stately than others.
    • refraction – Photography with prisms, fractal filters or lens balls can give your photo a different twist. Your results with such techniques will be better if you stage the photo.
    • Flour – Flouring flour into the air is a great way to add a more dynamic feel to your photo. You must combine this with flash outside the camera. The flash should be aimed so that it illuminates the flower correctly while in the air.

    In this image, light painting was used to mark two monks standing still for the photo.

    The commercial aspect

    With phased photo ' s you almost certainly focus on the commercial market. You photograph with a model that you will probably expect to pay. If you are new to this type of photography, consider building a relationship with your model, giving each other the time and not the money to build each other's portfolios.

    • Matches – Competitions will ask for the model release of the person in a photo. So, to a certain extent, this says quite well that a commercial element for the photo is okay.
    • Publishing – It is always nice to see your work published. Look at the type of photo you have taken and see if you can compare that with a magazine style. You may have to create a series of images and even write the corresponding article.
    • stock – As long as you can't say that the photo is being phased, staged photos work very well for stock photos. They are released model, so you are really ready to go. That extra passive income never hurts and can pay for your next photo session.

    Why you should learn both

    There is a temptation to say "I'm going to be a street photographer" and don't look at other types of photography. It has the merit of becoming the master of your profession and not of diversifying. However, a model can switch to photography. They have the advantage that they know what's going on for the camera. If you take the time to take phased photos, you can also view the options for spontaneous photos in a different way.

    After you have staged the photo using a flash outside the camera and to see where things should be placed in your frame, this is a skill that you can transfer to the more organic environment of street photography. It is saying; you should be a fashion photographer for a day, learn ideas and see what you can tell about your street photography.


    The wish for that perfect photo is always there. The purist will probably want to achieve this organically, with the help of sharpened instinct of the photographer to get that moment of recording. There is a lot to be said for learning from the other side of the coin and getting in touch with your inner visual storyteller.

    Which style of photography do you prefer and why? Would you like to photograph in a different way, even for a day? Here at the digital photography school, we would like to see your sample photos.

    Let us know if you have done it spontaneously or if you have staged the photo. You can even post an image and see if the community can guess whether you have phased the photo or not.

    The post Spontaneous photos ' s versus phased photos ' s appeared first at Digital Photography School. It is written by Simon Bond.

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