The decisive moment and the secret of Leica
I will always link “The Decisive Moment” to Leica and Henri Cartier-Bresson, but why the decisive moment is so important and what is Leica’s secrets to be associated to it?
In this post I will dig a bit deeper in the photographers’ compulsion to photograph (even when a photo is not needed) and how you can improve your photographs, capturing the decisive moment, even without owning an expensive camera. What I am asking you is to put your skepticism away, and follow me until the end.
What is The Decisive Moment?
The Decisive Moment is a book from Henri Cartier-Bresson, and in the preface he wrote: “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.“.
So, the decisive moment is that fraction of a second we all try to capture with our photographs. It is a unique expression, a gesture, something that makes a photograph unique and worth being shown. Without that, photographs are just images without anything specific to show.
What is Leica’s secret then?
Leica’s secret, the one feature that makes it perfect to capture the decisive moment, is its focusing system. For those of you who are wearing a puzzled expression, you read correctly: the fact that Leica has a manual focussing system is its secret weapon in my opinion.
Do you remember I told you to be patience, so read on.
In today’s camera world, our brain seems to be optional, our eyes don’t see what’s in front of us any longer. The autofocus need to be faster than light, as if we were shooting racing cars every day and the only comment I hear about the cameras are complaints about how sluggish they are. Alas, many photographers focus so much on the technicality of their cameras that they forgot to look for the decisive moment.
Have you tried forcing yourself to hunt for the decisive moment?
I strongly believe that we should force ourselves to step away from technology from time to time. One of the best photos I have taken were captured after I limited my options. To hunt for the decisive moment, start doing these things:
- Use only one prime lens
- Give yourself a limited amount of shoots, and don’t go over it
- Tape the back of your camera and don’t review your photos if not after you have finished your session
I am not implying you should do this for every session, but if you want to become a better photographer, you should try and foster your brain and your guts, not your camera.
Henri Cartier-Bresson was talking about anticipating the moment, being present, focussed on what was going on around you. That is the most important part of capturing the decisive moment. As a boudoir photographer it is a smile, a smirk, an innocent look in a sensual pose. A camera will never be able to capture those on its own, but if you forget about the tool, and you focus on the subject and the moment, then magic happens.
Stop relying on technology and focus on being present, that will give you much better results than the new autofocus.
Skills are always more important than cameras
Whenever a good camera comes out, mediocre photographers think they can improve their photographs with it. They can improve their images, but not their photographs. Also, what many don’t understand is that the quality of a photograph is not just in its sharpness, in the lack of grain or in the ability to shoot 10 frames per seconds. Yes, all those things may help, but if you start feeding your brain, if you focus on the subject, in you can anticipate the decisive moment and capture it, you will always be one step forward.
Now think what a photographer who foster this can do with a brilliant camera!