The best shot is often backwards

// 1.545 min read

What’s that sound? Clicking, clacking, snapping, and whirring, all around…

We hear the buttery soft sound of an SLR camera shutter (or the tacky fake shutter sound effect phones make), and we immediately jump to the conclusion that someone else is getting the shot of a lifetime. Fear of missing out (FOMO) kicks in. We reach for our own camera, or into our pocket for our phone to join in. We follow along with the crowd and take the picture the crowd has decided needs to be taken, based on what someone else originally saw. You’ll almost never take a compelling image this way.

Do the opposite instead.

I know it’s hard, but building this habit into my photography is responsible for many of the photos I’m most proud of. The incredible photo below isn’t mine—it was taken by John Blanding from the Boston Globe—but this photo captures this concept perfectly.

John Blanding, Boston Globe - photo of old lady
Photo credit: John Blanding, Boston Globe

Check out the old lady with purple glasses hanging over the rail. Everyone else is preoccupied with trying to capture the moment, but she’s there enjoying the experience unfiltered. It’s not the content of this photo that’s instructive (although there’s an incredibly important lesson there too), it’s what the photographer did.

He took the photo everyone else missed.

That’s the lesson here. Look in the opposite direction for the shot other people are all missing. Or look sideways. Or turn the camera on the crowd itself, like the photo above. If you’re out walking, or on a journey of some sort, turn around and look behind you every now and then. The view backwards or sideways will often surprise you, and you’ll completely miss it if you’re only ever focused on facing forwards in the direction you’re going.

Oh, and if you think this principle only applies to photography, you’re mistaken. :wink:

Coby Chapple (@cobyism)

@cobyism—a.k.a. Coby Chapple is an autodidact, systems thinker, product architect, pixel technician, full-stack algorithmagician, multi-media maker, cryptography geek, aspiring linguist, and generalist Designerd™ extraordinaire. Read more »