Maya Tomb, Honduras
Photograph by Kenneth Garrett, National Geographic
Anticipation is a skill that all great photographers draw on when searching for the right moment to press the shutter. While shooting this delightful photo, I can just imagine Ken Garrett framing this scene and then following the little monkey as he walked through the shot … tail up … get to that open area, little buddy … Bingo! A great photograph. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: When you feel that something wonderful is about to happen, trust your instinct. Be patient and ready for that magical moment when it all comes together. Resist the temptation to shoot too much or too soon, or you may miss the decisive moment.
Photograph by Melissa Farlow, National Geographic
This charming photograph by Melissa Farlow has everything going for it, including the background. The sisters are framed against a wall that adds color and light to the scene. Most importantly, the background allows us to see the captured moment clearly. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: Background is important, even in an active situation. When trying to capture the perfect moment, it is crucial that the photographer choose the best place to shoot from. If the background is distracting, the moment will be difficult to see.
Woman and Horse, Canada
Photograph by Michael Christopher Brown, National Geographic
Capturing an intimate moment in a photograph is perhaps the greatest challenge in photography. These moments must be earned through patience, trust, and perseverance. In this quiet, lovely photograph by Michael Christopher Brown, we are completely unaware of the photographer. The moment between the woman and her horse is so simple, but so real, that we feel an instant, emotional connection. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: To capture an intimate moment, the photographer must learn how to earn the trust of the subject, as well as when to “disappear” and let life unfold. The subjects must feel so comfortable that they forget there’s a camera nearby.
Bride and Groom, Czech Republic
Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic
Wedding photography is traditionally a very controlled process, with lists of people who must be paraded in front of the camera. These photos often miss the joy and the personality of the couple and their guests. This wonderful moment, captured by photographer James Stanfield, says it all. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: If you’re shooting a wedding, follow that couple! Stick with the bride and groom before and after the ceremony. Watch for the unguarded moments that are bound to happen on such an emotional day.
Silverback Gorilla, Africa
Photograph by Ian Nichols, National Geographic
Some photographic moments are memorable because they are so unlikely. It is impossible to look at this wonderful image by Ian Nichols and not smile. The juxtaposition of the giant silverback gorilla holding a delicate leaf is a delightful surprise and a unique moment. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: The phrase “wait for it” must have been coined by a photographer, because it is such an essential part of what we do. When photographing wildlife, capturing the perfect moment is just as important as it is with humans—and requires even more patience.
Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic
Some of the best moments happen behind the scenes, before or after the main event. These are the times when people are unguarded because they are too busy, or too exhausted, to care about the photographer. James Stanfield has captured such a moment in this lovely photograph. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: When covering any event, try to arrive early and stay late. Getting behind the scenes of a performance, sporting event, parade, or any other activity is bound to yield photographs that nobody else is getting.
Victoria Falls, Zambia
Photograph by Annie Griffiths, National Geographic
In situations that are active and thrilling, surprisingly quiet moments can take place. These moments feel even more powerful because of the setting. This photo, taken at the top of Victoria Falls, is a simple moment of contemplation at the end of a crazy adventure. But the setting and the light make it memorable. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: Adventure photography leads to lots of thrilling images. But remember to also watch for those moments of contemplation that can happen when the adventurer pauses to reflect on his extraordinary experience.
African Lion Mother and Cub, Tanzania
Photograph by Mitsuaki Iwago, Minden Pictures
Everything about this photographic moment is tender. The light, the gesture, the color are perfect. But there is also a small detail that completes the intimacy of this scene by photographer Mitsuaki Iwago. It is the small catch-light in the lion cub’s eye. Perfect. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: Capturing the catch-light in a subject’s eye can take a photograph from lovely to sublime. Eyes are the windows to the soul, so when the eye reflects a beam of light, it draws viewers in and makes them feel a greater intimacy with the subject.
Photograph by Bruce Dale, National Geographic
This classic American moment—a boy and his dog—is made more delightful by the setting. Photographer Bruce Dale wisely chose to stand back and use the bridge to frame the scene. In these situations, a photographer must anticipate and prepare for a moment that may or may not happen, for a moment like this, where the boy and the dog look toward one another in an idyllic scene. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: Sometimes a moment is made more poignant by the scene in which it takes place. The photographer must continually make decisions about framing as he or she anticipates a moment. Remember, closer is not always better. If you have a great scene, use it.
Photograph by Gordon Gahan, National Geographic
When working with silhouettes it is important to consider each figure in the frame, even those in the distance, because the high contrast will make every figure pop. In this shot, photographer Gordon Gahan has wisely gotten very low and shot through the fishing net. He has captured the perfect story-telling moment of fish and figures in silhouette. —Annie Griffiths
Photo Tip: When photographing a high contrast scene, know that the body language of every figure will read more powerfully than in normal light. If the scene is full of activity, it will take very thoughtful shooting to capture the right moment.