Shakespeare said it best: To stab, prod or press, that is the question. Well ok, maybe he didn't.
But how many times have you, together with innumerable irritated small children, pets of every dubious variety, crotchety Aunts and Great Aunts and everything in-between, all held a patient rictus smile while the 'photographer' faffed about pressing everything but the bloody exposure button on the camera. It's not that hard. Is it?
But capturing other decisive moments apart from family groups and friends is not a skill most of us carry within any of our button-pressing digits. And I happily include myself here.
One that did is Henry Cartier-Bresson who first coined the phrase 'the decisive moment' or maybe his PR and book company did. It's the ability to snap a shot of any given scene at its most visually telling, that brief passing instant of reality that coincides with the shutter being fired and some ephemeral moment being captured forever. By you.
HCB wasn't at all bad at what he did, some say he was quite good really using his small and inconspicuous Leica 35mm camera. He made his name capturing what we mere mortals never give a passing glance towards as we rush home to get our dinner or feed the cat. And that's everyday life. Things we take for granted. And this was before auto everything in a camera. In fact it was manual everything. You'd think auto everything would speed things up. But no... Anyway, I digress and will cover street photography in another post, you've been staring at me with a fixed smile too long already. Now, which button do I press? Cheese!
Releasing the shutter is a bit of an art. Well, you could say that if you want to be precious and arty and you also happen to look young soulful and/or troubled and covered in tattoos. No, what it really is, is a skill. Part of the craft of photography. You do not stab, prod, fumble or grope the shutter button. You squeeze it, dear reader, gently. Finding that fine line, sensing that the next faintest pressure will trigger the shot. Is it getting hot in here?
On most reasonable cameras apart from the really crappy ones like camera phones, the shutter has a two step pressure setting. The shutter-button itself is ideally surrounded by a raised bezel that allows your finger pad to rest upon (note: NOT the point of your finger) and be cushioned. The first half-press often also selects various options like metering and exposure, but more importantly it informs you that you are very close to the final trigger-release point. It is getting hotter in here.
Practising and finding that point of no return, that infinitesimal increase in pressure at just the right moment to fire the camera, tis where the art-part rears its ugly head. Benefits include a vastly reduced reaction time to 'seeing' the shot and capturing it along with a delicate smooth release decreasing any induced camera shake. I need a cigarette for some reason even though I don't smoke.
Compare this sensuous squeeze to the camera-phone stab, prod and grope. Benefits? Well, your brain doesn't need to be engaged as you are probably only photographing the coffee and Danish pastry you want to excitedly share with the world, so it's not too difficult. No skill at all, in fact.
Or compare to the motorised kazillion-frame wallpapering shooting technique. Stand and hold the button and fire off thousands shots and one might be good enough. Fine for sport and action, horses for courses and all that, but not very demanding or satisfying for that carefully thought-out image which is what I'm talking about here.
So, despite paying for all that sophisticated anti-shake software, if you prod and stab any camera button hard enough, you WILL shake or jiggle it. And camera shake induced blurred pictures can ruin the picture from even the best made camera. Treat that shutter-button with real love.