The Decisive moment

The famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1954 described the visual climax to a scene which the photographer captures as being the ‘decisive moment’.
The moment when the photographer chooses to release the shutter may be influenced by the visual climax to the action and the moment when the moving forms create the most pleasing design. In the flux of movement a photographer can sometimes intuitively feel when the changing forms and patterns achieve balance, clarity and order and when the image becomes for an instant a picture. 


To capture decisive moments the photographer needs to be focused on, or receptive to, what is happening rather than the camera equipment they are holding. Just like driving a car it is possible to operate a camera without looking at the controls. The photographer must spend time with any piece of equipment so that they are able to operate it intuitively. When watching an event unfold the photographer can increase their chances of capturing the decisive moment by presetting the focus and exposure. 

The right moment Before you can press the shutter release button, there must be the right moment. At the beginning, this might be a bit difficult to judge, but after a certain time you will know it by heart. You build a certain instinct when you should take a shot. It’s all about practicing and experience. 

Shoot a series You may take a series of photos in order to get the decisive moment. At least at the beginning you may not be sure when it’s the right moment. Then you keep shooting and decide on your computer which photo is the best. In the digital age this is not an issue anymore. 

Get experienced The more you shoot in the streets, the more experience you get. From my personal experience I can say that you will build the right sense for the right moment. You will start seeing things before they will happen. You will know when it’s time to press the shutter release button.

It’s not always luck Some people say that it’s all just luck. Sure there is also luck when you shoot in the streets. But I think that luck comes with good preparation. Sometimes I see things while processing a photo which I have not seen while taking the shot. In the end it’s important what is on your photo and not if you have all seen and composed yourself. I even think that the subconscious mind is also working for you while shooting in the streets.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” - Seneca