Improve Your Photos: Shoot Like A Sniper

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"Hawk In Flight" by D. Travis North

“Hawk In Flight” by D. Travis North

It is a fool who rushes into a situation with guns blazing.  Such a shooter puts himself at risk.  If such a person were in the military, the stakes could be as high as his life or the life of his unit.  In the photography world, the stakes are rarely as high, but it’s still a missed shot, a waste of time and a forecast for some disappointment and frustration.  I fear that too often, young photographers put themselves into such situations.  Opportunities are lost, and great photos are missed each and every day because they approach the shot like an enlisted Private.  Instead, one should approach a shot like the more experienced – and much more highly skilled – Sniper.

Imagine how a Sniper approaches a shot.  He knows his mark, he may even know the location of his mark.  But he is patient.  There’s time enough to consider the best, safest and most effective shot.  There is not time to make a mistake, and there is surely not time to shoot again.  So what does he do?

  • Research – He knows his mark, their habits, their weaknesses, as much as he can find.
  • Observation – All positions, all angles and every possible scenario is played out in his head before he considers the shot.  If it is in his power to do so – and if it does not put himself at risk – he will always move to the best, most accurate and safest shot.
  • Measurements – By whatever means necessary, he takes every measurement that can be had:  distance, angle, wind speed and so on.
  • Knows the Equipment – His rifle is an extension of his body.  He knows it possibly better than his body.  It’s cleaned and inspected regularly.  It can be disassembled and reassembled with eyes covered.  One can’t possibly be a sniper if one doesn’t know what their rifle can and can’t do.
  • Focus – One cannot afford to be distracted.  As such, one learns to focus and ignore any and all distractions.
The same procedures can be applied to photography, except it’s a camera in your hands and your mark may not be an international terrorist.  So before you take the shot, keep that camera down and spend the time to think about the shot.  Visualize the shot, then pick up that camera and make your visualization happen.
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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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