Don’t Ever Postpone

Last Saturday I did an unforgivable mistake for any photographer. I was doing an assignment for a magazine, which basically was to photograph a researcher who has done a study about how multi national corporations evade taxation by moving profits and debts between countries. An interesting subject—and the photographing of the researcher went very well. No mistakes there.

However, during a break I noticed outside the building the shoot was taking place a person who had sat down on the curb. He had a bicycle that was painted in all the colours of the rainbow, clothes that were equally colourful, and he had a strong and firm facial expression. I thought he was a perfect subject for a photo. He looked like he was going to sit down and just enjoy the Indian spring, which had suddenly occurred over the weekend. It appeared he wouldn’t disappear within a short while.

So I thought at least—and now you understand where this is going. I planned to go out and ask to photograph him after the session with the researcher was done. That, of course, was the mistake. Although it didn’t take much time to round up the shooting session, while I was capturing the last few photos of the researcher, the colourful person outside had vanished. I hadn’t even noticed.


The morale is; never postpone capturing a subject that has caught your interest. Of course, I knew that already—bitterly—as this was not the first time I have made the mistake. Sometimes we human beings just don’t seem to learn. I should have known better. I shouldn’t have taken the risk, that the guy might not stay put until it suited me to go out and photograph him.

Sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes it’s just unawareness, sometimes it’s a time issue, sometimes it’s a misjudgement. Whatever the reason, it’s always sad to realize you have lost an opportunity to capture what might have become a great photo. So don’t ever postpone photographing something that captures your attention. Take the photo right away. Don’t wait till tomorrow—not even with a static subject. By then the light might for instance be completely different. Don’t even wait a minute, particularly with moving and changing subject. Now is the time to capture it.

I am sure we have all done the same mistakes. How about you, do you care to share your experience when you didn’t make yourself capture the best photo of your life?

Facts about the photo: The photo obviously wasn’t the one I missed. Anyway, it was taken with a Canon Eos 1 with a 16-35 mm lens, set at 16 mm. Shutter speed: 1/125 of a second. Aperture: f/6.3. The photo was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

77 thoughts on “Don’t Ever Postpone

      1. Yes, many a time. There have even been times I did not have a camera on me, and bitterly regretted that. In one’s imagination the ones that got away would have been the very best ever!! Ha, ha.

  1. Excellent advice as always Otto. I have made this mistake a few too many times. It’s usually when I’m driving. I’ll see a photograph, a landscape, a particular light but there’s always someone on your bumper in these circumstances (not so much in Iceland) so you say to yourself, I’ll come back for that one and of course when you do, what captured your attention in the first place, a particular light, clouds whatever it is, it’s gone. I’m getting better and not worrying about being a nuisance to the person behind having to stop and wait to overtake me, the photo is more important than getting a dirty look or a blast on the horn I think. 😀

      1. The roads are so busy here in the UK Otto and people always drive so close to you that stopping suddenly is not an option. Thankfully in Iceland this has not been a problem and it’s been a real pleasure to be able to stop in the middle of Iceland’s main Route 1, set up my tripod, also in the middle of the road, and to be able to take my pictures without being hassled. Definitely not something you could do in the UK. 🙂

  2. Oh yes. So many many times I’ve seen something out of the corner of my eye and thought….”WOW! That’s a great shot!” and then either didn’t have my camera with me or, even when I did, kept driving because I had to be somewhere. So often I glance at the clock to see the time, assuming the light will be similar tomorrow at the same time and of course it never is. But sometimes…a few times, I’ve actually turned around and gone back to get the shot. I’m almost always glad when I do that.

  3. Sounds very familiar – done that mistake many times. Either thinking I’ll come back later or trying to find a better view or angle and when it is too late realising the moment has passed:)

  4. So true, Otto! So many times I have seen the perfect image and hesitated for one reason or another and it vanishes. All that is left is how I see it in my memory and we all know that fades much faster than a photograph.

  5. Yes, I hate when this happens. In April we were driving through Nebraska. The sky was dark and cloudy when we passed an abandoned farm house. The top window was either open or missing, and there was a long curtain hanging outside the window blowing in the wind. I wanted that shot soooooo bad. But, we had the RV on and couldn’t find anywhere to stop and turn around. I will always regret missing that shot.

  6. Happens to us all, just like you say, Otto. And especially when driving. I have one other memory, a moment I will never forget…It was early spring and the beech trees had just unfolded its bright, green leaves. I took the car to walk my dog in the forest a couple of kilometres up in the hills. The sun came through, and when I reached the first trees, I realised it had been snowing up here and the snow was covering the bright green forest leaves – with the sun magically shining through. The whole forest was enchanted…and I had no camera. My first thought was to go back and fetch it, but I knew that by the time I was back here, the snow would have melted. Somewhere there…I started to ALWAYS carry at least one camera…

  7. You are not alone here!
    I have done this more often than I care to admit, and I am sure to do it again.
    On another note, this image is wonderful, Otto.
    Have a great week!

  8. I have many occurrences of this than I can remember which is which and continue to do so for all the reasons that brought out here. The one that I do not like most is I decide to not take any camera and later found that I wish I could bring one even a compact one. I know cell phone can take picture but for some reason I do not use it for such as much.

    I really like the picture with people appear to be having good time and the dog playing near by. Lively.

    1. I used to have to make a decision whether I wanted to bring a camera or not along—and did many a time regret not doing so, like you. However, these days I just don’t go anywhere without my point-and-shoot camera. It comes along just as natural as my cell phone. 🙂

  9. This doesn’t just apply to photos…we’re all guilty of not visiting “that” person or sending “that” note or taking the time to tell someone that we care…then it’s too late. Your thoughts apply to life in general. Love the photo.

  10. Carpe Diem!

    And, I think that you’re lucky. I have the feeling that you had the right equipment to take the shot that you wanted. Sometimes I want to get a shot, but just don’t have a suitable lens…

      1. Yes! Actually I was thinking of this post the other day. There was an old neon-light “Tower Records” sign in town here. I’ve been thinking and thinking about taking my tripod down and taking a night shot of it, but always put it off. I went down last week and it’s been removed! I could kick myself!

  11. I think you have described a frustration understood and shared by everyone who owns a camera! I try to balance this feeling of irritation and disappointment by appreciating the many unplanned successes I have during processing! Some you win …..!

  12. i can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a field of wildflowers, or what appears to be a special flower, and thought to myself, “I’m going to come back and take a photo of that.” Sometimes I even have a camera with me, but think that I’ll come back later, when I have more time..More often than I care to remember, the mowers get there before I do, and when I return, there’s nothing but two inch stubble. There’s more than one way for a subject to disappear!

  13. Ah, just tonight while driving the earthquake coastal zone, I looked across Rio Chone and saw a haunting vista of Bahia de Caraquez. The still-standing condo ‘skyscrapers’ were dark, and the only sign of ‘life’ was a strip of lights at street leavel… The image is glued to my mind’s eye, but I knew it would take a complete stop w/no movement to capture the scene. I was caught in bumper-to=bumper traffic as we snaked through detours and sometimes hit unmarked chasms in the highway. I will make a point to photograph it the next time in the area.

    This was only ‘trip 2’ since the earthquake, but it’s quite sobering even five months later.

    1. I believe it was a very sobering trip. It’s hard to imagine the destruction for any of us who haven’t been on the site.

      On a different note, yes, driving one more time. It’s like driving is the biggest instigator for postponing…

      1. It’s always refreshing to be a passenger when the driver is ultra conscientious and stops at the slightest hint of interest… That happened about a month ago when I was riding with a geologist around the back side of volcano Chimborazo. I told him that I learned enough for a college credit in one day!

  14. It always a bit of an empty feeling that tends to linger for quite a while when you hesitate, and the moment is gone. I can still remember such times when I postponed taking the shot, only to lose it forever. Kind of like the opportunity to ask a pretty girl out that you just met, decide to wait a bit longer to get up the nerve, and then she is gone…nothing but the faint smell of perfume, or an empty space where the photo you wanted to take has gone forever. 🙂 A good note to end the summer with 🙂

  15. “…not even with a static subject.” You are so right, Otto! I mentioned here once about a place I wanted to photograph but was hesitating because I was worried about trespassing. The next time I drove by, it was GONE…two large, interesting old buildings – one a business and the other a house – completely razed, leaving no trace, only an empty lot. I’m so sorry I never overcame my silly fear to get the photos I wanted of them before they vanished.

  16. I feel I do it all the time. Not too long ago though we were on this short-ish road trip, me and my wife. This time we also had my mother in law sitting in the backseat of the car doing most of the talking. I drove the car and checked for photo opportunities. All of a sudden I stopped the car and went out to snap a few. I got this thing with pylons and cables and stuff along the road, you see. My wife don’t take much notice of things like this happening anymore, but my mother in law asked a million questions about what this was all about. Nothing there at all to snap, she told me. Ahhh… OK, it’s very good to have someone telling you just that, isn’t it?
    Anyway, the road was clear without any traffic, so there was no trouble to get my photo and get back into the car. A nice light is nothing you like to wait for if you decide to go back there, that’s for sure!

  17. So many times this has happened to me. I see something as I’m driving by and I think, stop, turnaround, photograph it. But I keep thinking should I or shouldn’t I as I keep driving and before I know it I’m several miles and ten minutes down the road and it is just too far to turn around and go back. I always regret it!

      1. 👍👍when will you visit Tuscany? can show you wonderful places around here ! my city , Pistoia, will be the Italy’s capital of culture in 2017 so…could be interesting for you to visit😉

        1. I have been to Tuscany—as you may see of the picture here. I would love to go back again, and I certainly will. Right now I don’t know when, but I will surely keep your offer in mind. Thank you so much, Michela.

  18. So very true. This applies to nature too … wanting the light to be “just right”. Sometimes we have to just seize the moment. Shame about your missed opportunity.

  19. Good reminder. When I was on safari in Tanzania, our guide told us to always take the photo of an animal/bird, etc. when you first sight it. Don’t waste time trying to better frame it, etc. Assuming it stays there, you can then adjust settings as you wish. But should it run/fly off, as wildlife tends to do, at least you will have gotten that first image that you otherwise might not see again. It is a rule of thumb that I have always remembered.

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