Anticipation in Photography

This article is based on concepts from Effective Storytelling with Photography if you want to dig deeper for further training. It is still over 76% off for Cyber Monday if you use the discount coupon picturecorrect at checkout.

Remember the lyrics from the famous Carly Simon song: “Anticipation. It’s making me wait.”

Remember: Anticipation is a skill common among experienced photographers and generally lacking in newer photographers. Let’s discuss the photographic expertise of anticipation and what it can mean to your photography.

anticipation in sports photography

Photo by Nik Shuliahin

Sports photographers use the tool of anticipation all the time. They do so because they need to capture the peak moment of action.

They use their knowledge of the game to anticipate where the peak action will occur and then place themselves in a position to creatively capture it.

For the rest of us photographers, anticipation can be a bit more challenging to sort out.

For this quick tip, let’s discuss some techniques to help you hone your anticipation skills.

waiting for the right photo moment

Photo by Kent DuFault

In the above image, I was visiting Venice, Italy. I was standing on one canal bridge while looking at the one next to me. I was attracted to the scene, but it was missing something. So, I practiced anticipation and waited.

A few minutes later, a man walked up onto the bridge and sat down. I was ready, because I had anticipated this moment!

First Tip: Find a scene that attracts you visually, and then wait for something to happen. This is a common technique with experienced street photographers.

anticipating the scene

Photo by Kent DuFault

At this moment, I saw the scene and walked toward the order counter with my camera ready. I waited in anticipation for something special to happen—and it finally did, when one of the employees looked up at me and smiled.

Second Tip: When a scene catches your eye, get your camera ready. This is where automation will really help you—no manual mode is necessary. I tend to use shutter priority mode with auto ISO. I like to set my shutter speed because I don’t want my picture ruined by camera shake. Preset the focus or use all your focal points in autofocus. Hold the camera just below your eyes. You are not actually looking through the viewfinder but over the top of the camera. This technique allows you to anticipate what might happen by opening up your peripheral vision. It works best with a wide-angle lens.

anticipating wedding photo

Photo by Max Poschau

Be ready when the subject doesn’t think you’re ready. This will allow you to capture candid moments.

Third Tip: When you are actively setting up a picture, get yourself ready before you announce that you’re ready. In this way, you can anticipate a true moment of expression that you may not get once the subject realizes you’re shooting.

anticipating street photos

Photo by Kent DuFault

In the photo above, I was walking the streets of Paris. I noticed a couple of birds on top of a light post. They were in silhouette against a brightly colored wall.

I took a picture, and then in anticipation that the situation might improve, I waited and watched.

Within a minute or so, several more birds swooped down onto the light and began looking at me. I think they thought I was going to throw down some food.

My anticipation created a photo with more impact—by having more birds in silhouette.

Fourth Tip: When you take a live-action picture, don’t be satisfied with your first shot. Anticipate that the scene might improve. It often will—with a little bit of anticipation and patience.

About the Author:
Kent DuFault is an author and photographer with over 35 years of experience. He’s currently the director of content at the online photography school,

For Further Training:

Storytelling is the single biggest photographic skill, that you can learn, that will make your work stand out from everyone else. This in-depth guide by Kent DuFault is 133-pages of deep training, giving you a simple and practical understanding of using storytelling to make your photographs stand out. It is still 76% off for Cyber Monday if you want to check it out. Also try the discount code picturecorrect at checkout for extra holiday savings.

storytelling photo

Effective Storytelling with Photography Guide

You’ll get 7 complete chapters of training, illustrations, case-studies and self-check quizzes. It will teach you every aspect of the storytelling process, and also, (even more importantly), how you can implement that knowledge into your photographic efforts.

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