Today’s post comes with gratitude to fellow photographer and blogger Mitch Rossow ( I asked Mitch for some perspective on a studio shoot I’ll be doing tomorrow.

Shooting in a studio new territory for me, but thanks to a willing subject (competitive biker Camilla), a helpful studio (Mpls Photo Center) and Mitch who gave me some insights on studio lighting, I will venture into this shoot tomorrow. Nothing ventured nothing gained. 

My conversation with Mitch included talking about what it is to shoot. That is, there is actually a point of time in doing photography when the shooter is actually not working.

That time non-working time is the fraction of time, perhaps ranging from 1/8000th of a second to maybe 30-seconds long, when the shutter is open. (Of course, technically there are exceptions, like when doing slash and flash or shutter dragging, but let’s stay with the conventional argument here.) 

We laughed at this concept. The idea that the time the photographer is not working is the time fraction of time the shutter is open. It sounded almost absurd. Is a copywriter not working with each keystroke? Is a surgeon not fully engaged in their work with the precise cut of a scalpel? Is a salesperson not working with flow of their words to address a customer’s concerns?

The idea that the photographer is not working when the shutter is open, we agreed was more like the sharpshooter’s release of the trigger. Once the bullet is out of the chamber, there’s little else that can be done to redirect the bullet. Rather, all the time that is spent surrounding the pressing of the shutter, that’s work time. Getting in the right place. Setting up the background. Assessing and making adjustments for the light sources. Creating rapport with a subject. Seeing the action develop in front of you and being ready to shoot at the precise moment the action or feeling unfolds. Not to mention all of the post shoot work. Those are the industrious work times for a photographer. 

Minneapolis being named this week as #1 bike city in the country draws another analogy. The act of photography is like a wheel. The rim, the spokes and the hub. They’re all critical components of a wheel. But what makes a wheel truly functional is the hole in the middle. Without the hole, the void, the negative space of the object, one could not place the axle and employ the wheel to serve to move objects.

Today, I celebrate the hole in the wheel, the void, the negative space, the open shutter. In a perverse way, it gives meaning to what we do.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.