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pacificLIGHT photography

Wait for the Trigger

This is such a simple concept, and yet it’s so often overlooked by photographers.

I’ve been re-reading Jay Maisel’s “It’s Not About the F-Stop”. Among so many jewels of wisdom contained there, this one stood out: “Wait for the Trigger”. How often do we encounter a lovely scene, point our camera at it and press the shutter? How often is the result a lovely, well-composed background without anything significant going on? I see this often in my classes and workshops, particularly so in travel images. How many pictures of the Eiffel Tower have you seen that look remarkably alike?

The question to ask yourself is, “Why this image – why right now?” What makes it unique? What makes it “my image”? Jay’s point is that every image needs a “trigger”, a reason to make that image at that exact moment. Without it he points out, “your picture can become wallpaper”.


Creating strong images is often more about what you choose to exclude from your compositions than what you include. Extraneous objects, distracting bright spots, or other visual detritus rarely add anything to what you are trying to say visually. All elements of your images possess “visual weight”: that tendency for each element to grab and hold your attention. Different elements possess different amounts of visual weight, forming a sort hierarchy of things that grab your attention. Successful images minimize the visual weight of elements in your images that are not part of what you are trying to say photographically allowing those important elements to grab and hold your viewer’s attention. If an element in your image adds nothing to your visual message, it automatically takes away from it. Simplifying your compositions is one of the easiest ways to minimize the visual weight of distractions and strengthen the impact of your images.