We hear this all the time in photography clubs and in instructional books. Move around. Get various viewpoints. Wait until the decisive moment appears.
It is true that we may take 1000 pictures and end up with only three or four that are truly memorable and evocative—the wow shots. It is also true that where the opportunity presents itself, it does pay to move around the subject; perhaps wait to see if certain people move away or the sun breaks through. Any number of factors impact on the ultimate image. However, the advantage of digital photography is such that there is no impediment to taking that first shot.
We often round a corner, take a curve in the road, or arrive at a lookout point, and we are struck immediately with a view. I like to take that picture because it captures immediately what I saw and what was—in that moment—the wow image. I then move around, look for a better angle, perhaps one that avoids an obstructive element I now notice. Maybe I won’t use that first image.
But I have also experienced situations where, having hesitated to wait or look for the better shot, I have lost it entirely. The person whose face was filled with character has now seen me, and the expression is gone. The clear view is now gone because a truck has parked in front of the interesting building. The sun vanishes behind a cloud. And so forth.
Take the first shot. It may be the only one you get. While I generally agree with the conventional wisdom that you should get the image as well as you can in the camera, the reality is that there is much that can be done in the processing of an image—particularly and most simply in cropping and straightening.
Here’s an example. The first shot is made just after I emerged from the arch leading to Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) in Lisbon, Portugal.
It is unprocessed here. I may not have snapped the instant I went through the arch, but instead gathered my bearings, absorbed, and then shot. It is facing the ocean, but we do not really see the ocean. It has people in a random position that do not add anything to the image. It is asymmetrical, with part of a building on the right but not showing the comparable building on the left. It does show (and reminds me) of the impression of the vast, bright, clean nature of the square. It is like a diary entry. I could do things with this (e.g., straighten it, and crop it so the “v” is more symmetrical). It is not necessarily a bad image, but it may not be the best. Nonetheless, I have it. And maybe on reflection I like the people in the foreground I’ve captured, who would not have been there had I hesitated.
It is a large square, and I spent time shooting it towards the ocean and back towards the city, focusing on this side and that side, on details and the broader picture. I went up to the observation area on top of the arch, and of all the pictures, found this one preferable to present what initially impressed me about the square.