Challenge yourself to make pictures that go beyond mere records of someone doing something. See if you can capture a picture that emits emotion and reveals what your subject feels about whatever it is they are doing.

How can you capture engaging moments? David LaBelle shares 4 solid tactics:

  • Invest time
  • Be invisible and likable
  • Prepare for the unexpected
  • Watch for cause and effect

Put Time on Your Side

In October 2016, Denise Porter took this portrait during David LaBelle’s photo scavenger hunt at the Ruralite Writers Workshop in Bend, Oregon.

Intimate pictures do not happen overnight. Allow time to get to know your subjects and build trust.

“The best portraits are of faces that are comfortable with you,” says David. “The portrait should look as if you’re not there.”

While you are setting up for a picture, talk to your subject. When they think the session is done, subjects tend to relax and talk a bit more. When someone feels under the microscope, they tend to tense up. It takes time for someone to relax. Keep talking and shooting. This is often when you capture your best moments.

Time spent with a subject builds trust—and that trust adds intimacy to photographs.

Be Invisible & Likable

According to David, the trick to catching moments is to be invisible, blending in with the subject’s background. For photographers hesitant to immerse themselves into a subject’s life, he shares how he views the process.

“I believe I am giving a gift to the people I photograph,” says David. “If you believe you belong, that you are performing a service, people allow you into their lives. You are not trespassing. You are honoring them. Believe they like you because you like them.”

Prepare for the Unexpected

In addition to building trust, giving yourself extra time gives you the freedom to catch moments before and after events. If shooting an event, do not rely on agendas.

“Sometimes the best or most memorable moments happen after scheduled events,” he says.

“It’s not over when it’s over,” says David. “Keep watching, and keep your camera handy. You never know what you might see.”

You get lucky, but you also can anticipate luck.

Watch for Cause & Effect

Keep an eye out for moments that build on one another.

For example, many utilities have images of linemen restoring power in harsh conditions. But how many people have followed a lineman home to show the effect of those long hours on the lineman and his family?

Thinking in terms of cause and effect helps photographers anticipate emotional moments. Combined with an investment of time, invisibility and preparation, these 4 tactics will help you capture memorable moments and draw readers into your stories.