Humanitian Photography and the Decisive Moment

Photo of a girl touching flowers by humanitarian photographer Bryon Lippincott

The more time I spend photographing people, especially children. The more I embrace and connect with Henry Cartie-Bresson’s phrase “The decisive moment.”

When you are working with people especially in a documentary, portraiture sense, it is key to capture these decisive moments. That specific last little twist in the smile or twinkle in the eye that separates a particular frame from the one before it and the one after it.

It becomes even more apparent when you shoot at a high frame rate and can distinguish the subtle differences in expression that take place over a second or two.

After you look at a string of 15 to 20 photos taken over a few seconds you realize how much your brain selects the best images from your eye and remembers them instead of the less attractive ones.

The goal of my humanitarian photography and filmmaking work is to capture the value of people and show them at their best. My goal is to always make sure that the images of them that I release into the world create the best first impression possible. Anything less is unfair to them.

So making sure that I capture that decisive moment where they look their best is the key. Now honestly in each shoot and project there will almost always be more than one decisive moment, each with it’s subtle nuances that reveal the character of the subject in different ways. But at the end of the day, after the last frame is taken, it is all about choosing those decisive moments that show the value and beauty of the person involved.

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