Oh, the anticipation.

12 09 2010

As I sit on a pleasant Sunday morning watching football and waiting for a giant plate of nachos to appear, it seems a good time to talk about anticipation.

I really believe anticipation is one of the most under-appreciated qualities in a photographer. These days, timing seems to have become largely of spray-and-pray with cameras that shoot a hundred images per second. It’s easy to fall into the mentality that if you shoot continuously, one of the shots will catch the height of the action. Actually, it’s not always the case.

One of the biggest breakthroughs for me as I was developing my technique was the move from 35mm to medium format. At first it was incredibly frustrating, only having one shot before having to bring the camera down from my eye and wind it; manual focus was even more difficult. Once I forced myself to adjust, however, I found that my sense of anticipation grew exponentially. I had to be able to anticipate the moment, because I would only get one shot at it.

The keen sense of anticipation also means a greater ability to create a bond with your subjects. How? Well, shooting continuously means constantly having the camera in front of your face. It’s hard to feel a strong connection with a faceless person. Being prepared to catch the moment means putting the camera to your eye when there’s a reason to, allowing you to put your subjects more at ease.

On the practical side, learning to anticipate your shots means not having to slog through seventeen nearly identical images to find the one you were after in the first place.

Here are a few examples from my “Life Backstage” project, where the low light conditions make anticipation even more critical.


Warren, warming up


Hat on the way up


The shocking Miss Spankings


Reid juggles


Lolo Flamingo

Pierre scolds

Pierre scolds, Midnite ignores




7 responses

12 09 2010
Tom K.

A thought provoking read.

I shot a live band recently and did the spray-and-pray routine. I grabbed some great photos but getting one good shot in a spray-and-pray sequence of 20 shots is not the most efficient way to shoot. Plus it doesn’t take a whole lot of skill to spray-and-pray.

The photos accompanying this post are gorgeous.

12 09 2010

i couldn’t agree with you more, cheryl. to me, photography is about listening – “listening with my camera”, as i like to say. it’s just another way of having a genuine conversation. anticipation, intuition is key. your images are beautiful. love the whimsy.

13 09 2010

Spray-and-pray is nothing more than slow-motion video. One might as well shoot video and extract the frame one wants out of the 30 per second recorded.

13 09 2010

Timing is everything 🙂
Love the shots!!!

21 09 2010
alisha stamper

i feel the same way. You sometimes DON’T get the shot when you do a million shots.

that’s why i love large format (and film, obviously) so much. I’m really glad you wrote about this because i was trying to explain it to someone the other day, why my clients aren’t LOSING anything by me only doing a set number of shots.


10 12 2011
jen howell

I LOVE that second shot! It just strikes me… very cool!

24 09 2014
Anticipation is one of the most under-appreciated qualities in a photographer - by Cheryl Jacobs - a photography link from simple_iso_v4

[…] Anticipation is one of the most under-appreciated qualities in a photographer – by Cheryl Jaco… […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: