Why I (Still) Shoot Still Images

Even though I’ve been shooting motion for over 10 years, I still spend half my time shooting still images. When my story can be or should be told with images that are “moments in time” then a still camera is always my tool of choice.

For me there is a certain timeless quality of a still image. Still images are meant to be explored by the eye while lingering on the “moment” captured. Perhaps a better way to explain the power that I find within still photographs is to show you some recent images I shot. Hopsons_shack

This past weekend I visited a favorite spot of mine. It’s an old plantation in Mississippi and every time I visit, I see it in a different way. But I always see it in a timeless way – it’s like time just stopped there.Hopsons_vending_J2X8487 Even though this plantation is worlds away from my cultural norm – I get a feeling of comfort mixed with a bit of melancholy for my own past when I’m there.

I could put these images in a multimedia format and add a narrative or a music track. But the question I ask myself is why? Hopsons_car_grillJ2X8622Will it add or will it distract? What piece of music should I use and what will that add to the story? Will the music overpower the piece – because many times it can. And too many times people try to add music to mediocre images to make them more exciting.Hopsons_car_J2X8561

A still image has the power to capture the eye of the viewer and make them want to know more. If an image I make draws the viewer in – to see that moment in time – just as I saw it – when I shot it – then I’ve done my job as a storyteller.

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4 thoughts on “Why I (Still) Shoot Still Images

  1. Ethan G. Salwen October 13, 2009 / 12:12 pm

    Nice images, Gail. And nice thoughts as well. I’d like to hear more from you on concepts and practices relating to this “moment in time” VS. “momentS in motion” in future posts.

    One real practical question is simply how you do them both during the same period of time, practically and, even more, in terms of deciding which format to use when you want to use BOTH.

    Also, I’d love to hear tips, advice and insights about using stills in multimedia. You question whether it’s needed for these, but if decide that it is needed (or that we’d like to try it) how do we make motion with stills in the best way. THIS seems to be critical to every photographer, regardless of how hybrid they want to go.

  2. Gail Mooney October 13, 2009 / 1:01 pm

    Thanks Ethan,

    It’s really hard for me to shoot both still images and video at the same time and generally I opt not to because I end up feeling like one of the other is being compromised.

    As far as deciding if and when to use still images in a multimedia format – that’s a question that photographers have to answer for themselves by first asking themselves if what they wanted to communicate visually with their stills came through. Multimedia or other motion formats is all about the pace and feel. One can use movement and sound to create that feeling by adding another dimension to their work.

    But sometimes that “moment” in time speaks for itself.

  3. geribain October 14, 2009 / 1:29 pm

    Oddly enough, as a writer and word-oriented person, I often find still images more moving than video, just as I generally prefer to read a story versus watching a film. Watching video forces the viewer to move at the author’s pace and doesn’t always allow for contemplation. Music, when not organic to the subject, can feel intrusive and distract from the impact. Even in things like extreme skateboarding videos, which usually are shown with stirring music hearing the contrast of the grind of the board on pavement then the “air” as the board flies gdcan add dramatic truth and excitement that music doesn’t.

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