The Quest for the Perfect Shot

Is there such a thing as a perfect shot? 

Coming to you from Alister Benn, this insightful video examines what makes a perfect shot at a specific location and time. Benn begins by discussing the significance of the environment and timing, as he ventures out during high tide to capture unique compositions of rocks and water. The interaction between static rocks and moving water serves as a classic yet challenging subject.

Benn's approach to composition involves critical decisions about what to include and what to exclude. By setting the scene in black and white, Benn abstracts the visual elements, helping you see the scene in a new way. This technique is particularly useful for understanding how light and texture interact in a monochromatic setting. The decision to exclude the sky, due to its lack of contribution to the overall composition, is a key takeaway.

The video further discusses the technical aspects of photography, such as aspect ratio and shutter speed. Benn discusses the impact of cropping in camera to eliminate unwanted elements, enhancing the final image's clarity. He experiments with various shutter speeds to capture the motion of water, demonstrating how different speeds can affect the scene's aesthetic. Benn shows how longer shutter speeds create a more serene and textured look, while faster speeds capture more chaotic motion. 

In exploring whether a perfect photograph exists, Benn acknowledges that preferences change over time. What might seem perfect today could feel less appealing in the future. He encourages you to embrace this fluidity and not get too hung up on achieving perfection. The video ends on a philosophical note, suggesting that the perfect shot might be the one you didn’t take or the one your friend captured while you were focused elsewhere. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Benn.

And if you really want to dive into landscape photography, check out our latest tutorial, "Photographing the World: Japan With Elia Locardi!" 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Superlatives such as great, winning, and perfect are catchy you-tube titles, or maybe an integral part of competitions, but totally irrelevant otherwise. Practically speaking, I think about making the best photograph I can in any given situation… not whether it’s perfect, or evaluated in light of some unquantifiable metric. I am always trying to improve my craft; however, perfection implies a finite place which only exists in fairy tales. With every photo opportunity there are multiple choices which can result in an equally good image. Add a few other people’s opinions and there won’t even be consensus as to which image is better than another, much as less the best or some subjective idea of perfect.

This video could have been more accurately titled “points to remember with seascape photography” – shutter speed relating to motion possibly the best tip for a new photographer. But the topic of perfection is more of a psychological issue, rooted in how we perceive ourselves. Rather than implying that perfection comes from the best composition or exposure, I’d ask if some idea of perfection really matters in our day-to-day lives. What does it look or feel like? Do we chase perfection, or are we content with our mistakes and 2nd place contest finishes? Do we have a perfect job, or a perfect spouse, or perfect children or parents? Of course not, unless we have a more forgiving definition of perfect. Why would we even place art and perfect in the same sentence?

Very well said. There is no destination called "perfection", but we should always be traveling towards it. As Jean Giraudoux observed, "Only the mediocre are always at their best."

BTW, your photos of the San Juans are very nicely done. It is one of the most beautiful areas in the world to me. No photos ever quite do it complete justice, but your photos certainly capture it beautifully.

Thank you! With summers as hot as they are in the valley where I live, there's nothing so special as the cooler weather in the mountains, especially in the autumn for rejuvenating the spirits. The smells of the forest are special too. None of those things, unfortunately, can be captured in a photo.

Right there with you. I live in the Arizona desert, so the mountains are even more of a relief for me! You mention the smell of the forest. For me, it is also the sound of a solo hike. One of my favorite sounds is the sound of my hiking boots on a trail in the mountains.