He’s Kelly Slater, not JD Salinger – the last time I checked, there were plenty of pictures of Kelly in existence. Does the world really need to see another tightly-cropped shot of Kelly’s face? No offense to the blue-eyed champ, but the answer is no. It’s about the context of where he is that makes for a compelling and interesting photo. The fact that there were swarms of photographers elbowing each other through the surf (including the Quiksilver broadcast cameraman who I personally saw drop a 100k rig into the ocean) – THAT is what was unique about the scenario.
This above situation is entirely about the narrative. The greatest surfer to ever live is about to paddle out in the final heat of the largest surf contest in history. The crowd is at a fever pitch with anticipation and excitement. Kelly is hypnotically focused and immersed in concentration. The beach is teeming with photographers flocking aggressively around him trying to get his picture… Hey guess what, photographers – YOU are the interesting angle in this scenario.
Here is an example of a brilliant photographer making the right creative choice. This picture was taken by Callie Shell, who shot a wonderful essay on Senator Barak Obama during his run for the Presidency. I really love this photo and her work is always fantastic. Which particular element of this setting would be important to capture? Obama’s in-focus face? Of course not. She chose to showcase the soles of his shoes instead. This decision helped to craft an evocative and humanizing narrative. This picture speaks volumes about the man and his exhausting journey to the White House.
So if you find yourself part of a frenzied herd of photographers desperately vying for an opportunity to shoot the same subject from the same angle, chances are, you are the money shot.