Action, Interaction and Reaction (AIR)

AIR is an acronym for Action, Interaction, Reaction, the three primary goals of capturing moments in photographing people. I suppose it applies to animals as well, since people are part of the animal kingdom. Professional photographers often speak of moments, those slices of time where everything seems to be perfect–the perfect action, interaction or reaction of the subjects in the frame. Great moments are the essence of candid photography.

The late Henri Cartier-Bresson talked about decisive moments in photographs. The precise split second when everything in the frame seems to be just right. This would include movement of people and the compositional relationships between objects in a frame. In his words:

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to give a “meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.

To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

To take a photograph means to recognize, simultaneously and within a fraction of a second‚ both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.

It is putting one‚ head, one‚ eye, and one‚ heart on the same axis. –Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photojournalists make these “decisive moment” pictures daily. It comes from much practice. Great photographers study human behavior. They anticipate what is about to happen. They are ready with focus, exposure and composition to make the picture at just the right moment. The last two sentences of Cartier-Bresson’s quote above put succinctly what professional photographers do. In recent years, newspapers have eliminated photo staffs and given word reporters smartphones. Reporters whose strength is words are ill-prepared to grasp the concept of decisive moment, much less capture it.

As you make pictures try to at least one of the AIR concepts in every picture. If you do, those pictures will have something extra that will begin to set you appart from those who don’t think about the right moment to make pictures. If you can work two of the concepts in a picture, you have a winner. It is very difficult to have action, interaction and reaction in a picture. If you achieve all three you have an excellent photograph.

Remember to put AIR in your pictures. You will see immediate improvement in your photography.