I am asked this all the time- how did you take that picture? Most of the time the person wants to know the technical side of the answer- the lens I used, the shutter speed, etc. And most of the time that is the least important part of the answer. Let me explain.

Sure it is important to have the technical ability to be able to take a photo in extreme conditions. I was in a very very small room so I used the widest zoom I had- 16-35mm- at the widest setting- 16mm. I shot in aperture priority, matrix (or evaluative for you Canon users) metering and I used a tripod. I also cranked up my ISO to 6400 to give me a shutter speed of 2 seconds. Any longer than this it would be impossible for my subject to stay still. There were a few times I shot at ISO 8000 and once at ISO 12800! My new Nikon D750 is a remarkable camera for high ISO photos.

But you can have the most advanced technical ability and still not get the shot. It doesn’t matter how good a photographer you are in this case, it matters how good a person you are. In order to get into the room with the nursing mother or the pensive father I had to earn their trust. If I were a jerk, if I behaved badly, acted insensitively, was not respectful of my subjects, was loud or pushy or aggressive I never would’ve been allowed inside the house. Instead, I tried to interact with my subjects as much as I could, I talked to them, listened to them, showed respect for their lives, complimented their work, played with their children or at least smiled at them a lot, and didn’t touch my camera until I was ready to go inside.

This is the part of the ‘getting the shot’ equation that most people either forget or ignore yet it is the most important part. Be nice and people will generally be nice back to you. Be patient and wonderful opportunities will come to you. Be humble and magic will appear.