This week’s photo is all about negotiation. The hand in the lower left of frame is my wife’s, reaching out to shake the lantern merchant’s hand in center frame. At this moment, we had struck a deal to buy some of her lovely lanterns and were shaking on it.
Photography is also all about negotiation. To get great shots, the photographer’s mind must constantly negotiate between many factors; available light, shutter speed, lens aperture, ISO sensitivity, action, focus, and so much more. It’s like a series of sliders constantly toggling around in your head as your fingers adjust the camera to get the desired shot.
In the case of this photo, I already knew in advance that I wanted to capture the ambiance of the lantern merchant’s environment, as well as how we interacted with it. I wanted to capture “the essence of the deal” – that moment we struck a bargain.
Given it was night, but we had lots of ambient light from the lanterns around the subject, I opted not to use flash lighting. I seldom use flash – I always prefer natural light to really give atmosphere. Flash lighting is for products and models, in my opinion.
When shooting in low light, the first negotiation is always ISO sensitivity. The higher the sensitivity (for example above ISO 800 or 1600) the more light you can capture, but the more grainy (or “noisy”) the photos get. In the event photos are really grainy because they are shot at a high ISO and under low light conditions, I prefer to convert those exposures to black and white instead of colour to give them that “grainy old newspaper” look. Black and white always looks good with high grain.
The second negotiation was which lens to use. I opted to mount a super wide angle lens (11-16mm) with a fast aperture (f/2.8 – ideal for low light). This gave me a big canvas, perfect to frame what I wanted to achieve.
Lastly, I used a shutter speed that was not too fast, but not too slow. This allowed a little bit of motion blur, and as you can see, the blurred effect of two moving hands coming toward each other really accentuates the merchant’s smile at having closed a deal.
Some people love the thrill of a haggle, the high of deal making. Some people don’t.
In photography if you don’t like the art of negotiation, stick to point and shoot cameras and simply pressing a button to get your shots. However, if you do get a thrill out of negotiation, know that every photo you take is the outcome of millions of little negotiations to get you to that perfect frame. And never stop haggling with yourself!
Here are some of my other shots from my Vietnam collection:
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