“The Shot”

Jack Parker of The David Crowder*Band – Photo by me, Brad Moore

“The Shot”

It’s something we photographers all hope for. The thing we strive to achieve every time we pick up the camera. The one image that could possibly define who we are as a photographer, and maybe even our careers.

But if we’re successful in our quest, what then?

The image above was shot during one of my first “real” concert photography experiences, last November (you can read about it right here). It’s during a pretty epic part of one of their songs, so I was already pumped before I shot it, then even more so when I saw how great it turned out in my edit later.

Since then, it’s become my signature image. Have I shot anything worthwhile since then? I think so. Have I shot anything to top it? That’s debatable… But I’ll keep trying.

My friend and co-worker RC Concepcion is also a photographer. If you follow him and his work, you’ve most likely seen his “Mommy and Me” photo of his daughter Sabine looking up at her ballerina momma, Jenn.

Mommy and Me Ballet

It’s a great shot, one that any portrait photographer would love to have in their portfolio.  He loves it, his wife loves it, and everyone he’s shown it to loves it. But he’ll tell you, every time he looks through his portfolio, he wonders if he’ll ever get a better shot, or is this as good as he gets?

So, is having “The Shot” a good or bad thing? A blessing or a curse?

I asked Jeremy Cowart to share his thoughts on the subject…

“I personally think it’s far more of a blessing than a curse. At least you can say you’ve taken some good images you feel confident in. It’s much better than having nothing to show for. Also, I love the challenge of this idea. They say ‘you’re only as good as your last shoot’ and the pressure of that idea to constantly improve is massive and haunting and hangs over our heads like a boulder as we keep climbing higher. But I love that pressure of figuring out how to climb over that boulder. It extends beyond getting a better ‘shot’ for me. It extends into pushing my overall brand, coming up with new ideas, new ways to shoot, new ways to compete. Come to think of it, this ‘pressure’ you speak of is the defining element of my career that makes me a better photographer. And for that I’m grateful.”

What do you think? Do you have a “Shot” of your own? Sound off in the comments!

  1. Brad, one of the greatest things I like about photography is when you are doing a shoot or maybe just playing around and you click the shutter and…wow…you know that shot is a keeper. it doesn’t happen a lot for me but when it does I know it! Thats what keeps me coming back for more. It is a great feeling.

    Your concert photos on your site are awesome! I didn’t see them until the dtown episode last week. You guys need to put one big list of everyones websites and blogs (and cell numbers ;) ).

    My favorite shot is my Chevelle photo:


    1. Hey Ken,
      Great shot. I’ve been under the weather for a few days. Getting more and more ready for PhotoshopWorld though.
      See ya there,

  2. I totally agree with it been a blessing though at times it can feel like a curse. Continuing to have to live up and do better than that best shot is really hard. But my hope is that is what pushes us to dream and create.

    1. I agree with you Alan….I’m still waiting for “the shot”….but like others are saying, that’s what keeps us going! And yes, every time I think I got one, I see I could have done so much better….HOWEVER, I can count how many shots I’ve missed…those are many in number!

    2. Agreed! I’m still waiting for the shot as well. Like you when I think I’ve got it … something just isn’t there when I pull it into the editor. But like you said, that’s what keeps us coming back!


  3. It’s a blessing, because you can never predict when you shoot The Shot. You didn’t know before the last one, so it excites me that there’s always an chance to surprise myself. If you always now the outcome before starting the shoot, well that would be a curse to me.

  4. I recently saw the picture “Yankee Boys” hanging in an advertising office. While looking at the picture I thought about how powerful it was and how it probably was the “the shot” for the photographer.

    For me I thought how great is that for that photographer who knows he/she got that one shot that defines their talent as a photographer. I don’t think I’ve achieved the shot yet, but I hope that one day soon I will.

  5. Yes I got one, I did it pretty early after starting with photography and from my actual point of view I would say it was absolute luck that I took it. Here it is:


    (I haven’t uploaded something to this site since 2008, so don’t wonder if you happen to browse throught the other pictures).

    Back then I was really happy that a shot of mine got so much attention, but after a while this can grow a pain in the neck. It feels a little bit odd to say: “Well my best photo ever was about 4 years ago” especially if you just started. (This might be O.K if your are 40 years in the business, but even then you always strive to get better).

    It’s only recently that I would really say I have become better than this shot and I hope I’m getting better still. Here is the link to my flickr account if you want to see for yourself: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14121311@N00/

  6. I think that “the Shot” is a blessing if you take that as a good result of your efforts to become a better photographer. If you take “the Shot” as a final results of what you are, then it is a curse, because it would be very difficult to have another shoot like that one without always trying to improve, learn and try again and again.

  7. I think it’s always a blessing. It’s why everyone of us started shooting. Of course everyone starts with a different idea of what they want “The Shot” to be. I started to get great shots of my son playing soccer and sometimes I shot 200 pictures and only had 1 that I liked. But that one shot is why I went back out to shoot again. As far as RC’s shot , that may be the best picture I have ever seen. It combines 2 of the people he loves most in the world and it pulls at my heart every time I see it. I would be happy to have my photography defined by just such an image!

  8. Brad nice shot. I’ve always wanted to take photos like this at a concert, but I’m prevented because of rules. I have one question are you attaining credentials to shoot these popular musicians? It’s sometimes very hard to bring in a camera, especially a professional looking one into a concert venue. If you are getting credentials , then maybe you could explain your process of whom you are contacting. Keep up the good work.

  9. I love getting THE shot! It’s the one that when you open it in lightroom for the first time you do a double-take and say something to the effect of “Did I take that? Or did Scott or Brad sneak up when I set my camera down for a sec?” As for me I don’t know if I’ve gotten THE shot but I’ve gotten close a lot lately… Maybe it’s coming!

  10. The first thing that popped into my mind as I was reading your post (great post by the way, really thought provoking) was Bruce Springsteen’s song “Glory Days”. It talks about high school being the high point of the person’s life. I’d hate to be that person, because if it’s all downhill from high school, that would be a pretty miserable existence.

    Same goes for “the shot”. I have one that’s my “the shot” at the moment. It’s different from my “the shot” of last year and, hopefully, different from my “the shot” of next year. If we stop striving to outdo what we’ve already done, we’d all be like the guy Springsteen sang about.

    1. Tom,
      I could not have said it better, or maby you have read my mind.
      If we keep striving to better our art and craft the shot will change often.
      The more we work, the more we know, the better it gets.

  11. Getting THE SHOT is the result of everything coming together, subject, skill and yes a bit of luck although I think blessing may be a better word than luck. The thing is, you never know when it will come together that well again however there is the old saw that “chance favors the prepared mind” so we keep on trying.

    RC: That shot of Jenn & Sabine is awesome.

    1. Jason – really nice shot and a great series overall. You really do a fantastic job “lighting the eyes” as Zack Arias likes to say. In fact, some nice shots of Zack as well in that stream.

  12. I think it’s great that everyone has a signature shot. Doesn’t have to be forever, but when you get that rare shot – a shot that’s not staged… it’s the best feeling. Here’s mine, which was during a workshop I was teaching in Chicago. We were walking in the rain, photographing and learning how to look at things differently. Suddenly, this guy appeared, on an empty sidewalk…

  13. I certainly have a picture or two that I love more then others, is this the shot? I’m not sure, I don’t like to think that I’ve gotten the best I can, but I do thnk when you capture the moment and see what you are capable of it certainly drives you to try to do it again. I always want to learn more in the way of technique and sometimes I think this will make all my shots closer to being the shot, but in reality I know that as a guy who shoots primarily sports it’s largely based on luck, I can be in the right place but there are so many variables that I can’t control. Either way I enjoy trying and I always love to sit down after a game and see what I’ve captured on a larger screen. It’s the thrill that keeps me motivated.

  14. “the shot” vs. “the moment”
    I got “the moment” once upon a time, on FILM! Before the miracle of learning Photoshop. I’ll dig around and see if I can improve it.

  15. That DCB shot is great, but I think you’ve only gotten better since then. Im not just blowing smoke either, almost any one of those images in your portfolio I would love to have hanging on my wall.

    As far as getting the”shot” I think that’s like saying you’ve “arrived”. Its good to feel accomplished, but if you feel like any shot is THE shot, you stop trying because you think you’ve done the best you are capable of. And if that’s the case, you SHOULD quit, because that’s as good as it gets.

  16. My shot has not come yet. I have many picks but not one that defines what I see myself as being able to accomplish. I am still looking.

    A different issue is how that shot defines you. Eddie Adams spoke of his image of the General executing the North Vietnam man. He did not think it was his best image. He was haunted by it (as almost everyone who has viewed it). It did so much to so many people. Adams noted that he did not like most of his pictures. Jay Maisel, in Adam’s documentary An Unlikely Weapon, noted that we are all too close to our images, and they are no longer fresh. Everyone else’s images seem better, fresher, because we have not worked on them and agonized over the selection.

    Give time to let your collection breathe. But keep looking. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    Bill Bogle, Jr.

    Walkway over the Hudson Photowalk – world’s longest pedestrian bridge, in a little over two weeks. Come join us!

    Shameless plug.

    1. I agree with you Bill. I’m thinking THE Shot is something that may speak to many and even yourself a bit, but may not be the one you feel is the best in your portfolio in your own mind’s eye or soul. Photography is very personal and something you put your heart and soul into and since we are such individuals bringing different experiences to the table the photo will speak in different ways to different people. If The Shot is one that speaks to the masses that is one thing, but if it is the ambiance that defines you as a photographer, then it really is magic!

      I believe you have to strive to be better and capture the next shot that defines what is in your soul.

  17. Scott, love this post, I am always looking for the “one thing”. I migrate to the thought, “Good shot day”, the blessing\curse drama motif usually yields unhealthy expectations for me.


    My rave of the day is a composite I did about 2 weeks ago (see my link above). I will praise Adobe for the new layer masking, WOW. I like the creative edge adobe affords me without having to buy a bizzilion dollars of 3 party plug ins…..lol. My skills doing my photo work is acceptable to me, but with the “herd” I follow here and elsewhere in the photo world, I hope to keep improving.

    My best
    Ken in KY

  18. If there is ever a day where I get “The Shot” and I feel I will never do better then my goal will be to match it. I know that on a purely selfish level I will need to replicate the feeling that I get from knowing “That was me on my one of my absolute best days”

  19. My favorite shot is always one of my most recent. One of them my even be the shot for me. Like others when I get a great shot, I want to get more. I see it as more of a blessing of positive reinforcement. I did it once; so I can do it again!

  20. Brad,
    ‘The Shot’ is what inspires and motivates. Okay, I got one. Now I’m inspired and motivated to get another. Early in our careers we get ‘the shot’ and wonder how we will ever top it. Eventually we do or we just aren’t trying. I got one early on, a year of shooting before my next one, and then another year before the next. Now I have several signature shots. As the years go by, ‘the shot’ loses its impact on us. We tire of it, yea, it’s still a great shot, but we want something new and better. As great as Ansel Adams was, as many images as he made, he was only know for maybe 6. 6 is more than 1, though.

    Brad, this may be your best, today, and a great one that will last for years. But tomorrow…

  21. I’ve only had my SLR for 4 months, and equipment makes a huge difference in what you can achieve. That being said, I also got some awesome photo’s from my point and shoot. That one shot is different for everyone. What I might consider a great shot there will be those that disagree. I think that’s what makes photography so interesting. What do I like and can I find my niche in a world full of photographer’s and photo’s. What makes me happy. Being a photographer is a very special title. There is something that happens when I look through that window of opportunity. It’s something special and compares to nothing else. That magic can happen at any moment, and usually does when I don’t expect it.

  22. I think you’re more prone to get “the shot” when you shoot celebrities, since those garner the most feedback from others. I find that my version of “the shot” is rarely what others like the most, and that sometimes makes me question my ability to relate my vision to what will be popular. Something tells me that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As far as me only being as good as my last shoot, I find that too add unnecessary pressure. Every shoot is different. Sure, if I lit every shoot with the same lighting in the same studio setup, and all other variables being equal, I should be able to attribute my progress with the most recent shoot, but that’s not the case. I can’t add every technical OR emotional element of photography to every shoot. It’s just not possible. So for me, I look at my book and think that there are great elements in each photo I’ve picked, but I don’t have just one that defines me. Just my thought.

  23. RC’s photo: perfect marriage of concept, composure, and technique.

    While I’m still waiting for “The Shot” (iconic, defining, etc) I do like to think that in the meantime I am producing worthwhile images. As I grow, hopefully the bar I set in my mind is raised as well, and what I felt was “worthwhile” four years ago can’t compare to what I’m currently producing.

    One of my favorites from the last year, more a “moment” than “the shot”:

  24. I got The Shot about twenty years ago using a 50 yr. old 4×5 and Fuji Velvia. I’ve tried to reproduce it with digital but there is only one day of the year it is possible to try and I have yet to succeed. I have been able to improve on the image by scanning the transparency and working on it in PS.

    1. So let’s see it! I’m dying to find out… Times Square new year’s? vernal equinox sunrise over stonehenge? newborn leatherback turtles dragging themselves to water? A memorial ceremony?

  25. Brad – as one who aspires to shoot musicians, I really enjoyed your shot. Concerts can be a really challenging environment to shoot in.

    I don’t know if this would qualify as “The Shot”, but it was my first image that managed to convey some of subtlety of light that was present at the original scene. I credit your old side kick Joe McNally with the suggestion of going inside of a church to shoot. I didn’t even know you could do that.


      1. Thanks Logan. I was pretty nervous shooting in a church. I really didn’t want to disturb or upset someone, but it turned out to be fine.

  26. As the late,great Bob Ross would say : I am constantly committing those “happy accidents”.

    Everytime I stage something my results vary.. but if I go with my gut things just seem to work out more often. Not always.. but seems that when I go home an review my work from a casual shoot I am more often happy with results than when I am trying to force the shoot into a box with expected results.

    My first experience with this was at my first Strobist meetup with some other local Tampa folks. I brought my friend (local poet and musician) with me and did a very very quick setup on a wall that looked interesting.. did a couple quick chimp shots and then took this shot:


    few times have I looked at the back of my LCD and said “DONE!” and meant it. I had the shot and I knew it instantly.

    same here with a setup in my bedroom:


    Luck or skill.. a think a very very solid mixture of both.

  27. It’s great to see all of you chiming in with your thoughts on this topic! Also seeing some really great “Shots” from you all! And thanks for the kind words on my efforts as well :)

  28. I think that “getting that shot” is not a curse…but sort of a benchmark for where you are as a photographer for that moment- at best, it’ll end up on some marketing peices for a while- even get you “known” as the “buzz” follows it around for a bit.
    But if you’re dedicated to the craft, there will be another “shot” that you take- that changes everything- your perception of where you thought you were, something that is an “ahh Haa” moment that you relaize you’ve jsut mastered a whole new level of experience. And maybe , just maybe- if you’re really lucky, the new “shot” will gain you a new audience so that you can remain “relevent”.
    the curse would be to rest on your laurals and not try to better yourself.

  29. Brad,

    Thanks for a great post. DC*B is one of my favorite bands. All of your images from that series are amazing!

    As far as a personal ‘The Shot’ is concerned, it will be tough for me to top this shot of my first son:


    This image means a great deal to me and is my personal all-time favorite. I hope future images I capture can be as meaningful.

    On a professional note, as an agriculture photographer, this is ‘The Shot’ thus far:


    This was the culmination of being there, being prepared, and previsualizing what I wanted out of the final images (and some trial and error). This was one of the first times all of those factors came together successfully.

    Anyway…I’ve got a long way to go and am definitely looking forward to the next ‘One.’

    Thanks for sharing this today!


    1. Allen…that’s a great shot. I’ve never been up that way, but it makes me want to go.

      I do wish your watermark was a bit less conspicuous though. It makes it hard to concentrate on the image.

  30. I have some photos that I think will always be in my portfolio as some of my best. But I don’t even think about having the “one” perfect photo. I have several images I absolutely love for many reasons, reasons that make them unique and incomparable to any other image I have captured. I simply want to create unique images for my clients and myself that they will love. I will always continue to improve as a photographer, but I don’t think I will ever stop loving the images I love today because I shot another image that might look better in my portfolio. It’s like golf…do you quit playing because you shot a hole-in-one, or had 12 birdies in a round? No, you keep playing golf because you love the game. I love photography, and I want to shoot beautiful images because I love seeing them.

  31. I’ve had a few of “the shot,” or so I thought. The more I learn the better my next series of shots comes out and makes me realize that the previous “the shot” might not have been as amazing as I thought. And I think that’s a good thing. The excitement of seeing an image on the LCD and thinking “WOW! That might be IT! I can’t wait to see it on a bigger screen!” keeps me going, keeps me trying new things in an ongoing attempt to get better and one up myself.

    My most recent “the shot”

  32. I have a handful of shots that have developed iconic significance for me over the years or that I’ve considered “the shot”. They range from a TTD session last night to a frame taken from a moving car with a disposable camera. I have a sheet of Kodachrome slides spanning decades that shows some of my strides as a photographer and some 4 megapixel point-and-shoot jpegs that still make me proud. “The Shot” – for me – is impossible to define, because it has an enduring quality that keeps me coming back to the printer and a similarly ephemeral one for the bride, who sees in her wedding reception shots that one magic capture that sums up her entire day.

    I like that “the shot” is elusive, because the promise of the next one is what keeps me trying to make the next one. – Great post, thanks!

  33. I have my own “the shot.” It’s probably the least effort I have ever put into a photograph (which may show to some of you old hands), yet it expresses everything I want to say through my photography. I’ve found it almost impossible to recapture the “vibe” of this particular shot, intensely personal and gritty (at least that’s what I feel). Here it is: http://robeaton.smugmug.com/photos/781266190_Xvq2q-M-4.jpg

    I am learning to avoid trying to duplicate it and instead get myself into the same state of mind, the same level of curiosity, as when I took “the shot.”

  34. Hey Brad,

    Is there any trouble with my previous comment? It’s stuck on ‘Awaiting Moderation’…

    Anyway…thanks again for the great post! DC*B is a great band and your images do them a great service!


    1. Yep, it was in moderation because it had multiple links in it. There were a few others as well, so thanks for asking! Otherwise they may have all been stuck there for a little while :)

      Thanks for the kind words on that shot! I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time, since before they released All I Can Say, so it was an honor to get to shoot that show!

      1. Thanks for fixing it, Brad! :)

        I’ve only been able to see them in concert once…but man, do they put on a good show!

        Again, great shots and a very cool post!

  35. If I ever get my shot, I guess it will be all over..That day I hope will never come. Learning, trying and hoping is the best part of life. So I’ll never give in.

  36. Hi Brad,
    in my opinion, “the shot” (at least for me) is valid only for a rather short period – reasons being the evolution of a photographer (changing skills, possibilities, experience, etc.) and also every photo has several ever changing values – personal value related to the photo, technical quality, uniqueness, difficulty while getting the shot, etc. So basically the idea that I should define myself by one photo, or even summarize my work this way, feels very strange to me, more like being stuck in the past and I would not like that.
    I try to select the one photo representing every event I did ( http://petrklapper.com/ ) and even that is not an easy task, and while there are favorites I still like, there’s always something “better” around the corner. I better be very rich the time this changes ;)

    1. David, great shot, did you set WB to tungsten? I like this technique and then put a cto filter on flash to light subject, works great at twilight.

  37. My shot is the one I first think when I look at the lcd screen…well not bad, lets see what I can do with it. In my world it`s always the opposite, the ones I believe are stunning aren`t really gr8.

    I love both shots! Just stunning photography, the ballerina, first I really thought: This looks a lot like a McNally frame! ;-)

  38. There were some comments stuck in moderation because they had multiple links in them. I just approved them, so they should be showing up soon.

    Thanks again to everyone for sharing such great images!!

  39. It’s been a year since I’ve bought my first DSLR. In this year, I’ve learned a ton and I’d say the majority of what I’ve learned has come from Scott Kelby and he crew. Despite getting into photography a bit late, my goal is to reach the point where I ‘ll be tapped to be a guest blogger on Scot’s blog.

    This is my shot:

    I call it “Christmas Future”

  40. Great discussion here!

    I guess having ‘the shot’ is a good moment to think about what went right in that shot, so you learn from it.

    Was it by luck? Was it because you figured everything out beforehand and all went right?

    Can you reproduce the shot again, if asked by a client? The techniques, the place, the hour, the moment?

    One of the things that defines a successful photographer, in my opinion, is being able to duplicate the shot whenever asked. When we can do that, we are really beyond ‘the shot’ and learned a lot from it.

    PS: someone may say “you can’t duplicate the moment”. I know it’s hard, but shouldn’t all we learn how to direct the subject and get a precise face expression? That’s what the pros do everyday.

    From an aspiring pro,

  41. I love when I get “the shot” and then go on shooting and get “the shot” – I have one that is in storage that was taken in a cove on the Oregon Coast with a tree stump in the picture with the sun on its way down. I used the stump to hide the sun. This was back in Film days, so I did not know the outcome until days later. The stump looked like a deer shadow into the sun. I loved that shot. I have one of old barn and a wagon wheel where the barn and wagon are falling apart.

    I loved this story and reading others comments too.


  42. Great comments and post… the fear that never really goes away, but it should be an honour to have such a photograph in one’s armoury. The best I can do is use it to inspire me, continue to innovate, research, and refine my eye and my photographic practice. We should also consider that luck plays it part.

    As Cartier-Bresson said, “It’s luck that matters. You have to have to stay receptive, that’s all.”


  43. Brad,
    After reading your posting, I would like to address a couple of points. I do preface that this isn’t meant to be a critique, merely some constructive criticism. Firstly, I am not a professional photographer nor would I ever insinuate being one. I am, however, an artist and as such, I would never label one of my own pieces as being “great”, especially in a public forum. I think that judgment is best left to the viewer. I would be more apt to state that I am proud of a certain piece. As for your signature photo, do I think it’s good? Yes, however, I feel that your esteem for it is based on a personal level. You described the moment, the climax of the band’s most popular song and the excitement of the crowd. Those are aspects that the shot doesn’t translate, making it more an interesting silhouette. It would be like taking a picture of my son walking for the first time. Regardless of the quality of the photo – no one could ever share the same excitement and appreciation for that captured moment. It’s simply a kid standing there.

    I believe that a true artist can never be satisfied, regardless of how epic a piece may be or the acclaim it receives. I would assume that your ‘peers’ (as you insinuate them being), whether its Jeremy, RC, or even Scott, would never question “is this as good as I can do,” rather, they would be more likely to look at it, appreciate the work involved, and (at best) reset the bar.

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