In many kinds of photography, “curbing your enthusiasm” means not becoming so involved with your subject that it interferes with what you’re trying to document. There is a detachment that needs to be learned and honed over time.
I am a very excitable person, especially when it comes to photography. I love excitement for excitement’s sake. Early on, this raw zest for life was somewhat of a liability for me. A few times I lost shots because I got caught up in the moment of what I was (supposed to be) capturing. Curbing my enthusiasm was a lesson well, and thankfully quickly, learned.
You’re not there as a fan.
You’re not an event participant.
It’s not at all about you.
For a while I had to repeat these above three lines to myself as I worked assignments for the NBA. What’s happening on the court is not for you to “enjoy” (at least not like a fan). The celebrity you’re assigned to photograph is working and so are you, except no one is asking for your autograph. Every photo you’ll ever see of an athlete roaring in victory or celebrating a play was taken by a photographer who was calm, cool and collected regardless of his or her opinion of what just occurred.
For those who are not seasoned professionals, but perhaps “just” the proud relative of an athlete, time and repetition will help you get used to “taking yourself out of the moment.” In the meantime, what can you do to speed along the learning process? It largely depends on you and how badly you want to capture the photo. Let’s assume you’re really really dedicated to taking good photos.
1. Try telling yourself you’re on “tape delay.” When you’re watching sports on TV or listening on the radio “live” it isn’t really “live.” That is to say, there is some kind of delay between the real-time action and when it arrives into whatever device you’re dialed into. One way I used to deal with on the field/court excitement was to remind myself I that could celebrate later. It does require some discipline, but it’s far better than trying to coldly turn off all emotions. Anybody you’d want to celebrate with will still be there when you’re done doing your job, and maybe you’ll be able to relive the moment through your awesome captures.
2. Keep the camera to your face. It may seem strange but you already have it there, so leave it there. There’s pretty much zero chance you’ll take a good (or any) photo with the camera by your hip or swinging it around by the strap in some kind of bizarre photographer touchdown dance. Keep your eye in the viewfinder (please tell me you’re using the viewfinder). If you don’t, you’re apt miss some terrific reactions.
3. Practice. Yes it’s always about practice. In this case, try photographing a team your loved one is not on. Documenting an exciting play without a rooting interest may be just what you need to help you get into the swing of things. The more you do it, the better you’ll be at it.
It’s tough to learn the hard way. Worst case scenario, you’ll see other photographers’ shots of what you missed. I guess it would really be worse seeing photos of yourself being escorted off the field by security after high-fiving the players, but I digress. Regardless, if you’re serious about taking [fill in the blank] photos then don’t get caught up in the excitement. Stay with the action and (sometimes just as important) the reaction.