Consistency and the ability to make the shot on-demand, that’s what. Consider this quote from an article which asks the question, “What makes a photographer when everyone is taking pictures?”.
“If you were there when the Hindenburg caught on fire, and you took a picture of it, that’s a great photograph. But you’re not a great photographer, because you can’t repeat that in everyday things,” he continues. “What a great photographer does is, they are consistently able to make something in a style that’s personal to themselves.”
Been there, done that, have the contact sheets to prove it. For the best (photo) shot I’ve taken, I had time to snap exactly one frame (that’s the image to the right). It was on a medical mission trip to a small town in the coastal jungles of Ecuador, and I was along to document the trip. The lady in the picture was waiting for her turn to see the doctor, and I had to be very circumspect with my photos. I rounded a corner, saw her, saw the light, ducked back around the corner, set my camera for the exposure I wanted and pre-set the focus for the estimated distance from me to her, turned back around the corner, framed the shot, fine-tuned the focus and snapped the shot. If I had taken more than one shot or filled with my camera in front of her, I wouldn’t have gotten the same expression, and it’s wouldn’t have been as strong of a photo.
The whole thing took far, far less time to do than for me to write about it up there. Think there’s a corollary here with personal defense? I do.
I knew my camera (a Nikon FG with an 105mm f2.5 lens), I knew my film (Fujichrome 100), I knew lighting, I knew the rules of composition and, most importantly, I didn’t have to stop and consider what options would be best at the moment the shot presented itself. I knew there was enough light coming in from the left side window to expose her face, I knew there was enough light coming in from the right to separate her out from the background, and I knew there’d be enough light from the window that the picture would be sharp at 1/125 at f.28. Keep in mind this was pre-digital: If you’re not ± one stop exposure on chromes, you’re toast, and so my ISO was 100, period. No cheating by cranking up to ISO12800 with the turn of a wheel, and no chimping, either.
That’s what a civilian defender does. They may have the same gear as a dilletante, they may talk about the same things as a dilettante, but when push comes to shove and they see the shot, they take it, and they take it in confidence.