There is a definite gulf between:
1) Imagining an image in your head, working out how to set it up, grabbing all the tools and people that you need to create this mental picture and shooting
2) Actually finding a wonderful picture out there in the world, be it a person, place or scene.
I actually enjoy both kinds of photography and find both as tricky as each other. With regards to point (2), I don’t tend to take many pictures of landscapes fixed outdoor settings unless something wonderful has happened to turn the scene into something beyond it’s own every day beauty. The reason for this is because I feel I haven’t added anything by taken a landscape – it’s not my photo: it’s the world’s photo; unless I’ve spotted some special way of seeing something, or happen to be there in a moment of time where something has to be captured, I guess no pleasure from it.
Now, point (1): most difficult indeed; but in a completely different way. While the difficulty taking a photograph ‘in the moment’ (2) requires either lucky timing or being able to spot something that no one else has; the tricky element or taking a photo you visualised in your own head comes from actually being able to construct it in reality. I find that the problem with mental imagery is that it doesn’t play fair. Everything comes together in a kind of abstract haze and when you try and tangibly realise these ideas, the pieces don’t fit how you imagine they would.
Of course, the answer to this is to practise and never stop taking photos. Over time, the instincts gained from experience will begin to kick in and you’ll remember little things you learned about how to make certain things work the way you want to. Similarly for (2) type photography, one can gain an artistic appreciation for their surroundings and find those one-in-a-million shots that are so elusive to the everyday pedestrian.
Which of the (1) or (2) type photographs is the better? I think they both work excellently, though type (2) photography is often lesser appreciated by someone expecting something amazing to leap out from the glossy page at them.
At present I am still struggling with ‘shot execution’ in many times, though I am lucky to have such patient people to model for me. Happy times.