F8 and Be There

Famous Photography Phrase "F8 and be there"

History, explanation and common uses 


When I was driving Ridlon Kiphart to an LAUPS meeting, we were discussing underwater photography and I mentioned the phrase "F8 and be there". His eyes lit up and he mentioned how underwater photographer David Doubilet used to say that, and he attributed the phrase to David.



I quickly assured him that David was not the originator of the phrase. When we got to the meeting, after Ridlon spoke on the Amazing Seas event, Berkley White gave a talk on wide-angle underwater photography - and he also spouted the phrase "F8 and be there". Wow, three times in one night!


"F8 and be there" is often the answer when a serious photographer is asked "how did you get that shot". It implies that the shot was not technically difficult to get, but getting there and finding the right subject at the right moment was the difficult part. "F8" is meant to suggest a generic camera setting that will give good results in most situations. If you camera is on the default setting of F8, you simply raise the camera and release the shutter.


The history of the phrase "F8 and be there" is traced back to the 1940's. A little research shows that it has originally been attributed to Allen Hopkins, Robert Capa, and Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee. The phrase is commonly used by photojournalists afer coming back the field.


With all the new camera bodies and sensors coming out, people seem to be overly focused on the technical aspects of photography. They sometimes forget that the "be there" part of "F8 and be there" is often the most difficult. To get the photo, you have to leave the house. You have to make the trip. You may have to research your subject, get up early, hike, dive, spend lots of time waiting, and if you are lucky, the chances are you have made your own luck.


f8 and be there

F8 and "be there". The "be there" was the hard part. Taking the photo was easy once I researched locations, traveled to Brazil, found the caiman and slowly moved into position. F8, aperture priority mode, Nikon 80-400mm lens.


underwater photography f8 and be there

My wife took this Rhinopia photo while diving Lembeh strait. Definitely "F8 and be there". She was at the right spot at the right moment. But it was a lot of effort to travel to Lembeh and find the subject. Camera was on auto mode, she simply had to press the shutter, at F8.


new zealand sheep - f8 and be there

Sheep are very hard to photograph, they are very shy and skittish. Getting to this location where I could be around these animals was very difficult, crossing two river streams in our car in New Zealand, and I had to spend a lot of time with them before even having a chance of a shot like this, with the lamb drinking milk. "F8 and be there", and the "be there" part was very hard. F8, aperture priority mode, Nikon 80-400mm lens.


Further Reading

Setting Aperture

Setting Shutter Speed

Dive site research and planning

Researching dive destinations