How much time does it take to make a photo?
Almost no one asks this kind of question. Much like asking to a painter the same question about a painting.
Mind you, I said “make” a photo, not “take” one.
In this post I’d like to talk about the story of the featured photo to give some informations about the making of it.
First off let’s just mention the technical stuff behind the shot as I don’t think they are too important, besides the shutter speed in this particular case, but people might wonder about them so here you have them. [Camera: Nikon d7000 - lens: 50mm f/1.8 - focal length: 50mm - f/4.5 - iso: 100 - shutter speed: 1/4]
I was in portugal to create a collection of travel and landscape photos. I spent the first 2 days of the trip in Lisbon and I wanted to get some shots featuring something typical of lisbon’s urban environment while having at the same time a bit of moving city life and travel feeling in the shots.
While planning the trip I read about the tram line 28, famous among tourists for being a cheap and easy way to visit Lisbon’s old town city centre and for having a well kept traditional vintage/old design and feeling to it. So before living home this was already on my shooting list.
Around Largos Das Portas do Sol I saw this beautiful facade and begin to wonder around it. Still with my gear in the bag I was trying to visualise the final photo in my mind, thinking about the best point of view and composition.
I like to work a lot with my eyes before anything else, so I move around, get lower or higher and then when I feel I got it I place the tripod below my chin and adjust the camera position to match my eyes viewpoint.
For this shot I quickly felt like a vertical composition was best to emphasise the building’s facade, which was what intrigued me in the first place. At the same time I wanted to anchor the photo to the ground and giving a bit of space to the sidewalk in the lower part of the frame.
By doing it I also gave a clear location and space to the ancient cobblestone road and tram tracks, keeping them inside the lower third of the image.
At this point my tripod and head was all locked down into this framing…but it wasn’t enough, I wanted something typical with tourists and a bit of city life. Even if the building’s facade is typical of Portugal I still wanted to add something more than that such as the tram and ideally some tourists as well.
This is when the wait begins.
But while waiting I knew I had to some tests to do in order to get the right motion blur effete for the “moving city life feeling” I mentioned before. After a while I realised that the tram was not always on time, sometimes I had two trams running one after another and other times not a single tram for a long time. I also noticed that some trams were red and some other were yellow. I wanted to get the yellow one. The red one was too close to the pink/orange facade, so the yellow would have really stood out and grab the viewer attention into the photo.
So I started to figure out what shutter speed would give me that tram’s motion blurred effect just as I wanted it to be on the final photo. I had some ideas about what shutter speed to start with but because each moving thing has it’s own speed it’s always best to test it ahead so that when THE moment to get the photo you’re working on comes you know what do you.
I started with 1/10 of a second but it didn’t produce what I wanted so I played a bit around until I saw that 1/4 was what I pictured in my mind.
Now I needed to wait for the last element of the photo to come in, the tourist, but it had to happen at the same time when the a yellow tram was passing by.
So I kept waiting and waiting for the right moment.
Maybe someone while reading this is thinking, why didn’t I just take 3 different shots, one of the environment, one of the tram in motion and one of the tourist in 3 different moment so that I’d have 3 different photos and then I’d combine them in Photoshop?
Well the answer is that this is not how I like to do things, I like to get everything right in camera and there are several reasons to that:
1- If I would work like this I would need to spend a ton of time in front of the computer to fix or get things as I wanted, and I don’t have this luxury. This is not possible when you have to process and finalise hundreds of photos because otherwise you’ll be stuck with the computer for many weeks and you will not take another photo or make another trip or take on another job for months.
2- In order to do so you must have the same weather throughout the time you’ll be taking this photo…you might be lucky and get all you need before the weather changes, but if not you’ll ended up waiting a long time anyway. so you might as well get all you need in camera.
3- Before photography I use to work in the animation industry and I’ve been trained by talented coworkers and supervisors that in order to make good animation or any type of artwork there’s no shortcuts and that love, patience and hard work is the key.
4- I love photography too much to do this. It means that I not only love the part when I take the photo but I also love to be out there, to test things out, to make mistakes and improve and to wait to get THE right moment and feel it as it happen while I press the button to capture it. I love those moments! I love it!
…I was still waiting…so much so that a man from a bar nearby came to talk to me asking why was I standing there since 2 hours, if I was waiting to photograph a famous person living in that building like a paparazzo or something. It made me laugh.
By that time I captured several photos with the tram in motion and people passing by but I didn’t feel I captured the right photo yet. The people were just walking by, they didn’t communicate to the viewer if they were tourists or locals. So I kept waiting…
…then suddenly I saw this couple coming from the right and at the same time I heard the tram approaching from the left. The couple stopped while looking at that menu placed outside the restaurant (thank God for that!) and this gave time to the tram to pass by.
Having the tourists still while reading the menu was perfect so that the contrast between what’s in motion and what’s not has more emphasis and is more clear.
So to make this photo it took me about 2 hours and a half and I can honestly say that I loved every moment of it! :)
How much time does it take to make a photo?
Lately I’ve some friends asking advices about what camera they should buy and what not.
It reminds me when I had those thoughts myself for the first time.
For me the reality is that is not only about the camera. A good photograph is taken with a lot of things that don’t include the performances of your camera.
Plus it depends about what kind of photography you love to do. If you’ll want to do portrait you might as well invest in a good set of flashes or strobe lights and you might also think about fixing a wall in your home to make a small shooting area out of it.
But let’s say you want to make landscapes and taking a some shots while traveling. Well there I’d say get in a store, try a few camera yourself in your own hand, see what feels nice and what not and then buy one of the cheapest you can find.
If I were you i’d probably buy a Canon 450D or a Nikon D5100 or something on this line. The reason is that you’ll need to invest other money into other things such as a decent lens, a cleaning kit for your camera, a couple of filters (better if Graduate Neutral Density Filters - GND), a tripod and a bag to carry this stuff around.
Then you might want to save some money for the future, for when you’ll see what you really like and then buy something more appropriate to fulfil your needs.
I’m also saying it because most of the stuff I did for the first year of work was done with a cheap DSLR like the one mentioned before, and I still use them for paid jobs, and they works great!
If you know you’ll gonna love being outside and capturing THE moment then you’ll soon feel the need to study photography a bit more with book and courses and you’ll see that there’s a lot of work before taking your gear out of the bag and later on as well when you’ll be managing and finalising your photos at home.
So buy a comfortable un-expensive camera first, get a feel for it and then you’ll see how many other things you will want to get, study and do to improve and you’ll soon realise that saving some money was a good move while understand that the camera is just a box, a tools.
Photo: taken in a cold winter morning in Sheffield Grave’s Park, England, with an un-expensive camera and a kit lens.
'Ndocciata 2013 - Agnone, Molise, Italy.
Being originally from Molise it’s a shame I’ve seen this beautiful event just 2 times in my life. The second and last one was last 24 december 2013 when I went there to photograph it.
Being a photographer is great and for events like this is really the best position to be in because you are right in the centre of the action as I literally was as you can see from this photo.
You can witness the ‘Ndocciata from the sidewalk or if you are lucky from the top of a building but experiencing it on the ground in the middle of the fire path among the people who carries the so called ” ‘Ndocce” is really wonderful.
Arc de Triomphe at dawn.
Being in the middle of the street with your tripod to photograph the car light’s trails running towards your subject is not the safest thing to do but despite that I have to say it was much safer than what it looks like. I had pedestrian stripes and a traffic light behind my back, I was basically attached to it with my tripod just in front of me.
For most of time I was, as always, concerned about getting a good sharp photo. Cars passing by made the ground move a little and that worried me
In the end I realised all the photos were nicely sharp.
The Arc of Triomphe is much bigger than what is seems, I had to extend my tripod to get as high as I could to avoid deformations and be as high as I could.
In january the sunrise from that boulevard is just in front of you and right behind your back you got La Defense with its Grand Arc. Another advantage of photographing this place in winter is that the trees don’t have leafs so the view is clearer, however, Paris is not a place where the sun shines often so there are a lot of cloudy days especially in winter.
Parisian citylife and traffic in early morning.
I just finished to photograph the sun rising behind the Arc de Triomphe when I turned my head and realised that La Defense quarter was just behind me in the far background.
I stayed there a little while before the biker and the woman passed in front of my composition. I wanted to have something else besides the cars and and the tall building in the background to fill the compositions.
Parisian rooftops photographed from the top of the arab institute.