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Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Morning at the Museum

One of the primary differences I find between location and studio photography is the pace. Location photography is fast. Despite this, the client often gets the impression that it is slower than studio photography. Here’s the difference. I get a call for a studio shoot. A little bit of pre-planning goes on and I get an idea of what’s required for the shoot. A lot of the in-studio prep happens before the client even arrives at the studio. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if that happened for location photography! 

The reality is that the setup for a shot usually takes considerably longer than for the shoot itself. The photographer arrives, has to quickly figure out a location in a site she or he might never have seen before, then has to setup lights, get the exposure right and only then start in on the actual ‘shoot’ portion with the client. This is why it seems so much slower to the client. Meanwhile the photographer is in restaurant parlance, ‘spinning’.  

Last week I had a quick shoot at the Natural History Museum in Durban. I needed to get some profile shots for the museum’s magazine, ‘Thola’, which will be coming out in August (I think). The brief was to create some images that were more interesting than the straight head and shoulder against a white background that the magazine usually has. Setup time really was the hardest factor here. For the image of the museum’s ornithologist, we needed to move a number of the collections’ drawers of birds into a hallway on the other side of an outdoor quadrangle. It’s surprising how long it takes to actually do this. Total prep time ended up being close on an hour and a half, if not longer. Total shoot time, ten minutes. Thankfully in all of the different shoots the sitters were extremely patient, particularly as they were often intimately involved in setting up the shot (it was their collections after all).
For the shots of the museum current director the setup time was a little quicker. It was very much a rush into the museum. Spot a likely ‘scene’, set the lights up as quickly as possible (a single hot-shoe strobe in an umbrella held to the correct height and angle by another museum researcher corralled as a photographer’s assistant for the morning, and triggered wirelessy by a Sb-800 set to commander mode).

Location photography  is fun. It’s stressful, but it’s fun. You are forced to think on your feet and be creative in an unfamiliar situation. For some people this is a nightmare, for others it’s the excitement of being a photographer.

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