A few months ago, I was lucky enough to have one of my favorite TV shows (Dexter) filmed right outside my apartment building. They filmed a scene in the alley of my building, and I was able to watch the whole thing from my porch! If you’re a fan of the show, pay close attention to that scene in the alley of Episode 4 in Season 5–that’s my alley!
Anyway, I watched them film the scene for a few hours and actually learned a couple of things about photography:
#1 – Don’t let failure stop you from trying again
The scene they were filming lasts only a few minutes in the final episode, but they must have re-filmed the scene at least ten times. They had everything under their control (lighting, objects, and controllable subjects), and yet they still needed at least ten tries to get it right. Not because they aren’t professionals–because they are, watch the show, they’re totally awesome 🙂
No, they needed those extra tries to get everything perfect, just as they had imagined the scene to be. They probably learned a few things from some of those failures, and maybe even ran into problems they didn’t anticipate at first.
Each one of those failures got them closer to the final success.
And, that’s the thing to learn here. I know photography can be frustrating at times: you go out and take a ton of photos thinking they’re awesome, and then you get back to your computer later and realize you underexposed all those shots of a hummingbird.
Well, don’t give up.
Sure, maybe you’ll fail on your first attempt, or your second attempt.. Maybe it’ll take you twenty attempts before you finally capture that image you envisioned. But, I guarantee you that for every one of those failures, you’ll learn something new. Every time you fail, you’ll get closer to capturing that image you imagined. Those failures you encounter along the way aren’t there to stop you from reaching the end, they’re only there to determine how strong your vision is. If it’s strong enough, you’ll find a way to create that image.
A failure is only a failure when you fail to learn something from it.
#2 – Pay close attention to every little detail in your composition
Before the crew filmed the scene, they painted this red door another color. The building was also red, so the door really blended in with the rest of the building. Part of the scene was to bust through that door, so they painted it a light brown color so it would contrast more and stand out more from the building. See photo to the right.
I wasn’t there when they painted it, but I did watch them re-paint it red afterwards. It must have taken them at least an hour to paint it again. An hour! That means they probably invested at least two hours in getting that door to contrast better with the building.
That door was visible in the scene for only two or three seconds. Yes, two or three seconds. The crew thought it was so important for that door to contrast better with the building that they spent two full hours to make sure everything looked as good as possible in those two critical seconds of the hour-long episode.
And, I think that’s how passionately we need to approach our images as photographers. Every detail in your image matters. Regardless of how small it is, or how much you think the viewer won’t notice. Every part requires special care and attention.
As nature photographers, we can’t really adjust our scene like the cinematographer or the studio photographer. But, we CAN pay more attention to each element of the scene in front of us, and find the most perfect position for our camera–the position that emphasizes everything we want to emphasize in an image, and that places each object where we want it.
In summary, don’t give up. Keep learning.
And, choose your camera position carefully.
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.
John Munno says
Dear Steve, Thanks for your words of perservance and encouragement. Just what I needed to hear today.
Mike Wood says
This is really good solid photography advice. Watching any show being filmed – or being part of a production like I was a couple times back in the day, is an education in the determination to get it right. And the shows that get it right, like Dexter, or even The Big Bang Theory – comedy takes great timing, are so good because people at the helm take the time. The ones that fail don’t.
Great article. Thanks for sharing. We could all use a reminder now and then about the importance of both detail and patience. My own greatest growth regarding my images came when I began paying more attention to my backgrounds than I did my subject. The extra time and effort is well worth the outcome.
Carole Martinez says
I really enjoy all your articles, they are so informative. You touch on alot of problems that I have, so I can use parts of all.
Steve Berardi says
Thanks, Carole! Glad you’re finding some of my posts helpful 🙂
It was a great article, I have only one complaint, you say that your favorite show was being filmed right outside where you live and you didn’t even attempt to sneak into any of the scenes, you should be ashamed of yourself. Peace bro.