How I Turned a Lunch Break Into a Productive Photoshoot

How I Turned a Lunch Break Into a Productive Photoshoot

Having time to get out and shoot can always be a challenge no matter how much you love photography. Luckily, a lunch break is almost always free and a great way to sneak in some time you might otherwise never find.

February in western New York can be a difficult time. We have usually been dealing with snow and freezing temperatures for weeks. The feeling of needing to get out is at a yearly high. The sun is long gone by the time you are out of work. This is when I chose to pack a lunch and spend my time taking photos instead.

I work about 30 minutes from Buffalo, so I don't really make many trips there just to take photos. On this day, I knew I would be up in the city for the morning, so I brought my gear just in case. My plan was to shoot Buffalo City Hall and the McKinley Monument. These are both iconic Buffalo landmarks and have been photographed by everyone toting a camera in the 716 area code. Some people skip the obvious and cliché locations, but I enjoy the challenge of making a standout shot. It's kind of like doing a cover song well enough to make it my own, except I can't play anything or sing.

Buffalo City Hall

Since cities can be busy. I don't want to wait for people to move or clone them out of the shot, so I use a neutral density filter and a long exposure to make them disappear. This also gives me the bonus of being able to capture the movement of the clouds.

Bringing a camera up to your eye is a great way to attract attention. After shooting a ton of weddings, I have completely gotten over the fear of people watching me while I shoot. This comes in handy. I used to rush through shots or not take as much time to compose as I should have because I felt eyes on me. Now, I find complete comfort in the art form and almost enjoy the interest.

After grabbing a few test shots and getting my settings, I decided I wanted to be in one of the shots. This is not something I do very often, but jumping in the photo is a great way to add a sense of scale. Also, since I was pretty far away from the camera, the tolerance for movement was pretty high, even for long exposures of 30 seconds or a minute.

McKinley Monument

Taking advantage of this small window of time made me feel very accomplished and refreshed. I easily could have wasted another lunch break eating and scrolling through my phone. Instead, I created new photos and grew a little bit as an artist. If you are hungry to get out and shoot due to a busy schedule without your camera, I highly recommend trying this sometime. Have any of you traded eating for shooting? Let me know in the comments that I'm not alone. 

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Douglas Turney's picture

Nice. So many people complain that there is nothing to shoot or they don't have time. You just took those two excuses away. Getting out there and making yourself find something to shoot helps build one's skills. I think too many people just want to wait for everything to be perfect before they take a photo. I think people are more concerned with the final image and showing other how great they are than they are about the actual act of making a photo.

Kyle Medina's picture

I get so annoyed with don't shoot in mid day sun! All my best B&W come from Mid-Day sun!

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Yes, rules can be silly. Harsh light is great sometimes.

Kyle Medina's picture

You just have to know what you're dealing with and what that light translates to once you get home.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Well said, Douglas. Thanks!

What about turning a photoshoot into a productive lunch break?

jean pierre (pete) guaron's picture

Someone suggested to me a year or so back that you can't find suitable subjects for your photography, near to home. This sounds similar.

I took it as a challenge, and whenever I left the house, I took one of my cameras with me. I've had to learn to be selective - I drowned in photographic opportunities and things got sort of out of hand.

Seems to me you are having a similar experience - hope you enjoy it as much as I have - it's really proven to be quite a stimulus to creativity, in my case!

Michael B. Stuart's picture

There was a small theme on Google+ called #close2home where the rule was all photos had to be from within a mile of your abode. It was fun and is a great way to appreciate things you'd otherwise miss. Thanks for the comment and for reading!

ryan christensen's picture

I did this for about a month this past winter. I couldn’t pack along my dslr, so I used my iPhone and occasionally a Moment lens to make a photo that I could upload to Instagram on a daily basis. None of the photos are particularly brilliant but it scratched an itch and helped me get back into photography.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Nice, ryan christensen. Anything that can get you back into being creative is a plus.

dale clark's picture

Iphone is a fantastic everyday camera.