What lengths have you gone to getting the right shot? Prison?

I’m constantly asked what sets a professional photographer apart from the rest of the camera wielding public.

As part of my long winded reply, I often wax lyrical about a memorable story told to me by a photographer friend. Despite having a comical undertone, it encapsulates the efforts, attitude and consistency that photographic professionals instinctively offer – even in their sleep.

Names and details of the have been removed to protect those parties involved… The story reads as follows

“In my early years of career building and learning to succeed in the heady world of advertising photography I was fortunate enough to have a senior photographic position on a team that handled the above-the-line marketing campaign for a well-known European truck manufacturer.

The job meant both photographer and agency work in Europe for many months on end, both in the studio and on location. It was big!

I recall on one particular occasion the brief entailed a cover shot of a ‘soon to be launched’ new truck outside a spectacular façade.

We recced all over northern Europe, finally settling on a location we found around the Amsterdam area which produced favourable results – the World Trade Centre.

Relevant permissions were sought and a deal struck to return early AM the following Sunday when the car park would be empty allowing us the viewpoint required.

An equally young and eager Art Director was teamed with me; his concept was ‘moody and impressive’.

I immediately thought wide angle, low viewpoint and day for night lighting technique.

On the day of the shoot we arrived at 4.30am with plenty of time to spare before the truck arrived. We had favourable weather with the promise of nice sunrise in clear skies behind the building – gorgeous!

However what we found, in an otherwise deserted car park, was a Ford Sierra placed right where the truck needed to be to get the shot.

I freaked! These were pre-photoshop days, we were shooting 10X8 with no prospect of retouch – the car had to go…

The sign in the windscreen was written in Dutch but we reckoned it said words to the effect that it was broken down.

There was only one thing we could do. I set up while he checked out the car. I turned my back for a second to start unpacking the camera & flash and to power up the generator.

I turned round and saw the art director’s bulging veins in his neck as he attempted to push the car backwards out of the way. He had broken the car driver’s window and released the hand brake…! That’s when my adrenalin kicked in! Enthusiastically I joined the criminal fraternity and helped push the car out of the way. We had cleared the remaining broken glass off the floor just as the truck arrived.

The sun rose; I popped a bit of flash off on the front of the truck, underexposed the ambient: Very moody and impressive shot.

Afterwards we put the car back with a note on the windscreen giving the art directors contact number and apology for the broken driver’s window.

The phone rang that afternoon; the owner of the car was in fact an irate doctor who was on call. His window was immediately replaced using the agency’s credit card.

The Agency when told was furious, we got a huge bollocking and the Art Director nearly lost his job. The client however was delighted and the result spoke for itself. The agency continued to work for their client for many years completely oblivious to what happened that morning.”

Of course I’m not condoning the use of wanton vandalism. But between my friend and the Art Director they made a call to get the right shot.

Today photoshop could have moved the car from the view (or retouched the broken window!), but the guys in the story would STILL endeavour to move the car to get the right shot, because that is how much getting the shot that they wanted, meant to them.

As always we would love to hear from you if you have a similar experience of the lengths you went too to get the shot.

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