FREE On-Line Digital Photography Course

"Need I Say More?"

The morning chug into the city is as much part of the average Parisian's daily bread as it is for workers in any big metropolis.

The drawn faces, the nodding sleepwalkers, the nervous phone tappers, the 'personal' music squeakers, the shameless make-up appliers inviting the whole train into their bathrooms... this is what the French call 'métro-boulot-dodo' (tube-work-sleep). The daily grind. The rat-race. Have a look around - you'll probably find some in a train near you.

Key points
Internal Commentary
The ad is actually for a bread of the type my father used to sneeringly call 'cotton wool' but which the producers are apparently flaunting as 'so soft and fluffy (not to mention sickly white) you could use it for a pillow'. At least I assume that's what they're saying, rather than 'we're all tired as hell in the morning'. But the second interpretation is by far the more interesting in the context of this photo.
In reality, we're all tired as hell in the morning. And the irony of these sleepy commuters gazing out at someone who seems to feel exactly the same as they do is rather delicious.
But the true strength of this sort of image is that an independent element seems to be commenting on another element in the same image, without the artificial manipulation of the photographer.
The poster seems to be mocking the grim reality of those blearily gazing out at it, saying 'Hey, look at yourselves, you poor tired rats, you have a nice day now, y'hear?!'
What's good about this is that the photographer removes himself by one degree, allowing the observer to make the connection between the poster and the commuters for themselves. And when they see the connection they obtain greater satisfaction than if someone points it out to them. They feel they have understood and interacted with the image somehow, and only after do they possibly say 'the photographer did well there'.
Another very simple example of this principle would be a sign on a wall saying 'No dumping' and right below it someone has dumped a whole pile of crap.
Personally, I luurrrvvveeee angles, and throw them into many of my shots. So very many pictures are taken from standing eye level, more or less horizontally, that just this simple choice (shooting at an angle) can make your picture immediately different.

A pic like this is generally taken quickly, what with the considerations of the sudden interesting poster, the imminently closing doors and the attempt not to disturb the passengers. But that doesn't mean that any old composition will do. Here passengers left and right frame the doorway, which in turn frames the poster, with an echo of another train in the gap.

Of all the shots I took here (I take a lot of shots quickly when I see something I like) I chose the one with the most extreme angle. Without the dynamic angles created by the edges of the doors and the poster the image, for me, was bordering on ordinary. A wacky angle shouldn't normally be the only creative aspect of a picture, but it can add to the overall effect.

Public Places
I've had various interesting experiences taking photos in public over the years, as you might imagine.
The worst include being mugged and losing expensive equipment. The gentlest are someone politely objecting. And of course there are legal considerations too, such as the right to your own image and the reproduction of copyrighted images and, can you believe it, the Eiffel Tower lights.
My personal approach is to be reasonably careful but not to be obsessed by it. I know that some of my images do show people, but when they do I either try to limit the extent to which they are identifiable, or if they are, make sure they are not doing something they probably wouldn't want made public. It's a question of judgement. I haven't yet had problems, but I imagine one day I will, and I'll deal with it when it happens.

Photo Ideas
  • Subtly have your camera ready to shoot and walk around train stations or just sit on benches as though you are waiting for the train. Look out for posters which contrast nicely with the passengers. Be careful to not make your snapping to obvious if it's people you're after
  • See what you can capture through opening and closing train doors, framed by the odd passenger or two - people getting on and off will have genuine expressions, not thinking they are being caught on film!
  • Keep your eyes open for particularly amazing ads - there are plenty. I remember a great one where there was this skinless cat photographed from behind and I got this guy who was rushing past as though he was scared by the sight of this shameless moggy's hither regions! (It's on the site or the blog somewhere...) Then imagine what sort of person or situation would make a funny or ironic contrast - and capture it.
Then comment on this lesson with a link to your best result - we all want to see them!

  • internal commentary - always be on the lookout for interaction and even commentary between elements in your images. The most effective types are irony and humour, but it's up to you to see something and try to communicate it visually
  • composition - look for natural frames everywhere, be they human or mechanical - here the passengers and the train doors serve this purpose... but make sure you're actually framing something more interesting than the frame itself!!!
  • public places - use your judgement when including people in your pics, and develop techniques such as looking intently at something you seem to be taking a picture of, while really including or even focusing on something quite different... (sneaky!)

~ Comment on this lesson in the Photo Blog ~

This lesson belongs to the following sections...

~ under development ~




Photo Course ~ Contents