Ted DeCagna has been shooting construction photography in New York City for 24 years. Recent assignments include the Verrazano bridge renovation, Bronx High Point Tower Museum Restoration and Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building in Brooklyn.
Several basic but valuable tips for young photographers I can give are, 1. Make sure you always have a backup camera with you, as climbing to difficult high spots is hard enough and remember a digital camera is a mini computer that can freeze up or give you technical problems on the shoot. While this is rare it’s a smart idea to at least have an exact duplicate camera body to switch out quickly should your equipment mal function just when you have to perform. Low priced pre-owned backups are available for sale. Its insurance to have a backup camera body should your camera fail one day, just when you need it most.
- Always make sure your camera battery and back up battery are fully charged before a shoot and make sure you have brand new batteries for you flash or strobe for those dark areas and bring a backup set of batteries just in case.
- If you wear glasses it’s a good idea to use a sports safety strap with glasses that can easily get knocked off or fall off down scaffolding stairs essentially destroying or loosing critical vison glasses. 4.I always take a test shot with my camera before leaving the studio to insure it is fully changed and I check my card to make sure its recording what I shoot.
- A sport waist pack with a water bottle is a great little tool so you have water available after a lot of climbing or descending but it frees your hands up to shoot.
- Always use mandatory steal toed boots but if there no soggy mud to step on the job site, low ankle steel toed boots do make it easier to walk up and down scaffolding stairs.
- Always bring a 300 millimeter zoom lens in addition to a critical wide-angle lens for those tight distance areas. A zoom lens works great for those ground level shots needed of demolition work up high such as shooting workings on scaffolding
- Most clients want all areas of new construction identified and labeled when delivering all photos. My simple tip to do this easily and accurately is to have a bunch of index cards or copy paper with you and a sharpie so you can easily write a bold note on the card or paper such as “7th floor East”, then shoot the card before shooting each new section of the building. This will insure your photos are accurately identified before sorting all and delivering to the client. This is especially important when new windows or demolition work can look identical on the south side or the north side.
- Finally, be very careful and don’t rush! While construction shoots can be very exciting they are dangerous job sites! Field assistants showing you what needs to be shot may be in a rush to get to their next assignment but this is not the type of shoot you want to rush through. One mis step can mean a serious injury and a lot of expensive financial loss with down time, so move slowly and don’t be afraid to tell the client you need to move slowly especially on 17 stories of scaffolding stairs, ladder climbing, tight squeeze areas, etc. to avoid any serious injuries.