Creating the Photograph: Chris Gampat’s “Everyone Loves Pizza”

Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach you about how they concepted an image, shot it, and edited it. The series has a heavy emphasis on teaching readers how to light. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com.

My first personal project release in years was a very exciting moment for me. It took a year of planning, a couple of months of execution, lots of pizza boxes, and a ton of refining to ensure that it would garner enough internet hype. I’ve shared a number of my photos here on the Creating the Photograph series but one of the best photos of my recent series “The Secret Order of the Slice” is part of a philosophy that I’ve been trying to teach readers here for a while through the work of accomplished photographers: that genuinely creative ideas and good content are king. Further, that when you find a way to reach out to someone’s emotions through creativity, you tend to find a way to quickly appeal to them and to many others.

And I was right: Pop Photo, UFunk, SomeECards, ShutterBug, Creative Boom, Neatorama, So Bad So Good, and others picked it up. Some of them illegally; but that’s another story.

Here’s the story behind the series and this shot.

The Concept

Chris Gampat The Secret Order of the Slice The Secret of Life is Cheese (1 of 1)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 2.8

I love pizza; I probably eat it once a week. Being a sole full-time employee business owner often doesn’t allow you to cook often so you end up ordering out a lot and expensing it accordingly. Ever since I was younger though, I really loved Pizza and I owe a lot of that to my love of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Funny enough, I’m not alone. And so I wanted to create a series of photos showing the genuine excitement that people get when they open a pizza box but also make it personable to the average person and New Yorker. A lot of us eat while on the go. Head to Times Square and what you’ll find are lots of folks sitting around in the public seating and enjoying meals.

Chris Gampat The Secret Order of the Slice Hail the Queen (1 of 1)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 4.5

Generally, I’ve got more self respect and don’t head to Times Square; but the iconic location just made so much sense. So after asking friends to help me with the project, I explained the idea to my buddy Naveed. He loved the idea; and it ended up turning into one of my favorite photos that I’ve done in a while.

The idea was a play on the briefcase scenes in Pulp Fiction. The video above shows Spongebob in the case as a joke, but the movie is always leaving the viewers wondering what’s in the suitcase.

The Gear

  • Sony a7
  • Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master
  • Godox Thinklite TT685S TTL
  • Rogue Flashbender
  • Pizza box hauled from Brooklyn to Times Square in Manhattan. Yes, I was that millennial in an Uber slinging along a pizza box.

The Shoot

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Creating the Photograph The Secret Order of the Slice (1 of 5)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 4.0

The idea I had was to put Naveed into the scene sitting alone about to enjoy the deliciousness known as pizza. But I’d also have the buildings and chaos of Times Square. Combined with the flash output emanating from the box and the obvious onlookers that I knew would move in and out of the frame, I knew it would make for an image with many elements, layers and loads of fun.

lighting-diagram-1464283363

So I started by asking Naveed to sit, placing the pizza box down and placing the flash inside. The flash was laying down kind of flat but with a slight arch upward. Plus it had a Flashbender on it so it would bounce the light back up into his face. I put the wide angle diffuser onto the flash to make the light really spread and have more of an effect.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Creating the Photograph The Secret Order of the Slice (2 of 5)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 4.0

When explaining the idea to Naveed, I asked him to channel as much excitement as he has when he first opens a fresh pizza box but to actually personify the excitement. Usually, we just bottle it up inside, grab a plate and start eating. But not this time.

For some of the photos, I purposely wanted to show an empty interior to more or less work on capturing the idea of pizza more than anything else.

So I ended up walking around the scene looking for ideas and exact angles that would get it just right for me. I also needed to blend exposures from the flash and the ambient lighting just right. ISO 200, 1/400th and f4 was the name of the game here. Yes, it was done with high speed sync.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Creating the Photograph The Secret Order of the Slice (3 of 5)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 4.0

I continued to move around until I found an angle I really liked for the scene. I constant asked Naveed if he was comfortable continuing considering that I was quite literally blasting him in the face with a flash.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Creating the Photograph The Secret Order of the Slice (4 of 5)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 4.0

So we keep shooting at this one moment, a costumed woman walks by to see what we’re doing. I really liked the image and was honestly about to call it right then and there when I was showing the image to Naveed. But then the woman got her friend in the mask and joined the scene.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Creating the Photograph The Secret Order of the Slice (5 of 5)ISO 2001-400 sec at f - 4.0

This was Naveed’s face on realizing how awesome this was going to be.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Creating the Photograph The Secret Order of the Slice original photo (1 of 1)ISO 2001-400 sec at f - 4.0

And this was the original image that I caught from the camera. We tipped the ladies, thanked them, and they left.

Post-Production

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 1.12.13 PM

Creating the actual photo involved not a lot of actual real hardcore editing. What I was mostly working on was cropping accordingly, getting a camera profile I liked as a base, and specifically working with the color channels to make certain areas more effective. By brighting and saturating some colors, I made them pop out more in the scene. The same idea applies to working with the lights, darks, blacks and whites. It worked out well I think.

For just a bit more pop, I threw the image into MacPhun’s Intensify, toned down the effect a tad and re-exported back into Adobe Lightroom.

Before/After

Original

Original

Final

Final