Going through my files, I found one of the first photos I had taken of a drop, in March of 2008. I started thinking about the changes I've made since then, and how different my photos are now. For one, my equipment has changed. I went from one on-camera flash to FOUR off camera flashes. I am on my third drop system now, an electronic timing device. Although it's not foolproof or simple by any means, I do get more consistent results with it. I changed backgrounds, added gels, upgraded my camera, and I shoot In RAW format now, instead of JPEG.
I also changed location: from a tiny bathroom (no window, so I could get the dark room that I needed), to a full size room with room darkening shades, chair, desk, supplies, and various lights. I work in total darkness when the camera shutter is open. One thing that has been consistent is the wonderful help of my significant other. When I get stuck or I can't get the results I'm looking for, there are many times I peek my head around the door with the same words "can you help me figure something out??" Two heads are better than one! He has a more engineering approach to my creative approach.
When people say, "how long did it take to get that photo?" Well, I started taking photography very seriously, around 2006. Before then I took pictures, but mostly of just family, vacations, personal events, etc. The long answer would be: "it took me $10k in equipment, numerous college and professional classes, six years of consistently taking photographs on a daily or weekly basis, being away from family and friends, getting up before dawn to get that shot when I would much rather be sleeping in, and basically living/breathing/thinking about photography eight days a week. That's all that led up to that shot".
Die hard photographers are a funny bunch, we take it quite seriously and put a lot of work into it. We "collect glass" (buy lenses) and can discuss at length the merits of which lenses to buy. We're up to date on what new cameras are coming out and lamenting that now ours seems "obsolete" now. When one of us says "I'm going to take a picture over there" we know that they don't mean just ONE picture. We are much more comfortable BEHIND the camera, than in front of it! I belong to four photography groups, and I'm the assistant Organizer of two of those. We get together for monthly meetings to talk about photography, and we go out on many photography outings to take photos. Now everyone in the group knows that if you get down on the ground or in a precarious position to get THE photo, that SOMEONE in the group will be taking a photo of you, to post on the internet later!! No one in the group even blinks an eye when we say that we've taken over 100, or even 300 or 500 photos at an event. Because they have too. We go shooting in the rain, cold and even ice sometimes. Our Christmas lists are things that fit in our camera bags, not stockings. And sometimes it's even a new camera bag itself!
Now when people ask "how long did it take to get that photo?" I just smile and say, "do you want the short version or the long version?"