Lello & Irmão bookshop in Porto was voted the third most beautiful bookshop in the world and the beautifully elegant gothic staircase and carved ceilings make it easy to see why.  It's also become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Porto, thanks in part to the story that JK Rowling conceived the idea for Harry Potter whilst passing time in the café there. It's a tiny place and is constantly full of people, indeed you actually have to queue to get in, which makes photographing it quite problematic. 

Before I visited the city I'd done a little bit of research on the place and came across some people saying you weren't allowed to photograph there, others saying you could get there an hour before opening time at 10am and be let in by the cleaning lady to take photographs, and others still saying that photography was no problem.  While all of these may have been true in the past, at present the situation is that the owners have accepted the bookstore is a genuine tourist attraction that people want to take pictures of, and so now after paying an entrance fee and queuing to get through the doors, you are allowed to take as many photos as you like.  It costs 3 euros per person which you get back if you buy a book whilst there, and tickets are available from a kiosk across the street (you'll see the queue).

So once you're in you still have the challenge of taking photos in a very busy shop.  My solution was to go right at the end of the day.  I bought my ticket earlier, and then joined the line to get in about 15 minutes before closing time at 7.30pm.  My plan was to find the composition I liked, and then just ask permission to be one of the last people to leave which would allow me to photograph the shop when it was relatively quiet.  I wanted to focus on the incredible staircase, which really is the heart of the shop, and found my composition at the back of the shop looking down over the railings where I could fit the whole of the sweep of the curving stairs into a wide angle frame.  The stairs were of course constantly covered in people, but by waiting until one of the employees started to move everyone downstairs before closing, and then politely asking if I could go down a few minutes after everyone else had so I could get a clean shot of the stairs, I was able to get the image I wanted. I'd already worked out the composition and exposure, so literally the moment the last foot left the bottom step, I clicked the shutter and fired off three shots to ensure one of them was sharp.  Then I thanked the employee, who no doubt has seen all this a hundred times, and went downstairs.

It's worth noting that for this composition you can't use a tripod and to be honest I'm not sure what the shop's attitude would be to people using one inside.  It's relatively dark, so I had to use a higher ISO and fast aperture to capture a sharp image.

lelo copy.jpg