The first exercise from People Pictures by Chris Orwig is pretty simple. His purpose was to strip away the excess of photography–gear and settings–and go “back to basics”. The exercise was called Pictures in 10 Minutes and there were 5 steps. The following is a paraphrase/summary of them:
Choose a normal or slightly telephoto lens. Choose the f-stop with a shallow DOF like f/2.8 (the lowest my Nikon kit lens can go is 4.8, but my momma’s getting me a 50mm f/1.4 lens soon!) Turn off automatic focus, so that you will have to manually focus the frame.
Select a subject who is an acquaintance, family member, or friend. Choose someone who you think leads a quality life. Ask them if they are willing to participate in a 15 minute portrait shoot.
Choose a location; consider a place where he/she works or lives. Or choose an inviting outdoor location.
Arrive at the location a little early to pick a perfect spot. Be warm and friendly to your subject, express gratitude that he/she is giving you his/her time. Explain to your subject that your goal isn’t to create a stylized photo but to capture something real. Encourage you subject to relax. Keep the shoot simple and natural. Use manual focus, and take things slow. Take 10 photos.
After the shoot, select your favorite photo and create a print of it (I didn’t do that) and ask for feedback from your friends.
On the side of ever exercise, there is a little box labeled “Learning Objectives,” which is kind of cool. There are also Tips and at the bottom there is a little list of “Exercise Details” which basically simplifies those steps so they’re easy to remember on the shoot.
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I chose my sister as the subject for this exercise. I was home for Thanksgiving break (I live away at college) and I think it would be nice to take a few honest and simple photos of her. She’s a beautiful girl. She loves to “cute”-pose, so we had to sort of work our way down to relaxing her body to look simple and unmasked. Therefore, I took a little more photos than 10. It was a nice, bright day, so this setting worked great. I really enjoyed this shoot, it was short and simple. When I first started shooting, I would take like 34274356927865 photos and take FOREVER to finish. I’ve slowly worked my way down to about 100-300 photos a pop, which in my opinion is ideal. I think that this simple shoot really piqued my interest, and I think I may do more of them in the future! Tell me what you think of this portrait of my sister, I believed it was the best one. (I upped the exposure jussst a tad.)
(I have a non-glamorous Nikon D40 with the kit lens it came with. I’m still trying to figure out white balance, so it took me a minute to find the right setting. If you have any tips, or a good link that can help me understand how white balance works, that would be glorious! I’ll make sure to include you in an “Teaching Myself by Teaching You” post.)
Yesterday, I was sitting in B&N for what felt like hours digging through digital photography books, trying to absorb as much information about manual settings, f-stops and the like as I could. I even got in a cool conversation with another guy who needed some help with macro shooting (and I actually helped him!). When I spend time at B&N, I usually pick up 5 or more books on the same subject so I can compare and contrast their awesomeness. And this book won. People Pictures: 30 Exercises for Creating Authentic Photographs by Chris Orwig. This book contrasted greatly from the other textbook-like books I had in my pile. Instead of the usual objective approach, Chris uses one that is meant to touch the heart, to humble us as photographers, and to help us use our photography to enrich our souls and the souls of others.
This book is, as you may have realized by the title, a book of exercises that are meant to help photographers take great “people pictures”. Chris Orwig’s main focus is honesty, creating photos that capture the truth about a person. He writes this book in a humble and realistic style, far from that of your usual photography instruction books. I have the impression that he wants his readers to not only grow as photographers, but as people, and I really appreciate that.
There are five main sections of the book:
” Section I – The Foundation begins with discussing the thoughs, ideas, and concepts that develop the groundwork and set the stage of your photography practice.
Section II- Tell as Story focuses on how we can create pictures that have substance and are filled with a narrative arc.
Section III- Connect explores the importance of makin ga personal connection with the subject of your frame.
Section IV- Practice Makes Perfect is where you will put your shoulders to the grindstone to hone your skills and try out a variety of formats and techniques.
Section V – Making it Your Own provides you with an opportunity to develop your photographic voice by working on more challenging and rewarding projects. “
I’m excited about starting this book, I do the first exercise, Three Chords and The Truth, today with my sister. It’s a pretty simple exercise that is meant to go back to basics and use as little gear as possible. He puts a lot of emphasis on simplicity, which is probably another reason I’m really excited about this book–the other photography books were overwhelming.
So, I am going to try to blog about every exercise I finish as I go. Keep me accountable! I’ll let you know how the first exercise went soon!