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Chapter 6 Assignments

Photograph 50 strangers

As with anything in life, the best way to get better at photographing people is practice, practice, practice. The best advice I ever received starting out was to photograph portraits of 50 strangers, revealing a bit of their personality. Get a lot of people in front of your lens, strike up a conversation to put them at ease, find out what makes them tick, and set out to capture their personality. That’s pretty much exactly what I do every time I photograph a celebrity for the first time.

Depth of field in portraits

Let’s start with something simple. Grab your favorite person and experiment with using different aperture settings. Shoot wide open (the widest your lens goes, such as f/1.8 or f/2.8) and then really stopped down (like f/22). Look at the difference in the depth of field and how it plays an important role in placing the attention on your subject. At the wide f-stop setting, make sure you don’t have your subject standing against the background; give some distance so that there is a good blurring effect of the background.

Discover the qualities of natural light

Pick a nice sunny day and try shooting some portraits in the midday sun. If your subject is willing, have them turn so the sun is in their face. If they are still speaking to you after blinding them, have them turn their back to the sun. Try this with and without the fill flash so you can see the difference. Finally, move them into a completely shaded spot and take a few more.

Pick the right metering method

Find a very dark or very light background and place your subject in front of it. Now take a couple of shots, giving a lot of space around your subject for the background to show. Now switch metering modes and use the AE Lock feature to get a more accurate reading of your subject. Notice the differences in exposure between the metering methods.

Get creative

Have some fun playing with the different creative styles. Try the Portrait style as compared to the Standard style. Then try out Black & White and play with the different style options to see how they affect skin tones.

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