Week 1: Day 1 – Intro to Photography

Every photographer (i.e. Gordon Parks, pictured above) has their own style and approach to photographing people. Here are just a few very basic tips to get you started:

Be up-front with your subjects
If you decide to shoot a set of portraits as opposed to a set of candids, approach your subjects first, identify who you are, and tell them what you are doing and where your photos are going.

Engage your subjects
Make conversation before, during and after your shoot. Take photos of them not just when they are looking into the camera, but when they are looking away between shots or making their natural facial expressions.

Spend time with your subjects
The more time you spend with your subjects, the more comfortable they become. When you spend time, you build a relationship. When you build a relationship, that relationship shows in the photographs.

Collect a variety of shot types

  • Wide: Includes the subject’s full body and their surroundings
  • Medium: Includes the subject above the knees or waist
  • Tight: Includes the subject, shoulders + up

Wide

Country Store on Dirt Road by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Country Store on Dirt Road by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Medium

Ex-slave with a long memory is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Ex-slave with a long memory by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Tight

Migratory Cotton Picker by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Migratory Cotton Picker by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Consider your angles

  • High: Takes power away from people
  • Low: Gives people power
  • Eye-level: Neither takes power away nor gives power to people

High

Sick Migrant Child by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Sick Migrant Child by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Low

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Grandfather and Grandson at Manzanar Relocation Center by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Eye-Level

Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Mind your backgrounds
Avoid poles, branches, any background elements, etc. that stick out of your subjects’ heads. Reposition yourself so these elements are either to the side of your subjects or out of the frame entirely.

For Fashion’s Sake by http://writingrainbows.blogspot.com/.

Avoid amputating your subjects
Don’t crop your subjects at their joints. Here’s a good cheat sheet for cropping people when frame your photos:

Cropping Guide by https://learn.digitalcameraworld.com/.

Zoom with your feet
When you use your phone (pinch + zoom) or camera lens to zoom in on a photo, the photo loses quality. Always, always, always zoom with your feet when it’s possible.

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