Thursday, January 29, 2009

So ...where to from here ... ?

According to our gorgeous groupies, it is time to take stock: assess how we measure up; plan where to go to from here. Let's start from Tip 9 where the project is divied up:

Step 1: Snapshots. (1 - 19 portraits)
Get used to talking with strangers and showing them the camera. Don't mind how the pictures turn out. Try to build up a routine in approaching the strangers. Don't be too picky about the people you ask.
Tip #1:
Consider the assignment as a learning process. In the beginning it's more important to learn to ask for permission to take pictures than to take excellent photos. Don't give up if your first shots aren't instant classics. For the first ten shots or so, it's all about the contact and none about the picture. Switch your SLR to autoexposure and autofocus or use a simple point and shoot. Concentrate on the essential: the people.
Tip #2:
Shoot several pictures of strangers during the same day, but limit it to 5-6 max. Taking a series of pictures during the same walk helps you to build up your routine in approaching people but too many contacts with strangers in a row can get you exhausted.
Tip #3:
Always approach your subject from a direction where he/she can see you approaching. Sneaking on people makes a bad first impression.
Tip #4:
Print yourself a set of cards with at least your name, email and the address to your photos on the net. They come handy when explaining your project to your subjects and when telling them where they can see the photo. They make you look more professional as well and help you promote your project to friends and family.
Tip #5:
Be brave. When you see a person you'd like to capture, don't hesitate, but go to him/her/them and start a conversation right away. Hesitating too long makes starting a conversation feel unnatural. (This is known as the 3 second rule in seduction manuals)
Tip #6:
Prepare yourself before starting to shoot the assignment. Think about what you're going to say when asking for a photo - what's your pick up line that catches the interest of your subject and makes him/her feel she/he can can let you take a photo without the risk of betting the picture published in a porn website? Develop a routine so you know what you're going to say - it keeps your mind from going blank if you feel tense in social situations. Practice in front of a mirror, if you feel really uncertain.
Tip #7:
Like them to make them like you. Be relaxed to get them relaxed. Be sure that your not abusing them, to keep them from suspecting your just ripping them off. Things are fairly simple, really.
Tip #8:
If your subjects seem to be uneasy in front of the camera, you can train them on location: shoot a lot of frames to help them getting used to the sound of the shutter. You can shoot from the hip and fool around, just keep shooting and talking. Eventually (after 50-100 shots) most people relax as they notice there's nothing to be worried about.
Tip #9:
Make a studying plan for the assignment. There are a lot of things to learn and it's good to concentrate on one thing at a time.
Step 2: Headshots (20 - 39 portrait)
Take tightly framed headshots, because they are compotionwise easy. All you have to do is to get your subject relax. Concentrate on this for the next 20 shots. Learn to talk with strangers while taking photos, try different tricks to make them feel more comfortable. Don't be too picky on whom to photograph, it's not the time yet.

Step 3: Portraits (40 - 59 portraits)
Waist up. Start to pay attention to surroundings. Now start to work on harder compositions. Try to find interesting locations to take photos. You've learned to approach them, how to get them relaxed - now try if you can keep up being social AND paying attention to composing an image at the same time.

Step 4: Composition (60 - 100 portrait)
That's it, you're free to try out new ideas for the last 40 shots. You've built your routine, now start developing on it. Try to talk people into strange poses. Get picky, choose only really interesting people and places to shoot. The sky is the limit. Remember you can always go back to Steps 1, 2 or 3 to do a little bit of repetition to touch up your basic skills.
Tip #10:
A good way to get a nice photo is to find an interesting place/background/setting first and then wait for somebody to walk by and ask him/her to be your model. You can use this in your pick-up line as well: "I've found a perfect place, and now I need you to help me. Would you pose for me, please?"

The obvious thing: we are not exactly sticking to this recipe. Sooo ... no issue from me. This is a free'n'easy forum. Let's not pat each other on the back: we're Strayians!

Where do you think we should go from here? What are we each avoiding? It's achilles-heel time. Everyone - Joan, Letty, Cara, Peter, Ann and Smee: whadyaregon? Three totally different hooman-beans who are chuffed with their own, and each others' progress. We have no interest in being carbon-copies of each other, but we do want to continue the growth that this project is bringing forth.

Your constructive thoughts would be so very appreciated.


bitingmidge said...

Should've read this before I responded to your post above!

We are all fairly experienced snapshooters, which is why we've all strayed from those guidelines a bit. We're used to the quick "line 'em up and snap before they see us" and I think that's been the second biggest issue for us collectively, once we're over the asking bit, it's slowing it all down and taking time over the process.

I don't mind that we've combined bits of the first three steps, none of us are expecting to walk before we crawl and we are quite objective about our results.

Often we'll stumble, but the nice thing is we still post those times too, because all of us benefit from thinking about those stumbles. I have been surprised, maybe even amazed by the progress I think we've all made in only twenty shots, but I suspect that we've all progressed to where we were before we started! Now we need to go forward!

I continue to develop my thoughts and techniques by pulling pictures that you both produce apart. Mine are composed instinctively and I'm concentrating on getting things exposed correctly and in focus for now and keeping the sweat in my hands down to a dull roar, but to set out to compose a shot like your "In the zone"(with shoes) and Ann's "Vicky" and pull it off consistently would be a good thing.

As I have said above if I can get to the point where I can portray the person I saw rather than the one that turned up in the shot, I'd be more than satisfied. I'm not sure if that can be done it only a hundred strangers, but I'll give it a go!

If you think about it, it's like having a hundred college assignments!

Julie said...

Remember that old quip: We haven't had 25 years of television, we've had one year of television 25 times!

bitingmidge said...

Yess...... but I don't think we need worry about that till we're past phase three! ;-)

There's always a risk of falling into a comfortable pattern though. Doing this as a team will make that more difficult I suspect!

"Yawn!! That's your thirteenth perfectly framed background with an interesting person in it Peter!

21 shots, almost half of them of girls! ;-)

Ann said...

I think I'm trying to find a "style" that I feel comfortable with and can take well. I find close ups easy (with the SLR anyway) and really want to try and get back to context shots. Trouble is I can't do these well with the p&s, although I have gone back to the p&s this week to keep my confidence up. I'm really noticing the difference. I just can't get what I want.

Julie said...

Ahh yes ... I had forgotten the mix of subjects. When you were 20% female, I checked mine to find I was only 33% female. So deliberately tried to oomph that up a bit in addition to getting images of more than one subject. That is the next couple of posts.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I am glad you rushed through the 3 stages. I think 20 headshots would be rather boring, unless the people are real characters (as some of yours have been). I like the ones that have context so they say something interesting without reading the story. However getting the context right seems to be the challenging bit for all of you ... to fuzzy, not fuzzy enough, too busy, distracting bits etc.

Perhaps the challenge for the next 20 is to work on the context. Further down the track is really finding your own style.

Oh yes, and I can tell you have all got over the fear of approaching strangers. That's wonderful.