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Portrait and Candid Photography: Photo Workshop Paperback – Oct 8 2007
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From the Back Cover
LEARN TO CAPTURE PERSONALITIES WITH YOUR LENS
Taking great "people pictures" isn't a matter of luck. The secret is in observing your subjects and connecting with them, and then using your camera to its best advantage. Here's how to work with lighting, location, angle, composition, physical characteristics, environment, and a host of other variables, including the unique challenges of photographing babies, group activities, and action. Apply these techniques and watch your subjects come to life; then test your newfound skills by completing the assignments at the end of each chapter and collecting feedback on your work at pwsbooks.com.
- Study your subjects in their natural habitat—observe how they react and interact
Discover simple techniques for improving photos of babies and children
Learn to capture facial expressions
Tell a story with a series of candid photos
Add interest to large-group shots
About the Author
Erin Manning has been fascinated with the people in photographs since she was seven. A professional photographer, she has done commercial, stock, and portrait work and is known for her teaching skill. HGTV and DIY Network viewers know Erin as the host of The Whole Picture.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
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One of the issues that always arises about instructional manuals is how much information is provided to the reader. That in turn depends on the audience. For the beginner there should be no information overload, and that certainly is not a problem here. Most of the chapters concentrate on questions like where to position yourself and what to look for in the subjects. On the other hand I think that any book that introduces more complex subjects should deal with fundamentals related to the subject. For example, the author mentions using not only point and shoot cameras, but also digital single lens reflex cameras, and talks about lens selection for such cameras. If one is going to suggest the book is aimed at such camera owners, one must discuss not just the effect of different focal length lenses, but also, for example, the elements of exposure. Unfortunately there is no discussion of exposure here.
There is also a section of the book devoted to the use of Photoshop Elements, which is software for processing digital images. The discussion here is quite abridged, and while applicable to portraits, no one should think that this is comprehensive instruction.
So at whom is this book aimed? The owner of a point and shoot camera who wants to take better portraits will find this book useful. The owners of digital single lens reflex cameras who want to improve their portrait taking will probably want something more than this book.
The workshop portion of the book is provided by a website to which a photographer may post pictures and where others may comment on such pictures. When I examined the web site I found the place to upload portraits was not yet in service. However, based upon my examination of photos that had been posted relating to other books in this same series, I found not many pictures had been posted and even fewer critiques offered. I would not rely on this site to provide me with much help in my photography.
The author, Erin Manning, is a full-time pro photographer in L.A. who teaches and stars in a photo how-to television series. Erin covers all the nuts and bolts of portrait shooting. What equipment is needed, and how to get by with what you have. But the best information I came away with was how to 'read' light in everyday situations. To understand how light is falling on your subject and the effect it will have. Erin says that If you get your lighting worked out early-on in a session, you're free to pay attention to your subject. I like Erin's philosophy of identifying the key attributes of a person and bringing those qualities out in their photos.
Portrait and Candid Photography is another great 'course-in-a-book from Wiley. It might be a bit basic for the intermediate to advanced user. I give it four out of five.
She points out that a UV filter protects your expensive lens from getting scratched, so a $20 filter may save your $800.
She recommends a few things to be carried always such as a spare battery, lens cloth to clean the lens and prevent hours of post-production work, and colorless powder for the common shiny face.
I liked her discussion of reflectors and diffusers. It actually spurred me to invest in a reflector so I can improve my outdoor photography. It just looks so much better with light from a reflector than from a flash.
She talks about and demonstrates with photos the big-nose affect caused by taking a close-up portrait with a wide angle lens. I've actually used this affect for humor, because it looks so funny.
She explains that a telephoto lens of 60-100mm is flattering because it creates a shallower depth of field, so your subject stands out more. It has the disadvantage of requiring that you stand a distance from your subject however.
She talks about composition, framing, and of course about the rule of thirds. I liked the way she described it though, she suggested you imagine a tic-tac-toe board, and place the subject of interest at one of the intersections. She suggests neutral backgrounds sometimes made with simple things such as blankets.
She had good suggestions about posing your models such as have their weight on their back leg if standing, and to shoot heavier people from the side.
A good rule of thumb if shooting outdoors and needing fill flash is to stand 6-9 feet away from your subject and use your zoom lens. Most on camera flashes emit light for up to 12 feet, then the light falls off.
She suggests using the night setting at parties because it has a slow sync where the flash goes off at the end of the exposure.
Focus on the eyes, because this is what people look at in a portrait. It's okay if the ear is out of focus, but not the eyes.
She has a brief introduction to Photoshop Elements that I thought was quite good, and had some good ideas such as saving a copy of the photo as a layer so you always have the original to go back to.
At the end of the book she has a reference section with website, periodicals and books that she recommends.
There were a few things I didn't like about the book:
* The cheesy exercises at the end of each chapter,
* Repeatedly referring the reader to their website with no introduction to it or explanation, and
* Not once did she give the focal length from which the photo was taken, she gave the focal range of the lens, but not where in that range the photo was shot.
That being said, I think this a good introduction to digital photography for the amateur wanting to improve the quality of his/her portraits and photos in general.
I realize I'm probably the exception to the rule - I know how to use a digital SLR now and I do it professionally everyday, yet I still need a book like this to give me some pointers to improve my shots. I know that the primary audience for this book is the aspiring amateur, but I'm very pleased that it's written in a way that is approachable for photographers of all levels. I'm going to be keeping this book in my collection.
As an aside, soon after I bought this book I started dating a very nice woman who's father is a huge bird photography nut. This book gave me some great gift ideas for him! I tell you, this book is a gold mine!
Well, I married that girl, gave my now father-in-law this book and he loved it. He's expanded his repertoire to include local sports and has gotten his photographs into the local newspapers. I'm not crediting his successful career-after-retirement to this book, but I do think there's a correlation. For my own part, I can honestly say the techniques I've learned from reading Portrait and Candid Photography Photo Workshop have helped me not only keep my job, but expand my responsibilities.
And I notice that there's a revised second edition out now. Well, I'm getting my parents a new point and shoot this Christmas, might as well get them a copy of this book, too! I'm not giving them mine - I need it.
It assumes no previous knowledge of photography, and explains such things as f-stop and how things interact to affect exposure without being overly technical.
Each chapter ends with a "Lesson" or exercise to emphasize the subject of that chapter. And being able to combine the book with the website (Free membership) to upload your lessons for group critique (Sometimes including from the author) is a good way to improve you photo skills.
Note that though this is part of a series of books, there is no sequence in reading them. For that reason, there is a degree of overlap in each book.
That said, you really need to be using a SLR type camera to be able to have the control of the camera that many of the exercises require. A point-and-shoot may not allow it.
But for the serious hobbyist, I would say this book (and series) is worth the money and time.
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