Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm trying really hard not to giggle every time I type wiener

I just this minute finished reading How do you Photograph People? by Leigh Wiener, a professional photographer. I'm sure it's well overdue at the library, but I wanted to take my time with it, to get the most out of it. The book seems to be out of print, but if you can find it, I highly recommend it.

Wiener uses an interesting structure for the book: questions that his celebrity subjects have asked over the years, often accompanied by the very portraits that came from the interchange. Along with some technical tips (like shooting from above helps eliminate double chins -- self-portraits here I come!), he also talks about the psychology a portrait photographer must understand and make use of to get his subjects to relax and reveal parts of themselves they would rather protect. Some quotes that will circle my mind for a long time:

"I never worry about composition, but I am constantly aware of it. There is a difference."


"There are many, many decisive moments, and this brings us to the best reason for taking many pictures: the subject himself. Once rapport has been established and the subject is relaxed, he begins to reveal many portraits of himself. I want as many as I can get.

"There is no such thing as a single best picture of a person."

Carrying on in the same theme, he asserts later,
"Since the beginning of time, there has never been a decisive moment -- or an indecisive moment for that matter... Moments are like minutes and hours, days and weeks: one just follows another.

"It is people who are decisive or indecisive; not the moments in time. As a photographer, you create hte image. You decide when to release the shutter. You, the photographer, are the decisive element in the taking of the a photograph, not some hyped-up moment. Your sensitivity and your understanding of the subject matter, and your point of view, will determine whether your photograph is decisive or not."

This past weekend, my dad turned 65 and I decided to try to document our family, potentially for a belated gift. Wiener's book has definitely changed my approach to portraits -- where before I (mostly unsuccessfully) tried to be an unobtrusive observer with a lightning fast trigger finger, now I try to make the person in front of me comfortable, and not to show my self-consciousness.

My one niece has no shyness with the camera... she was so absorbed in her play, I'm not even sure she noticed me. (This shot was totally unset-up by the way. She chose her outfit -- the tutu was compliments of the Easter Bunny -- and she just started playing with these plastic masks my parents brought home from their recent cruise.)


But my other niece said she hates getting her picture taken, and it showed. Most of the shots I made of her are blurry from camera shake (I ordered a new Nikon 50 mm F1.8 lens yesterday because I can't stand how slow my kit zoom lens is so hopefully that won't happen again), but I did get one sharp shot that I think is not bad.


Here are some other people shots I like from the weekend:




My brother opened another art show this weekend, and it was great to get the chance to go. This is my mom, looking at some of the reading material. I'll post more pics from the gallery later, because I like them, and I think they'll go nicely together.

**It seems my other blog is broken, and Sugar D is in bed with flu, so I can't fix it. So I'm posting here... sorry.


slouching mom said...

love love love the one of your mom -- beautiful.

and i must agree with this:

"There is no such thing as a single best picture of a person."

Kyla said...

That first one is spectacular. I love them all, though, really.

nomotherearth said...

Love the tutu one. You're so going to have to photograph my boys in the fall. Better start thinking of pricing..

Janet said...

Great pictures. I love the way the light is slanting in on the one of your mom.

(wiener makes me giggle too).

Christine said...

those are wonderful pictures. i so wish you were local and then you could take some pictures of my family.

Running on empty

Mimi said...


Mad said...

Whoa! I missed this in the chaos of my work life this week. That shot with the mask is amazing...and boy does it fill me with potential ideas for a photo shoot.