Boot Camp II: First Assignment

UPDATE: DEADLINE REMINDER -- This assignment is due at the end of the day, your local time, on June 23rd.

There is an old saying: The cobbler's kids have no shoes.

The translation of which, for us, is that many photographers do not have a recent headshot of themselves.

Your first assignment will allow you to rectify that situation, and perhaps lend a helping hand to someone who may recently have been affected by current economic situation.

Done correctly, this assignment will yield both a model for you, and a photographer for your own headshot.

The first Boot Camp II assignment is set against the backdrop of a national unemployment level in the U.S. that is hovering at 9.4%. Which is to say that you almost certainly know someone who is out of work. And many other areas (including localized pockets in the U.S.) have even higher unemployment rates.

So, rather than photographing your hand-painted Dungeons and Dragons figurines in your late-night living room studio yet again, we are going to put you to some good use for a change. People who recently have lost their jobs are likely working overtime on social networking, resumés, etc. And a nice headshot can be a very helpful thing for them.

To be clear, you can choose anyone you want to photograph, and any person will be a valid subject for the assignment. But if you are going to be making a headshot anyway, why not point that effort somewhere it can do some good? And as a bonus, you'll have someone you can swap places with so they can take a nice headshot of you. (Just show them how to grab focus on your nearest eye, recompose and shoot.)

If you are a total newb and don't know where to start, might I recommend the L101 Corner Headshot tutorial? You can almost certainly do better than that, but it will get you off on the right foot.

Coincidentally (not really) we also just finished up a three part series on some different ways to approach the lighting on a headshot. (Here, here and here.) You don't need a lot of gear to do this one -- every shot in this post was done with either one or two flashes. (And no, I am not going to walk you through all of them. It's time for you to do some thinking.)

Make it Appropriate

If you are shooting an out-of-work accountant, do something that is fitting to his or her skill set. Unless, of course, they are using their job loss as an excuse to launch a career in stand-up comedy or something. You would not shoot an actress the same way you would photograph a CFO.

Work to make a portrait that will fit your subject. This is also good practice for creating photos that work within the boundaries of a publication and/or assignment. And far from being a hindrance, you'll find that these kinds of restrictions tend to help you by narrowing down your choices.

A really good headshot will work well either as a small mugshot or as lead art in a double truck. Don't dismiss a headshot just because the subject matter is about the size of a football. Some photographers build entire careers out of tight portraiture.

Of course you will be paying attention to the light. But once you work that out, don't forget to make a photo. Work with your subject to get an expression, a moment, a little extra intensity, a look, some levity -- something.

Adjust to Your Skill Level

Headshots are everywhere. One might serve as booking mugs at your local police station, another might be next month's cover of WIRED magazine. The beauty of this first assignment is that the difficulty level can be adjusted to the photographer.

At the very least, as a newb you'd be looking for a clean, elegant professional-quality headshot. But if you are more advanced, you can pretty much go anywhere with it.

You know where your comfort zone is. Make sure you get the bases covered. But if that is easy stuff for you, try to stretch a little. Headshots are easy to get into and offer endless opportunity for creative growth.

How to Submit Your Assignment

I am serious about the "shoot both ways" aspect. To complete this assignment, you will need to turn in two photos -- the one you shot of them and the one they shot of you. Ideally, you'll combine them in Photoshop or some other imaging program. Just cut and paste them side-by-side.

If you do not have the software to do something like that, put both photos into Flickr, turn in only your photo of the other person, and link to the corresponding photo of you in the caption. (Alternately, you can upload them at the same time so they are right next to each other in your stream if you do not know how to create an html link in the photo's caption.)

Don't go all vampire on us -- you'll need to have both photos to fulfill the assignment. Please do not submit just half of the job.

And for the introverts, this is the only assignment in which you will be required to photograph another actual human being. Screw up your courage and ask someone if you can photograph them for a school assignment.

If they say, "Hell, no!" and beat you up just for asking (after all we are talking about an irrational fear here, right?) then just ask someone else. Maybe someone a little smaller (and not very fit...)

Your assignment is due by the end of the day (your local time) on June 23rd. Don't be late.

How to Tag it

First, upload your assignment to Flickr. Then join the Strobist Group, if you are not already a member. Submit your photo to the group using the "add to group" button just above your photo. Do not wait until the last minute to do this. Flickr apparently has a waiting period before you can submit to groups.

Oh, and since you are adding it to the Flickr Strobist Pool, tell us a little bit about your lighting in the caption. That way, you'll be of help to someone else.

If you need technical help on the Flickr stuff, try this thread. Please read the thread before asking any questions, lest someone reply that "your father smelled of elderberry" (or words to that effect.)

(UPDATE: They have already started in with the general craziness, so you can skip to the more relevant stuff by jumping to this point if you like.)

After you have submitted your assignment, tag it with the following term:


If you are successful, your photos should appear in this search within a few minutes. Please, only submit one entry. For most people this will be two photos, side-by-side, combined into one. As we are hoping to create an inclusive slideshow, please do not tag photos which are not appropriate to this assignment with the SBC2ASSIGN1 tag.

For the same reason, please do not turn in any photos which are NSFW. As we noted yesterday, breaking these rules will get (at least) your photo removed from the Strobist pool, and thus, this assignment. Thanks much.

Please note that your photo must be tagged correctly and in the Strobist group pool to show up in the search.

If you want to ask questions, or otherwise discuss this assignment, you can do so in this thread.

And you can check out some of the other bloggers following along, here.

And the Winner Is ...

One winner will be chosen from qualified entries. That person will receive the following, shipped anywhere:

• One Speedlight Pro Kit (more info)

• One Strobist Lighting Seminar 8-DVD boxed set (more info)

• One set of Strobist Trade Secret Cards (more info)

Winners Never Cheat; Cheaters Never Win

Since there is prize booty involved, we have to keep it fair. I do not wanna see your previously shot headshots popping up as entries. To some extent, the fact that you will also be including a headshot of yourself in similar light will help to keep the bad guys honest. But just to make it even harder to game the system, the following photo will be required from the winning entrant before any prizes are sent anywhere:

Winners will be required to submit, on request, a shot of their subject, taken in the same shoot, holding up one finger. This is for authenticity verification reasons only. So, don't forget to shoot a frame of that while doing your assignment. Just in case you win.

(And let's keep it to the index finger, please...)


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