Your first assignment is quite simple. Sometimes it's fun to do candid photography, that is walking around and photographing people without them knowing it. The camera changes the way people behave. If they are unaware of the camera you can capture their natural expressions.
Shooting from the Hip
The way to do that is have the camera hanging around your neck but don't put it up to your eye. Instead just point the camera in the direction of the subject as you walk on by, hold the shutter release button halfway down for a second to allow the camera time to focus and get an exposure reading, then snap the picture.
It's a good technique for taking pictures in dangerous places like for example Vancouver's Downtown Eastside or in Third World countries; anywhere where people might get angry if you are taking pictures of their poverty, depravity and so on. In addition to the natural expressions, the low angle and quirky framing will give freshness to the photos. There's a whole ethical question that comes up here: should you be taking pictures of people without their permission? Try it with a large group of friends or family before heading to the slums of Rio.
To do so, use your widest wide-angle and set your camera exposure mode to shutter priority. To obscure the identities of your subjects you can set a slow shutter speed, something like 1/30th, 1/15th, 1/8th and so on. The slower the shutter speed the more motion blur you're going to get. You'll have to read your camera manual to figure out exactly how to set this up. Also set photo quality to the highest setting possible. I usually shoot RAW but it requires some additional processing so stay with JPG for now. Oh boy, it's getting technical already! Then just walk around your neighborhood and if you see interesting people try to take their picture without them knowing it. It works with animals or objects as well. Take lots of photos. It's digital and free! That's your first assignment.
Shooting From the Hip: Allows you to get in close without the subject being aware. This shot, of a site security guard in Osaka, was taken at a slow shutter speed as well to emphasize the bustle of a "ga-doman" going nowhere fast. I exaggerated the motion blur by whipping the camera around to the right as I walked by, dragging the camera viewpoint across the front of the subject while snapping the picture.
Candid Camera: This joker wanted to be paid to for taking a picture of his burro painted up to look like a zebra. Guess who didn't get paid for animal abuse. You can see he's clearly choked by my refusal to pay. The stripes seem to be catching.... That was pure serendipity. This was taken in Tijuana, Mexico with good old fashioned Plus X Pan.
All photographs were taken by Brian Grover.