He's actually being serious. I don't necessarily agree 100%, but his point is valid. It will actually help you to understand the effects of lighting to photograph a single inanimate object in varying lighting conditions. Get anything, really- a pepper, a stuffed animal, an egg (if you're really up for a challenge - shoot an egg in high key lighting, preserving detail in the highlights of the egg against a white background!) and play Flat Stanley with it, at least as far as lighting conditions are concerned. Shoot it high key, shoot it low key, change the relationship between it and your light source by moving it, and then by moving the light source, and then by moving yourself relative to it and the light source. While you're doing all that, pay attention to the background and the subject's relationship with it. The reason for using the inanimate object is that you'll be trying to accurately render the observable physical characteristics of the object instead of trying to capture the emotional response you have to the subject. It's a good exercise - not to get your heart to detach from portrait subjects, but to train your eye to detach so it sees the form and the shape, color and texture without being distracted by the emotive aspect.
Originally Posted by msbarnes