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In the Narrative Portraiture series, photographer and teacher Chris Orwig explores the use of elements such as location and natural light to create images that tell stories about their subjects and produce a strong emotional connection.
In this installment of the series, Chris shows how to incorporate aspects of a location, such as architecture, natural light, and even passersby, to create authentic, story-filled portraits.
The course begins with a photo shoot on the Brooklyn Bridge. Chris emphasizes the importance of directing and collaborating with a subject and of being responsive to changing lighting and location conditions. After the shoot, Chris discusses the preparation that goes into on-location shoots, from choosing camera gear to storyboarding. Next, he reviews the images from the shoot and mentions the post-processing techniques that he employed to make them more effective. The course also includes several assignments aimed at reinforcing the concepts Chris describes.
The course concludes with an on-location family portrait shoot and a look at the special considerations that go into group shots.
All right, are you ready for your final assignment in this installment? Here it goes. At first this assignment will sound simple, easy to accomplish, but wait till you've heard the entirety of it before you decide if this one is going to be easy or difficult. All right, well, for starters, I want you to create a story-filled portrait of some person and then I want you to include a prop in the frame. In other words, let's say you know someone who is a birdwatcher. Rather then just photographing them in the field, photograph that person in the field with binoculars.
Now whenever you introduce a prop into the picture, it's difficult to pull off that photograph so that it doesn't turn out cliche or trite. We've all seen the photograph. The surfer with the surfboard, the basketball player with the basketball. Been there, done that. We've seen those photographs. Somehow use that prop to tell more of the story, not less, but somehow more to draw people in. Now how you do that is completely up to you. I'm not going to give you any instructions beyond a person and a prop, but use the prop in a creative way.
All right, well so far so good that doesn't seem very difficult. Well, here's the next thing that I want you to do. I want you to capture these images of this person using film and a film camera and here's why. Do you remember when Jared Mason was talking about playing the guitar, he said there's a difference between the electric guitar and the acoustic guitar, there's a different voice with these two instruments,> There's something about the acoustic guitar, how it's not connected to machines; it's just that raw authentic sound.
And I think we can create a different voice or different sound with film photographs. One of my friends put it to me this way. It's kind of like writing someone a letter. It's a difference between email or a handwritten note. I think film photographs often have imperfections within their frame, but sometimes they feel more human, and it also does something to us as a photographer. It requires that we slow down, and what I want you to do is to shoot a role of film. Now you maybe thinking, okay, that's a great idea, how I'm going to do this? Well, let me give you a few ideas.
You could pick up a plastic camera say like a Holga, or I guarantee you that you have some friend who has an old film camera, point-and-shoot or SLR whatever, sitting around just gathering dust, ask them if you can borrow it. Or you could always go to a thrift store or worst- case scenario go to your local grocery store or drug store and buy one of those disposable film cameras. Now I want you to shoot with film, because I think you can create a different type of photograph.
I think it also affects how you shoot and especially because I want you to send the film in and have it developed and make prints. I don't want you to do any postproduction work. In other words, no Lightroom, no Aperture, no Photoshop, no, whatever program you use, don't use it. I want you to get the picture right on camera. What happens a lot of times in digital capture is we create images, but we have images that we're creating with the full knowledge that we're going to change or affect those photographs later.
This time I want you to cut off that part of the process. Just focus in on that pure aspect of photography, creating and making photographs, and do so with the film camera. Now this I think is a challenge and I really encourage you to embrace it. Remember I've been talking a lot about Jared, going from understudy to the top guy. If you want to take your photography somewhere else, if you want to get better, one of the ways that I think you can do that is by slowing down, is by writing that handwritten note, is by creating images perhaps that are little bit more simple or poetic or thoughtful.
And many times we can do that by using film. Film can be a great teacher. And then after you've created those photographs, make some prints, and don't keep the prints just for yourself, but make perhaps two sets of them and give one set of those prints to someone else. In digital capture, often we capture photographs. We then share them on blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, on a portfolio site, we email to people, but so rarely do we actually make prints.
I think in some ways the print is the completed photograph. It completes the circle, and by creating a print that hasn't been processed in Photoshop or any of these other programs in any way shape or form, somehow can teach us something about the art and craft of what were trying to do. And again, take this challenge as an opportunity to learn, and then after you've done it, ask yourself, how can I integrate what I've learned in this film context back into the digital world?
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