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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.
Chris Orwig: There comes a point in almost every photo shoot where you kind of want to turn a corner. You want to make something happen. It's game time, want to turn up the heat. And I wanted to try to create an expression that said something. And then what I want you to do at this one is kind of confront the camera, and I don't know what that means, but like an expression like that says something.
And it was my attempt to try to give some open-ended direction. He could interpret that a number of different ways. When I thought it was so great is he said, okay, I'm going to confront the camera, but I don't want to try too hard. Okay, let's see some more of that. Jared Mason: I don't want to try too hard. Chris Orwig: Yeah, yeah. Jared Mason: But I mean I could ham it up whatever. Chris Orwig: Yeah, hamming's good. Jared Mason: Is it? Chris Orwig: It is good! Jared Mason: What I mainly think of is this yoga position.
Chris Orwig: Yeah, let's try that. He was teaching me something and I can then use that the next time I'm photographing someone, when I'm giving directions, saying hey, let's do this or that, whatever it is. Confront the camera but don't try too hard. Let's keep it authentic. Now when I heard that, I wasn't very excited photographically. I did not have this vision of photographing a guy doing yoga on the Brooklyn Bridge, wearing non-yoga clothes. It just didn't fit my mind, but I loved the idea. Because here he was offering up something that he does naturally. He was offering up to stretch, to change it up, to mix it up a little bit.
If ever in your photo-shoots you can get your subject just to do a nice good big stretch, it's going to lead to other types of photographs. Maybe it's like saying, hey, let's go and grab these cables and model the movement, that way your camera isn't so focused on the subject, let the camera drop for a second, hold it on your shoulders, set it down, and then go over there and say, hey, let's try this, this could be interesting. Look away and then have the subject do that same movement. It will relax him, make the movement more fluid, let go of some of that tension.
And you know what it does is it does something for your subject but it also does something for you, because as a photographer we also carry tension and the tension that we have in us is often reflected in our subject. So if we can loosen up, stretch it out a bit, go do something. Holding these cables and then have someone else do it becomes more of a collaboration. Everyone's a little bit more at ease. And then beyond that if the subject ever offers more movement, they said, "okay, let's do this" and then they'd start doing something else, you go with it! You follow it, you follow their lead. Because often that will lead to creating better and more authentic photographs.
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