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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.
Chronologically, this was the last photograph that was made. Yet there's another set of pictures that I want to review here in this movie. Those are the photographs that were captured with that medium format film camera. Whenever you are shooting with film, you create something a little bit different or distinct. So I want to talk about those separately. When you're using a film camera, there's always a bit more anticipation or excitement because you don't know really what you've got. You are out there taking the pictures and you don't know if you've gotten anything good or if you have gotten anything at all.
When I tear open that envelope, this is the first image that I see. Ah! When I see this, I breathe a sigh of relief. I am excited! I like this picture. It's quiet, simple. He's standing on the line. As I've mentioned before, when you're shooting with a film camera, it requires that you slow down, that you stop to pay attention. In a sense, I think of film as a great teacher. It helps me slow down and observe things, observe what I might otherwise have missed.
I wanted to create some photographs on the Brooklyn Bridge where you couldn't really tell when they were captured. Was it yesterday? Was it 20 years ago? You just don't know and the bridge, it looks empty. Another photograph captured on the bridge. This one a little bit more dramatic. Here we are a bit more close to Jared. The cable swooping up to the top of the bridge. He is standing there, hands in pocket right on the line. I love it! There were other photographs to be made as well like this one, that's about juxtaposition.
But you remember the digital version of this image? I captured it with a really shallow depth-of- field, so you couldn't see the bridge at all. Well, I like this version. I like that we have these two characters, shoulder-to-shoulder. We distinctly know that we are on the Brooklyn Bridge. We have these leading lines coming in towards their head. I like the contrast, the mood, the character, the personality. Another photograph. here we are having fun. I included this one in the set because you can see the rebate edge, the film rebate edge there, the word Kodak is backwards. Well, why is that? I flipped the image in postproduction.
There is so much that we can do in postproduction and sometimes as we are working on photographs, we are surprised. We discover something we may have never thought about. Like with this image, I never thought it would look good this particular way, but I love it. I think this works better than the other orientation. And yet another photograph, this one to me is a good image. It's not great. In music perhaps, this is more like an interlude. It's a quiet moment. It's not too complex, not too simple.
The last image though I want to show you is the one that we've seen before. This was that first image in this set, except now treated a little bit differently. No longer is there the rebate edge, and I spent a few minutes on it in Photoshop distressing it, weathering it. You've heard me say this before that one of my goals is to try to create these photographs that are timeless. I want to create images that have depth, that have soul, that have character.
I want to somehow contribute to this larger body of work that already exists. So much photography has taken place in New York and sometimes in photography, we get caught up in thinking you know what, whatever is new is better. But every once in a while, I think it's helpful to step back and to look back historically and ask yourselves within this larger context of the history of photography, what is of value, what is of interest? And I want to create one of those images that felt like it had been around for a while, that felt like it belonged in New York City.
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