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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: Because that music -- Jared Mason: Shake... baby shake! Chris Orwig: Yeah, keep going. That one, that's the one they do at the end? Jared Mason: Yeah, they just go shake? baby shake! Chris Orwig: Good music is contagious. You can't help but sing, sing along with it. And one of the things that I liked about photographing Jared on the bridge was in a sense the bridge is a big stage and Jared is a performer of sorts. And if ever you're working with someone, say an athlete, you want to ask them about the sport that they play. If it's an artist ask her about the paintings that she makes.
And by doing that you are in a sense get into the essence of who they are. You are connecting perhaps on a different level. Now, this concept is taught in every introductory photography course. Get closer, get closer, get closer. Many people take this to mean, okay, I need to physically move closer and that's only half the truth. The other half is how do I get closer emotionally, how do I connect with this person as a human being? Well, the shoot progresses, the sun was getting higher and higher, the light more direct and more harsh.
But I didn't get it. I wasn't paying attention to that and it's kind of funny that I missed that moment. I didn't realized until there is Jared blocking the sun from his eyes. I mean, if that isn't a sign, I don't know what is. And finally, I realized okay, you know what, this light is just too direct. Have to do something. We have to do something different. I love how Benjamin West puts it. He says, "Always remember white and shadow never stands still." I had forgotten that. And so I finally got it. You know what, this won't work. Let's change things up. Let's walk to a new location or walk away and let's turnaround.
Have it so the sun is at his back so it's a backlit photograph. Even as the light changes, there are still photographs to be made and part of it is developing that sensitivity to it and even when you make mistakes like I did, saying, okay, well, how can I recover, how can I work with what I have, how can I work within this context of natural and ever-changing light?
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