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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.
I am passionate about photography and that passion definitely extends to my postproduction workflow as well. That's a little bit of what I want to talk about here. Some of the post-processing techniques that were used on these images. Sometimes when you open up one of your photographs on a computer, you're just starting to get to know it. You're asking yourself, well, what do I need to do? Well, with many of the color pictures, I didn't need to do very much at all, Here we're at this great location, this fascinating subject.
So the picture like this, all that I wanted to do was to boost the contrast and color just to make it a bit more vivid. In other situations, perhaps you are going to do the opposite. With this picture, which I like, I like the composition. I like how it's framed by the bridge. I noticed that the color was a little bit distracting. My eye kept going towards the shoes or the blue tape or the blue sky. With this picture, I want to create something that was a little bit more timeless. So I converted it to black- and-white using Lightroom.
Yet once I did that, I knew there were a few more steps that I could take to make this photograph even better. I brought it into Photoshop, removed the car, boosted the brightness, and the contrast just to bring that image to life, just a bit more. In other situations, you may do something perhaps a bit more creative. This color photograph is great. I like it. But I decide to experiment and that's one of things that we do in that postproduction context. Is we play, we experiment. We see what we can come up with.
In this case, I convert it to black- and-white and then I tried a really interesting crop, a square crop, something completely different. When I did that, I really liked it. I like the symmetry and so while working in Lightroom with this image, I added a little bit of a vignette, again going for a vintage or a classic look with this picture. In other situations, a crop maybe more subtle, like with this photograph of these two guys. I liked that picture, that perspective, but I want to give the image a little bit of a boost, so I did so with a crop and a slight Curves adjustment.
What that crop does is it draws you into the subject a bit more. Look at the before, here it is. They are kind of lost a little bit in this location. You see the bridge perhaps a bit too much. Now, here this is much more of a character portrait and that was my vision for this picture. Again, when you're working in Photoshop, or Lightroom or whatever it is, you are asking yourself what is my vision? In other pictures say like this one, perhaps it's about taking that vision even further. I liked his position.
I liked the leading lines, but I didn't like the people in the background. So I thought, okay, well, let's convert this to black-and-white. Once I did that, those elements became a little bit less distracting, but then I needed to remove them. So I opened it in Photoshop and just removed those really quickly using some simple techniques. Once I did that, this picture took on a whole new life. All of a sudden, it was really simple. It wasn't about a person on a bridge with other people there. It was just about him.
And the background? It almost becomes an abstraction and I like that. There's a subtle leaning towards him on the right edge of the frame. Now, another pictures like the photographs that were captured on film, I need to take a different approach. Digital can be really intense. It can be right out there. Film on the other hand can be a bit more soft, it can have a quieter voice. So in this case, this raw scan, it looked good but I wanted to give it just a touch more contrast.
I want to amplify its voice just a bit. And other film photographs like this one, I knew that I need to change it a little bit, give it a little bit of a boost. I also want to remove my shadow. I didn't want me to be present there in the frame. So I brought it into Photoshop, removed that shadow, and again gave it a little bit of a life with contrast and color. In other situations, perhaps it's removing something that's distracting that's in the background like with this picture. I like this posture, a little bit of a lower camera perspective, but I didn't like the logo on the building.
I like the leading lines. I want to bring those out. So using Photoshop, I am brightening up some of those leading lines, removing that logo, making this image a bit more timeless. Here it is again, that before and then the after. Well, this final image that I want to talk about is another film photograph. Same type of a perspective, the camera is a little bit lower, but this time I wanted to make the image perhaps even a bit more vintage. One of the things I notice on the scan was there was a lot of dust and I thought about removing those dust elements, and then I asked myself, well, what if I add more dust? What if I distress this image even further? And that's what I wanted to do.
So I started to look at the picture. Noticed the flag coming out of his head wasn't very appealing, the logo needed to go. So I brought it into Photoshop and I added some effects. I aged this photo a bit. Again, I tried to create a different voice for this picture. So as you start to work on your own photographs and as you work in Lightroom and Camera RAW and Photoshop, always ask yourself, how can I use these tools to further my vision for my pictures?
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