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In the Narrative Portraiture series, photographer and teacher Chris Orwig explores how to use location and natural light to create images that tell stories about their subjects and produce a strong emotional connection.
In this installment, Chris travels to Texas to visit two artists: David Cargill, a Beaumont sculptor who works with bronze and marble, and Charles Stagg, another Beaumont sculptor but in recycled and found materials. Chris takes their portraits and spends time discussing the composition and lighting in each session.
Chris also reviews the photos he took, and discusses the gear he used and the lessons he learned while visiting with and photographing these artists.
As I mentioned previously, our post-production workflow is really important. It helps us actualize our vision and voice for photographs. I spent a lot of time learning how to work with Lightroom in Photoshop. I teach advanced Photoshop courses. But sometimes the best post-production work is really minimal, and that was the case here with these photographs of David Cargill. What I want to do is simply walk through a few images and show you some of the things that I do to my pictures to try to finish them off. Like with this photograph here. Here's how it appeared out of the camera.
For this picture, I really wanted to convert it black and white. There's a lot of texture. It's an interesting frame, but converted it here to black and white. This conversion, again, is just a little bit flat. I want more mood or expression, so I take it to the step, and then one step further where it really has this nice density, this contrast. It's a bit more gritty or moody. Now, it's not just that I like contrast or I like having deep blacks, but it matched what I wanted to communicate, what I wanted to convey.
So I reach for the tools that would help me accomplish that. In his next photograph you can see that it's a little bit tilted. Now here was one that I tried to compose really well, except my angle was a little bit off. So the first thing I needed to do is just to straighten that out. Then after straightening it out I went ahead and converted it to black and white. Again, it's a bit lackluster. I wanted a bit more expression, emotion. So this image was about burning and dodging, darkening certain areas of the frame and brightening others.
I brightened up the face of the dog, the face of the statues, also David's face as well. What I was trying to there was create dimension or depth. If you compare this before, here's before. It's a little bit flat. Everything kind of blends together. And then here's after, with that final conversion. It creates, again, a little bit of separation. I also wanted to share with you some of the film photographs. When you scan film it's really flat. There isn't a lot of dimension to it.
So what I needed to do with these pictures was again the same thing: burn and dodge, work with curves to create contrast. Let me show you another one. Here's a picture of David, again, holding the heads of the statute. You'll notice in the after that what I did is brighten his hands. I wanted to bring the eye to that area, because the eyes attract to area brightness and also to areas of focus. In this final picture you can see that same intent. Here is David leaning on the statue.
Here's the before and the after, it's really simple, but it's just redirecting where the eye travels, how the eye now focuses in on the center of the frame. Let's take a look at the before one more time. Here's that before and after. In other words, this Photoshop work isn't necessarily brilliant or amazing or impressive, but many times that's how the best Photoshop work is. You don't even really notice it. You never want someone to look at your photograph and say, wow, you're good at Photoshop. Rather, you want them to look at your photos and say, wow, that image is interesting. I don't really know why, but it's captivating.
It's engaging. It's intriguing. So one of the reasons why I wanted to share those pictures with you is just to remind you of that, that sometimes it's just so simple steps that you take which complete or finish your photographs.
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