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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.
Photography really is a process. It's about those ideas that you have, meeting a person, capturing the images, and also your post-production workflow as well. Now what I want to do here is just share with you a few of my post-production strategies that I use. Now, my intent isn't to teach you Photoshop or Lightroom, but rather to give you some insight or ideas into how I work with these tools. I believe that sometimes the best photographs, they don't need much work at all. And here I want to show you a few photographs and some of the work that I've done.
I have picked a few photographs that I think are representational. Rather than showing you everything again, I will just show you a few pictures. Like this one here. Straight out of the camera I think it looks really good. All that I needed to do was remove the microphone down below and then tweak the color just a little bit. Here you can see that before and then after. There were some red tones I wanted to get rid of. And I just cleaned up a few small details. In this next photograph, you can see again that it looks pretty good straight out of the camera.
But with this image what I wanted to do is to change the mood. So I created a little bit of a different crop, increased the contrast, a little bit of the clarity as well, and then finally, I changed the tone. I was going for something that was a bit more vintage, something that felt like it had been around for more time. And then here's another picture. This is the last one. This was a photograph as it appeared out of the camera. The changes here are pretty slight. First, it was just changing the composition-- it was just a little bit tilted--and then converting it to black and white of course.
Let's look at that again. Here's that original photograph, the conversion to black and white, and the crop. Well, the next thing that I needed to think about was brightness and tone and contrast. Here you can see some of those changes that I made. I brightened up Pat's face, and I removed the detail in the background and then finally, I worked on the overall color and tone. If we walk through those steps again, you can see this process. Here it is, the original photograph, that crop and conversion, and then starting to work on details, and then finally, the overall contrast and tone.
So one of the things that I encourage you to do as you seek to make portraits that are full of story and depth is to explore how you can use these tools, and to learn these tools well, because I think the better you get at these tools, the better you can use them. And I'm not saying that from a perspective that you can use or create more layers or do more fancy tricks, but rather that as you get better with a tool, you can know when not to use it. You can learn all of the different techniques and then learn which one best suits your vision for your particular photographs.
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