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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: One of things that is so critical when creating portraits is to think about location, because location can tell so much of the story. Also it can create a certain mood or ambiance or put someone at ease or make them a little bit on edge. And here with this photo shoot, the location I decided on was the Brooklyn Bridge. Now the Brooklyn Bridge is an icon. It's really interesting, fascinating structure. So one of the things I'm always thinking about with someplace that is public is that it's going to be difficult to shoot out, because there is going to be a lot going on. What happens a lot of times in public places like that is that you either have really bad photographs or incredibly good images.
The Brooklyn Bridge has these fascinating leading lines that are lying on the middle. There is all the wires and the cables and the railing. And here I am photographing Jared Mason. So I'm thinking of myself Jared on Broadway is center stage and this leading lines, I couldn't really keep those out of my mind. So I was gravitating towards thinking about this bridge. Positioning him there in the center of all of that, even in the center of all of this chaos, in the sense this performer who does this performance amidst all that's happening around him. Now I was interested in creating a strong image, not a soft image.
Say this location it's soft and warm and inviting. It's normal, but that's not what I want from someone who is quintessential New York, who is performing one of the most amazing places in the world. And so I'm thinking about all of those details. And when you think about those details and finally decide on a location, it's critical to scout it out. And so yesterday what I did is I took a walk across the bridge. One of things that I discovered as I walked was that the bridge was under construction. So there is going to be some complexity with that, but I also discovered that I can use that to my advantage. That silver or metal wall was going to reflect light in an interesting way.
I discovered there was certain aspect of the bridge without construction. So I knew that yes we could use that, but there are a lot of people. Bikes whizzing by, people walking and talking and a lot happening. So therefore as I experienced that I said okay, well I have to create some images so I brought my camera with me as I walked and I took photos of strangers. I asked some people, hey do you mind if I take your portrait here? I got a feel for the location, because what happens is, we see with our eyes differently than the way a camera sees. So I had to start to see location not just with my experience, because walking across the bridge is great, but it doesn't mean there are great pictures there.
And as I start to look through the lands, I said okay the camera sees a bridge in amazing ways, perhaps even more amazing ways than my own eye sees it. So as I thought through all those things I said to myself, okay, this is the spot, in spite of its challenges. This is something to really go for. And while it was difficult it also was really fascinating, because the Brooklyn Bridge really is such an icon and such a strong location.
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