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Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York City
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Shooting a group portrait


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Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York City

with Chris Orwig

Video: Shooting a group portrait

This next segment of the shoot was really fun. I talked with Jared about photographing he and his family. Yet I knew that it was going to be difficult, because photographing one person is pretty easy, but all of a sudden, when you have a family of individuals, you have that family dynamic, you don't really know what that's going to be the like. But one thing though that you do know is that whenever you're working with kids they don't necessarily like being photographed. You make these small steps towards that final goal.

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Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York City
1h 30m Appropriate for all May 27, 2011

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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.

Topics include:
  • Engaging the subject
  • Scouting a location
  • Handling gear on location
  • Taking advantage of natural light
  • Planning and storyboarding before a shoot
  • Working with props and groups
Subjects:
Photography Portraits
Author:
Chris Orwig

Shooting a group portrait

This next segment of the shoot was really fun. I talked with Jared about photographing he and his family. Yet I knew that it was going to be difficult, because photographing one person is pretty easy, but all of a sudden, when you have a family of individuals, you have that family dynamic, you don't really know what that's going to be the like. But one thing though that you do know is that whenever you're working with kids they don't necessarily like being photographed. You make these small steps towards that final goal.

Now as you are making those small steps you have to think about what is the final goal. Whenever you have a group of people, whether it's a rock band or a family, typically the location has to be close to where you are. It's really difficult to move people far distances, especially a family. Chris Orwig: Now will you guys scoot out a little bit so you have more space? You can't go be too close to each other. There we go. Child: Come this way, Mark. Yeah, yeah there we go! That's cool. Okay now, now what I want you guys to do is to all look in a different direction. Don't loom at me. Ready? Each member of the family played an instrument.

I'm not talking ordinary instrument say like the piano or the recorder; they played stringed instruments. So I knew that this was something that I could integrate into the shoot. Now in comparison let's say I was photographing a family of athletes. Well in that case what I would do is have them bring footballs or frisbees or basketballs and not have them bring those items out on to the shoot. That would give them something to do. It would kind of connect them together. Well here, back to Jared's family they're artists, they're musicians.

I want them to bring that instruments with us out on the shoot and so we did that, and what that does is it gives each person in the family a role. Rather than having to stand there and feel awkward or silly or pinching one of their brothers or just doing something that didn't really make or lead towards good photographs, they had a role, they could play their instrument, and by giving someone something to do that's natural to who they are, as a group, it can really tie people together and hopefully almost in a sense be the fabric or the thread which connects different individuals.

Child: I'm make a happy face! Chris: Let me see yours again. I didn't get to see it. Let me see yours now. Your (inaudible) face. Oh whoa! I was like whoa! Almost fell over! One of my goal as a portrait photographer is this. It's that the people that I'm photographing hopefully are more cohesive after the photo shoot than before. Somehow what we're trying to do as portrait photographers, especially with groups, is to bring people together and to capture that dynamic. Okay when you go and hug your kids and this will be the last one and we are done.

Now, how does this fit within the larger context of the story that we're telling here with Jared Mason? One of the reasons why I photograph people is to learn from them and here we had this chance to photograph Jared as this New Yorker on the Brooklyn Bridge and then a little bit in his home and now here with his family. It's such a privilege to be invited into someone's home, to witness how they live, to learn from their family dynamic. You know that's one of the wonderful benefits of doing photography.

You create images for yourself. You grow and also you are creating photographs for others.

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