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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: So one of the things I want to try to do here is take a little bit more of a quiet image, kind of like that quiet strong image. I have black and white film. So just kind of that classic deal. So I'll have you stand here right on the line and then just because it's loud I'll scoot back a little bit, but then take a breath and look down and then look back up at the camera and when you do that, I'll take a picture and we'll see what we can do. Now there's something interesting about shooting in black-and-white. Black-and-white is more honest, more believable. It's a distillation of things.
It's stripping everything down to the bare bones, to the main elements. I also love shooting with film. I think a digital capture many times what happens is we try to create images that are perfect. With film we embrace the flaw in the frame. Yeah, that's good and now just looks straight at me. And also when you look through that camera the world is a little bit softer. The viewfinder isn't as exact or as perfect.
I like what that does to me. It says, okay, let's settle into this. Even more I only had 12 frames. 12 shots, that's it. When you shoot with digital capture you have a thousand or thousands upon thousands. And there is something that happens when you slow down. And photography, right, is about observation and if you can slow down and observe a little bit more intently, you can notice something that you might have otherwise missed.
The perspective right now is there is the two big cables leading up and this camera, it's a square format, and there is something about a square which is it's distinct, it's almost like-- The rectangle is like a major chord and this is like a minor chord, and if you play it right, it's perfect. You know what I mean? And at another moment I was trying to get Jared to realize how I was seeing the world. Jared Mason: Now you're speaking my language. Chris Orwig: Yeah, oh yeah.
I was using a comparison of music or using the language of music, because Jared is a musician. Now if you were an athlete, I wouldn't have used the same language. And I said, "So you know, this film camera it's kind of like this minor chord versus the digital, that's kind of like the major scale or the major chord," and you know, I believe that. A lot of times what happens is when I go back and review my photographs, the digital images, I like those a lot. They are big, they are bold, they resonate, that major scale, that major chord. Yeah, later as time passes, it's the subtle images, it's those ones that are a little bit more minor, a little bit more like jazz, a little bit more of beat, irregular, different, artistic, that grow on me. It's those that I like more-and-more as time passes.
And then look towards me, Jared. Yeah, like that, perfect. Awesome man. This perspective is really, really cool. Here, you've got to try to check this out. Now a lot of reasons why we make pictures as photographers is to share what we're seeing, share our vision with others. As I was looking to the camera I just thought it looked so good. I was kneeling down. [00:03:28.a8] That allowed me to simplify things, hopefully create that quiet strong photograph, and I loved what I was seeing and I wanted Jared to see that. So I said "you have to see this" and passed off my camera to him, and so there was Jared looking through the lens, kneeling down, and I realized that there was a picture to be made. The camera became a prop that fit into that context in a really nice way, and so I took a few photographs.
Actually hold that right there, that's pretty cool. It's fascinating, huh, because it's like your world -- Jared Mason: It's beautiful. Chris Orwig: And you see them? What I'm talking about? The minor? It's just not typical, you know what I mean. It's a little bit different than you have those, like watch as someone walks through it. It's pretty amazing. So how then does all of this relate you, because remember your task is to say, how does all of this translate to my context? Well, I'm not necessarily saying that you should go out and buy a film camera or use film cameras. Rather, I am suggesting that it might be helpful to think about shooting from this film perspective.
There's a lot we can learn from that. In other words what would happen if the next time you're taking someone's portrait, if you've said to yourself, I only have 12 frames. Well I guarantee you that you would make each frame count and I think by doing that, by having some perspective and bringing that to your camera, it can lead to creating different types of photographs.
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