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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.
After creating a photograph like this where Jared has such charisma, such presence, you have to ask yourself, well, what else can I do within this context? What are other stories that I can tell, like with this frame? It's a darker photograph. More moody and dramatic. It's in that same location, except now the sun is simply behind his back. As the sun was rising, I was noticing that it was getting to be more direct, a little bit more harsh. Yet still there are pictures to be made within this context.
Here Jared is standing in front of the bridge. I like this photograph. It's a quiet picture. It almost looks as if there isn't anyone on the bridge. Whenever you start to make pictures like this that you like, you experiment a little bit. What else can you do? Here he's looking off to the side. Now the camera is positioned a bit lower. I like how the cables are really going towards his head. He is looking off to the side and then now back at me. What about getting even closer? What about a tighter, even more dramatic, and maybe exciting crop, moving in closer, capturing that image? I like these moments.
They all communicate something a little bit different. But I think there's something there. Again, they're quiet, but maybe a little bit of excitement. They're quiet but perhaps intriguing. I like who he is in these photographs. And then, something else happened. There is a moment that really was a gift. Here he is stretching in this yoga pose. And I like this photograph. It's a good picture, but even more, what I like was what happened after he did the yoga.
This picture led to other photographs like this one. Here is Jared, the Broadway performer, on the great stage of the Brooklyn Bridge. I love this moment! This movement led to other types of movement. Here in this case I asked him to jump. I used a wide-angle lens and tried to take it all in, but I captured too much. The pedestrians, the tourists, the bridge. You don't know really where to look. Now had the bridge been blocked off, that would've been a great photograph, yet it's just too cluttered.
So I knew that I needed to get more close to him. I need to isolate him, so I need to do that physically and also with my lens freezing or stopping those moments, really getting close to that action at hand. And then again, this movement led to a different type of movement. Here he is leaning off the cable. This is one of those pictures in my mind that harkens back to a time in history long ago. I like this. You don't really know when this was captured.
It's somewhat about the Brooklyn Bridge, somewhat New York. You know enough, but not too much. And then another photograph. And in this one, a lot of times we say, what you need to do is to get close. So I thought well, do I get close here? I like it. It's interesting, or maybe I do something different. What about backing up? That's the picture. That's what I was looking for. He needed to fit within this context. I love this leading line. It draws or leads right up to him.
He's framed literally by the Brooklyn Bridge. And in portraiture, there are these rules, these guides that we follow. Get closer, get closer is one of those rules, and sometimes that rule or that guide is right. In other situations, you need to break the rule. Step back. Well, while I like this photograph, when I was taking it one of the things I was noticing was that the light, the sun, was getting higher and higher. I didn't quite realize how harsh it was, and at one point Jared had to hold up his hand to block the Sun.
Well, there are still pictures to be made in this context, like with this one. Moments after that, I just had him turn his back to the sun. Here's a photograph in color in that same moment. Again, he's backlit. In this case, he's happy. In the next one, it's a little bit more of a quiet reflective moment. There are pictures to be made in all sorts of light, even in situations like this, as your photo shoot is coming to a close. You can have fun.
Here near the end, I brought out an apple, trying to tie this to being in New York City in the Big Apple. And Jared is hamming it up. He's enjoying the moment, and we're creating some fun pictures. Well, at this point the shoot is finished. It's a wrap. Yet still we need to walk across the bridge to the other side. We need to go through some of the construction zone. So while the light was harsh, as we can see here, once we got to the construction area, it was a little bit different. It was bouncing from one wall to another.
There are photographs to be made, some emotion, some expression, different types of images. In this case, these are a little bit complex and a lot of light. In other situations, I went for something more simple. Couldn't you picture this in an editorial context? A great copywriter coming up with a headline or a tagline for this image or perhaps this one or the last photograph that was made. Where is Jared Mason going next?
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