3 Photographers That Changed The Way I Shoot And How I Took Their Portrait

I look at images that creaked their way through my first camera, and I am smitten by my lack of photographic ability. That first Polaroid I got for my 16th birthday provided artistic endeavors (such as a very sleepy photo of my parents putting up with having a camera in their face) that I hadn’t known existed. Their weak smiles of tolerance bolstered my confidence, but with both my parents being artists, I aspired to more than showing off the invisible zzz’s they wished were still spiraling above their heads.

If you’re reading this, I’m betting you get it. We have a deep and boundless hunger behind the pursuit of seeking knowledge. As CreativeLive students, we wouldn’t be here without finding influence and learning from the creatives who get it done.

While there are many photographers I have the opportunity to meet, greet, and photograph, these are three that have stuck with me over the course of my continued photography education.


All were photos were shot on the Canon 5D Mark III with the 50mm f/1.2 lens with different settings which I’ll list below for the technically inclined.

Peter Hurley

Peter Hurley
1/500th, f/1.8, ISO 160, processed in Lightroom.

Yes, he’s a talented photographer, but more importantly, he has a vision. Nothing gets in the way of his vision, not even mistakes or hiccups. The best part (or as I see it) is that it’s driven through positivity and humor. Have fun, enjoy the process, laugh, and hustle. “You control the shadows, OWN THE SHADOWS,” he told his Build Your Lighting Knowledge class. Using shadows, declaring a vision, and enjoying the process makes life behind a camera so much easier. #Shabang

Thoughts on the shot: This photo of Peter was right after he’d wrapped up teaching his Photoweek 2015 class, The Headshot. During the class, to get his model to loosen up, he tells her, “Tilt your head slightly toward the Canadian Border.” Laughter ensues, and she’s put at ease resulting in a great shot. I decided to see how Peter would react to one of his own Hurleyisms and with luck it loosened him up too.

Lighting: I positioned Peter in the entry way of a garage with active/indirect daylight to his left. The backdrop is a black wall that had been painted with whiteboard paint.

Another look: A different angle, but it lacks the connection from the above image.
Peter Hurley

Ashley Gilbertson

Ashley Gilbertson The Art of Photographing Strangers
1/640th, f/1.2, ISO 400, processed in Lightroom.

Photojournalism is such a huge buzzword within the photography industry. Learning the why and how behind Ashley’s process changed the way I photograph environments, the way I look at events and interact with human beings. The biggest “ah-ha” moment for me in Ashley’s class, Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers was when he said, “No one is boring, everyone has a story.” As someone who shoots weddings and portraits, hearing a declarative like that from a proven expert was jarring. After and to this day, when I shoot, the story remains king.

Sidenote: The section of Ashely’s class where he specifically calls out people saying “no” to getting their photo taken is perhaps the most inspirational video for any photojournalist. It’s not scary, they just say no, and he moves on, continuing to ask strangers and when they say yes — cue the music and warm up the orchestra. Its time to shoot.

Thoughts on the shot: The wind was whipping around like crazy that day, and with hair like that, I knew it would look good with a gust or two behind it. Being a street photographer, I wanted to place Ashley in an environment that fit the persona. Leather jacket, brick walls, and a cigarette. We walked to an alley behind CreativeLive, and I took the time making sure that focus was locked and sharp. Fun fact: shooting with f/1.2 in the wind while it’s raining isn’t the easiest thing in the whole wide world.

Lighting: Flat natural outdoor light coming from your average Seattle rainy day.

Another look: All the elements are in place, but there is no context of the environment which, to me, really makes that difference.
Ashley Gilbertson The Art of Photographing Strangers

Chris Orwig

Chris Orwig Capturing Authentic Portraits
1/160th, f/1.6, ISO 100, in-camera double exposure, processed in Lightroom.

It’s not often there’s an opportunity to just hang out and shoot. Nothing else on the agenda other than to focus on fun. But, when Chris was here for his class Capturing Authentic Portraits, he brought his film Hasselblad camera (which we played around with) and let me tell you. The dude plain gets it. Everything down to the way he holds a conversation is built to find that moment in time when his subject is precisely what he’s looking for. The power behind having a connection with your subject is monumental, and when it happens it makes an immediate impact.

Thoughts on the shot: This shot comes completely from not focusing on anything other than building a connection and getting to know the person in front of the lens. Chris and I had been talking about the difference between film and digital double exposures. As the conversation carried on, I could tell how enthusiastic he was about the concept, so we set out to make it work.

Lighting: Taken in the early evening with a little sun. The sky was clear blue, and I used the low angled light as a backlight.

Another look: I like this shot too, but there is a business that is occurring, and it doesn’t convey the same kind of purpose and connection as the above shot.
Chris Orwig Capturing Authentic Portraits

Vision, process, and context are the things I keep in mind during the lifespan of every single shutter click. Talk it out, find the hero in your story, and connect with that hero. Be confident in the work you create. When it sucks, make it better (OWN THE SHADOWS). Don’t be afraid to hear the word “no.”

And most of all, Make it count.

Other notable CreativeLive instructors, the portrait I took, and the amazing class that continues to inspire me:

Pratik Naik – The Art & Business of High-End Retouching

Pratik Naik The Art Of High End Retouching

Joe McNally – Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Andrew Scrivani – Business of Commercial Food Photography

Andrew Scrivani Business of Commercial Food Photography

Victoria Will – Portraits Under Pressure

Victoria Will Portraits Under Pressure

Lindsay Adler – Seeing and Shaping Light

Lindsay Adler Seeing and Shaping Light

John Keatley – Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

John Keatley Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment



Casey Cosley

As a Seattle-based photographer, I incorporate the culture and style of the city into the sense and attitude of my work. I deliver a stunning and vibrant body of work for my clients, and am available for commercial & editorial travel and/or location photo assignments worldwide. Check out my work on Instagram.