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Capturing Authentic Photos of Children & Families

Lesson 3 of 19

Develop your Vision, Voice & Style

Chris Orwig

Capturing Authentic Photos of Children & Families

Chris Orwig

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Lesson Info

3. Develop your Vision, Voice & Style

Lesson Info

Develop your Vision, Voice & Style

So where we're going to start with this journey is thinking about vision, voice, and style. And before I go there, Jim, do you have any questions, or you guys, do you have any questions as well? If not, I'll keep going. Chris, we do have one question from the internet. And so sort of from a big picture standpoint, what's the best in, so someone says what's my first step to doing this? Is it doing it for free, for friends? Is that doing my family? What's that first step that you would encourage? That's a great question. The first step is to step back which is what we're about to do and think about what your vision, voice, and style and these other things that I'll be going through here. But then in segment number four. And I'll talk exactly about that. So I'm gonna defer that question, Jim, if that's fair, because I have slides and I have an actual path that you can take to make that happen. So you gotta start, in any craft it's helpful to start a little bit back, and that's what we...

're trying to do. And the reason why vision, voice, and style is so important is this. Photography is one of the easiest crafts to practice. Push a button, anyone can do it. My mom, your mom. It's easy. But to have style to say something is really, really hard. And I like to think of it little bit like this, if we liken a camera to a violin, you can play a violin as a fiddle, think Bluegrass, folk, or you can play it as classical violin. It's the same instrument. The only difference is the musician. Are you with me on that. And what's interesting about the violin which is what I love is they actually call it something different. I play the fiddle, if you play Bluegrass. You don't call it a violin. But it is a violin, but you don't call it that. And so it's interesting. What do we call this thing? I'm not sure, but that's what we have to figure out. Then the next thing I want you to do is to think about this idea. T.S. Eliot wrote about 50 years ago that we are distracted by distractions from distractions. That's the common experience, right? We're multitasking. Even now maybe we're thinking about I need to run that errand or you need to do this, if you're watching at home, maybe you're folding laundry or doing something else, and that's part of just life. But what I've always been curious about is how does that affect education, because teaching is my wheelhouse. This is really what I love to do. And with that in mind, I'm gonna turn to Seneca who wrote this 2,000 years ago. He said it is generally agreed that no activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply. It's kinda profound you know. Had to have been written 2,00 years ago. Since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply. So the only reason I throw that out there is because I wanna start off with a deep breath 'cause I want you to absorb stuff. Let's do that right now. And even if you're watching at home, just take a deep breath and be present because good family photography requires that. And as you're watching this, if there's something that speaks to you with different things for all of us, just take a breath. You don't have to out loud but just go like, I wanna absorb that little thing, because that's actually how you learn. Learning doesn't happen when you're distracted and multitasking and doing all of these different things. All right, so we did that. Next thing to think about vision, voice, and style is to think about story. And think about this perspective of story from doing family family and kid photography. Let me tell you a little bit of mine and then I'll flip that back to yours. So this is my family here. We live in Sta. Barbara at California. My wife's an elementary school teacher. We live four houses away from the school. I have three daughters: a five-year-old Elsie, 10-year-old Sophie, and then 12-year-old Annie. And I love family. It is what gives me my edge, my depth, my mean, all these things as far as what I do. To give you a sense on that, on our backyard we have 300-year-old majestic oak trees. In those trees we have I think four swings, a tire swing, two tree forts we have a trampoline, chickens, you get the deal. My neighbor was telling me a story they're reading a book and the word paradise was in the book. And her daughter said, mom, what does paradise mean? And so, the mom explained it to the the daughter and she said do you understand that. And the daughter, our little neighbor here said, yeah, I understand what that means. That's kinda like the Orwig's backyard. I was like, yes. That's what I want it to be. And I say that because family's really important to me and that's part of my story, right? And living in Sta. Barbara is this beautiful beach town with mountains, it's a great place to raise kids, and that's important to me. And one day I left the school where I was teaching, which was of Tarvis. And I went outside and rather than seeing palm trees I saw this. There was a huge fire in the hills. And it was just raging out of control. And this was the only photograph I took of the fire because I wasn't really interested in kind of go in there and documenting it 'cause it was so horrible for people. But I had a friend who lost her house and said hey, Chris, will you come along with me as I dig through the ashes and see what's there? And I said, yeah, and so we went. And it was a really hard experience to have. It was confusing in a lot of ways because it's kinda hard to make sense of what's there, where is everything, then you start to look deeper and you say oh, there's a washer and dryer. Okay, there is the bike. There is the kid's bike. There is the laptop that once was. And then you find other things like the letter from that letter from that relative that's basically gone. And you find things like a lot of ceramics and pottery, which those are the only things she was able to walk away with 'cause it's been through the fire once before. It's kinda like those people that have been through difficult things can then endure more other difficult things as well. And then I came upon an old picture, family picture, my friend's in this one, and I held it up really, really close. And while I haven't had this experience of losing everything, last fall I had a massive hard drive failure. One of those ones you hear about happen to other people but not yourself, and of course not me 'cause I'm an expert. I'm a digital expert at that. And I tell people how to backup their files. But it happened. It's a long boring story which I'll spare you, but I will say that I cried. I mean, I was there just like weeping. I couldn't talk to anyone. I couldn't even tell my wife at first. And I'm getting all emotional right now just thinking about it. But it was a month and a half when I thought every picture I'd ever taken was gone. And I had to really face that. And the emotion I had was the photographs that I missed weren't of like famous athletes or celebrities or rock starts, or any, it was my kids, of course, right? And then I got the pictures back. And I went through every photograph I'd ever taken and I cleaned the house. Entire shoots, just threw them in the trash, gone. Just boom. But I would never delete something of family and kids. My own or someone else's. It doesn't matter if it's out of focus or not. I mean, those pictures were the ones that I really value. And that shaped me. And that shapes my approach to family. So that's a small part of my story. The question now is flipping that back to you, what's yours? And maybe your story is like my friend Tom. He's a world champion surfer. And his dad wasn't around as a kid, and now he's one of the best dads I know. And that shapes how we approach as family, right? Or maybe you're someone who, I don't know, maybe you live far away from your family right now and your family is your core group, all those people you go rock climbing with or something else. Or maybe you're a grandparent and you didn't take a lot of photographs of your kids when they were young and now you get the chance to give that gift to your own kids, photograph their family, 'cause their hands are full, right? It's hard to do this when you have a lot of kids. So maybe that's something you'll do. Or maybe you just really wanna get a good picture of your mom or dad 'cause they're important person to you. One more quick story about that. There is a student at Brook's Photo School I used to teach at who was getting really good at photography. I mean, he was killing it in (mumbles). He flew on the South Africa to be with his family over Christmas break one year. And his goal was to get a photo of dad 'cause he's like this is the most important man in my life. I'm photographing all these other people which is great, but I gotta photograph him. And when he came back one of his classmates said hey, did you get the shot of all pops? And he's like you know, the light was never right. And then a month and a half later his dad died. He lets me tell the story with the permission. But he's like, you know what the light's always right. And you can't wait for that moment when things go right. You make do with what you have. The best definition of creativity is making the most of what you have. And so, anyway, maybe that's your story, maybe you missed out on certain things and this is your chance to savor it before it's gone. And so not necessarily gonna ask you this but I encourage you to think about related to family and kids what is your story, and then how does that begin, you'll start to see will it begin to shape your voice, right? Some people will stay like style and photography, you get it just by shooting a lot. You shoot, shoot, shoot and then style will show up, but it doesn't happen that way at least for me. I think it happens for certain people that just exude style. Think of one of those friends that like going to a store and they walk out and they just look like style itself. I had this one friend who went to Paris and he bought this jacket at this thrift store and he just looked so cool, and this was in high school. And he was really, he's really handsome, he's a model that would travel around the world, he was just one of this cool friend. He was this athlete. And I was like Chris, can I try in your jacket? I tried it on I was like, I just kinda look like a geek. (laughter) But he tried it on, he looked really cool 'cause style was just ingrained in him. For the rest of us, we have to work at it. We have to dig. We have to ask some questions. One of them what's your style, another one is what is your why? Mark Twain said, the two most important days of your life, the day you are born and the day you find out why. And asking our why is getting into this deeper thought of motivation why do we do something? Like why did Jack Kerouac write on the road? He says in the first line, he says I'm writing this because we're all going to die. Because life is so short, I gotta do, I mean this, this is it and that sets the tone. And whatever your why is, it's worth thinking about this for yourself journaling and taking down some notes and kind of reflecting on this question. So I wanna share a few reflections from my journal that I wrote just the other day as I was thinking about all of this stuff and I'm gonna get a little poetic here if that's okay and it's basically just a page of notes. But as you listen to this, I want you to think about your own why. Ready? Why do we make photographs? We make photographs to heighten our awareness of what it means to be alive, to savor and celebrate life, to experience the divine, to reveal what matters most, to create space in an otherwise cluttered and busy world, to create a climate, culture, and country in which we'd like to reside, to show what might otherwise have been overlooked or lost, to bend time. Photographs allow us to reinvent time, to feel the past, imagine the future and savor the now. We make photographs to live twice, to live fully, to live more and the photographs we make have less to do with what we see and more to do with what lies within. A vision, and I believe this, is autobiographical. And the best photographs reveal the stories of who we are. They make visible the secrets of our souls, the inner workings of our minds, the depths of our hearts. In short, photographs are more than they seem and practicing photography isn't a singular path, isn't a singular act, but more of a path. A journey that shapes who we are. So what is my why? In essence, it's to savor life. I mean, for now, that's what it is. I mean, it's all of those things, but if I had to distill it, you have to come up the answer for yourself. What is your why, and it can be many different things. And by answering that, it can lead to the sense of a true north which is like, hey, this is guiding me. This is why I'm doing this and this is why I'm going through all of this hassle or buying this gear or getting all this. It isn't 'cause what the marketing people say, but it's because of what I'm trying to do. This isn't a violin, this is a fiddle. This is about me. And bringing that to photography is how you develop your own voice. So I've created this guide which is a free part of the course if you purchase it. Jim mentioned that. And in this thing, it's basically a preparation guide to figuring out how can we create more authentic portraits of family and kids, and it starts out with this idea that part of this is that we need to develop things like empathy, kindness, and soul, right? I mean, it's not just the technique, it's the whys. These inner workings. One way to begin to get to some of those inner workings is to go through a few exercises, and I have a couple here. The first one is descriptive adjectives. These are adjectives which hopefully describe the style you wanna have. Not the style you have now, but where you wanna go. So let me show you what this exercise looks like. It looks like brainstorming a bunch of words. These are small, I'll just read a few. Luminous, heartfelt, joyful, fun, funny, connected, raw, happy and then I want you to pick out at least five. And pick out five or 10 and then take those words and set them next to one of your favorite photographs or a photograph that you've made and say does it match up? Is this where I wanna go? And by approaching it this way, what you're doing is you're starting to create an arc and you're saying, yeah, this is the destination of where I wanna be. So that's exercise number one. Five to 10 words which describe the style you wanna have. Another exercise, number two in our little guide is to try a comparative experiment. In other words, if you're gonna compare your photography to an instrument, is it a ukulele, a mandolin, or electric guitar? Or is there a particular song or soundtrack that would go perfectly with the photographs you wanna create? Or what about whether, is it more like sunny, happy, bright, and warm or is it moody and melancholy, or clean, white, and bright like snow? Or think about a vehicle or a car, is your photography more like that, that green VW bus from the '70s that's perfectly restored, or the old ranch truck, or the brand new black Tesla that's really sleek? All of those are valid and perfect ways to create authentic photographs, right? But what we have to do is ask ourselves, well, what kind of style do I actually wanna have? And the trouble with styles is impossible to define. Someone says, what's your style? Oh, I don't know. But if we use these comparative ideas, it gets us closer. Well, my style is kinda like a ukulele, or my style, it's kinda like this and this isn't something we put on a website, we necessarily tell anyone, except maybe a good friend, but it's this internal true north we're trying to develop here. Another way to do this is to articulate our approach and ask our self, well, how do we interact with time because photography really is about time, it's small increments of time, right? How do I relate to time? Is time in my life just a blur? It just goes so fast or Jim got married recently that's like, my wedding, I can't even remember it 'cause it just flew right by. Time flies. But photography, what does that do for you? Or how do you respond to the blurriness of time? And so here's a fill in the blank. We must match time's speed with blank of our own? How would you fill in the blank? And I'm gonna ask someone to respond and there's probably 20 great answers here. We must match time's speed with a blank of our own. Anyone have a word there we'll throw in? Memories. With memories of our own. Memories slow down time, that's a beautiful answer. Anyone else? Vision? Vision, yeah. Because blurriness rather than being blurry, yeah. Some I've thought of is we must match time's speed with fight of our own. We kinda have to like take it back, but the one I'm on most recently is mindfulness of our own. Because I think when you're mindfulness, time isn't a blur. You're there. You're engaged. Why does this matter? Some of you are thinking like, I wanna get to the photography part. This matters because that answer affects what F/stop I choose and you'll see that in a few minutes here and that affects the photographs that you just saw. So there is a direct connection. We also wanna think about which type of photographer are you. And there's many different types. I'm just gonna throw out three by way of comparison. There's a journalist, there's an artisan, and there's a playwright. Let's have fun with this for a second. The journalist is the observer. They don't wanna mess with what's happening, they just wanna document what's there. So their approach is to not change or arrange. The artisan on the other hand works with materials and has a stamp on them. Like if you see an artisan, a lot of times you'll see, you'll see traces of what they've done and it shows in their craft, right? The playwright is more like the person that says, this isn't so much about you, this is about me. These are actors on a stage. I wanna write the story and I'm the one in charge. Are all of these great ways to do photography? Definitely. Is there a right or wrong? Not at all, but you need to figure out which one are you. Another way to do this is to ask what inspires you and that helps you to connect kind of the what and the why. And for this, I wanna share something that inspires me which is I'm endlessly inspired by the ocean, and let me illustrate that with a couple of my little props here. What inspires me about the ocean is not just I love surfing, I love the beach, all those kind of things, but I love that the ocean will take sharp glass that someone would step on and cut their foot, actually it's a beer bottle, and will turn into something beautiful. Something that you would collect and put on your coffee table. Something that if you hold it up to the light, it actually, I don't know if you guys can see that, but actually glows. And this, if I had to sum my photography up in what I wanna do, this is it. I wanna create sea glasses. I wanna see through hard edges and find that beauty within. I Also like what it does to driftwood. These are branches which have been dislocated from trees traveled a long distance down a river or a creek, come out to the ocean, been softened, all that sharpness is gone and they're beautiful in a natural way and you embrace the flaw of these things, right? And maybe your inspiration is something different. Maybe you're a little bit about more something that's pristine and perfect and something that's so well arranged and that's what inspires you. Well then, think about that and say, well, how does that affect my craft? Then in our guide, jumping to there is some work. And the work that you have to do after, you do kind of the fun of like who am I, what's my vision, what's my style really has to do with coming up with some goals. What are my goals here? My goals are to be a working photographer that's making money from photographing family and kids. Or my goal is to get a photograph that I'm proud enough to hang on my wall. Or my goal is just to be able to document our vacation and travel. My goal is whatever specifically it is. And the type of location where I wanna do this, I wanna do this in really natural places. No plastic playgrounds, no fences, no power lines. For me it's about fields, barns, and beaches. That's where I wanna do this thing and you gotta define that, otherwise someone else will 'cause they'll say, can you photograph my family here or can you do this in this way? You also wanna think about that ideal client, who is that person? For me, I can think of my friends. He's a firefighter, she's a jewelry maker. They have two elementary school kids. They're active. They love the outdoors. I want that family to hire me. Or maybe my client's myself. I just wanna get photographs of my kids and I wanna capture these moments so that I have these little books I'm gonna make make that will document all of their years. This is all about me and my family and my life and that's a great client to have, but you gotta define it in a really specific way. And then you have to ask yourself the weak links. And in the book or in the guide, there's space where you can fill this out. I'm more highlighting some work you're gonna need to do. What I mean by weak links is maybe you're gonna discover in this course, I need to get a new lens or I need to work on composition, or I actually need to think a little bit more about pricing structure, or I need to figure out like that question earlier, how do I start? I just need like step one, that's my weak link. I have all this passion, I have all this skill, but I just need to do that thing. And you gotta be honest with that because the trick with these type of classes, they're a lot of fun. They're are exciting. Beautiful images. And what I'm doing here is kinda like the magician. I'm gonna show you how the trick works. You're gonna say it's not that hard, but your task is to do some work and to take some time to do these things. Here's a trick with cameras. They're really complicated. (laughter) And the menus, and I don't know if you've ever watched one of these courses where someone goes into all the menus and it's just to me, it's so overwhelming. And camera settings, same kind of thing. It's like, oh, my gosh, like I don't know this thing, but my goal is to go from that to this and really what it is from confusion to clarity. And so the question is where do we begin with this? The first step that I want you guys to adopt, watching at home and also all of us here, is to step back and to say, you know what, it doesn't have to be a complicated puzzle. It's kind of like Photoshop. Any Photoshop users out there? It is a beast if you do use it in every way shape and form, but you know, you don't have to. You can learn how to do six things and that can be enough. And with photography, that's true as well. And that's the trick with learning as well is that just because someone is saying, you need to learn something, isn't necessarily true. So from this class, you need to select the things, right, that you wanna learn. So anyway, I wanna give away the punchline first and then I'll tell you how to get there. But really for family and kids, it's three things. It's aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. And what that means is an aperture which is a low F/stop number, shutter speed, only for effect, ISO which is low, That's it. I'm gonna get you there and then review that, but that's a secret sauce which isn't very complicated. That's how I've made my entire career. Three settings, that's all I do. So let me talk about getting us there, especially for those who aren't familiar with some terms. I'm gonna exaggerate for a second. With aperture, we can have a lens that goes from F/1, which there are lenses out there really expensive, but then we can also have a lens that shoots at F/64. What does that mean and what's the difference? Well, F/1 might be for photographing a single object like a person. F/64, that's for a landscape. In other words, Ansel Adams, he was in Group F/64. That was his club, right? F/64 means I want foreground, the rock here, and the mountain, and the background everything in focus. Here to there. Lots of things. Big number 64. F/1 on the other hand is like I want one thing. If I have 10 people in a row and I'm shooting F/1, I can pick which person in that line I wanna have in focus. So you just think of more versus less. In family photography, we tend to use less and the reason is like in this case, you can see F/2, the family is in focus and the background's a blur. F/7 is when we're out, I was in Italy recently and I have the boats, and then I have the town and the hillside in focus as well because I need more in focus there, right? Are you with me on how this is working? So in aperture, when you think about it with portraits, low is better than high. Next thing, shutter speed. Shutter Speed really has to do with effect. This isn't used very frequently in family and kids, but let me just tell you what it is. If we have a long shutter, one second or let's say 10 seconds, if someone runs and you have it open for 10 seconds, you're gonna see the blur of them running by, right? But if you have a really short shutter speed, you're gonna freeze that action. So the time to go to a mode on your camera where you can change shutter speed is just when you wanna have blur. So when you wanna get the kid and you get some motion of her passing by. And again, that's just more for that effect and that's something I would build to later. Not something I would worry about really right now. So for shutter speed, use that one only for effect. Low shutter speed equals motion blur, a high shutter speed like 100 or 200, 2,000 of a second is gonna be crisp and clear and really capture and freeze that motion there. All right, so there we have our two. We've hit aperture, we've hit shutter speed, ISO. With ISO, this has the sensitivity of the sensor. If it's bright out and it's sunny and there's lots of light, you could use low ISO number like 100, if it's candle light and dark, you have to increase that so that your camera can actually see and capture what's there. The trick is with lower ISO is it's the image is clear and crisp. With higher, you can introduce digital noise and it can have a little bit more of that. So long story short, the simple answer is with ISO, low is better than high. So here's the takeaway. If you're gonna shoot family photographs, or this is basically what all that I do, you want to set your camera to aperture or aperture priority, they call it different things, but the one where you can prioritize that F/stop number and you wanna get as low as you can. If your lens allows you to shoot at 5.6, use that. 3.5, use that. 2.8, use that. Or other lenses which could go even lower which we'll talk about later. And the thing with low F/stop is to think about not just that we can do that, but kind of the why and the how. And when you think about how the eye sees, it's really interesting. If your kid or maybe your partner or your lover run up to you and you're watching them, you focus on them, but everything else is a blur. Like Jim on his wedding day, when he saw his bride, he saw her and the rest of the world dissolved away. And the way the heart or the soul sees is that way. The camera is a little bit more objective. In other words, it can see everything if it wants to or just one thing. And so in family photography, we're often going for emotion, right? You want to see the family, not all the strangers on the beach. You wanna see the kid, not the telephone pole that's in the background. If you shoot at F/1, the kids there on the telephone, it just becomes a blur. Kind of a beautiful blur. And so we're trying to replicate the way the heart sees and so that's one of the reasons why that's so valuable. All right, next, with this idea of shallow depth of field that there are four ways you can increase your depth of field. You can have a really low F/stop. This is for geeks or nerds out there like myself. The longer the focal length lens, the shallower the depth of field you can get. The bigger the sensor size, so if you're going from a smaller sensor camera to a larger, you can get shallower depth of field and then also the closer you are to your subject as well. Tony knows all these things because we worked on this. I get so excited about this stuff I can just go, go, go, but let me go through these then. So this is for those of you who are like, wow, my heart does see that way and when you see some images like, wow, those are beautiful, I wanna create that. Here's how we do that. So it's these four things. There's the aperture, sensor size, focal length, and then distance to the subject. So aperture quick review, we already know this. F/1, it's like one person. F/64 is everything, right? So I'm not gonna do that one. That's an important factor and that's what most photographers think that's all it is, but now you know there's actually a few other factors. One of them is the focal length. When you use longer focal length lenses, it affords you the ability to have even shallower depth of field in there. Larger sensor, so if you have a camera and you use a lens, the same lens on a smaller sensor and a larger sensor, the depth of field will allow you to have a shallower depth of field with a larger sensor. And then last, the closer you get to the subject, it affects as well. Okay, that's all theoretical. Let me show you images because this will make more sense. Okay, these two images are basically the same F/stop. This is a family at F/1.6. If you look at the image, we can see the sand right here is in focus as is the family and there's a little kid running in the background as well. So it's a pretty large area, are you with me on that? But now watch when I get closer to the family, that area which was this large, same setting, same lens and everything, it went to this. Isn't that crazy? So as you get closer, you're having this shallower depth of field. Here's another photograph same at that same exact depth or F/stop or close to it. I'm even closer. Can you see how it's even shallower still? And what this does is it creates an image which is more poetry. It's not about tack sharp or not sharp, it's about emotion and feel. Here is a very similar setting with that one we saw before and you can see where the depth of field starts here and then ends just behind her, she's farther away. Here is one with a little larger focal length lens. This is an 80. Compared to this one, like look at the background on the and let's go to 150 real quick. Here's 150. Isn't that interesting how that background went away? Here's 35 at 2.8, you can see quite a bit of the background, right, because I have a shorter focal length lens. I know this is a little abstract and this might be a part you need to, if you buy the course, you will gonna wanna watch again, but this is some golden stuff here and not many people talk about it. 70 at F/2.8, there's my daughter Annie. Here's one at F.4. Why F/4? Well, this family, he's a Broadway performer. We're looking back at New York. They are this really crazy fun creative family as you can see. I want the skyline in focus a little bit, right, so I'm bringing some of that in. Do I wanna shoot at F/64, not that lens that could? No. Because if we saw too much of the buildings, it would compete. It's about them, but also about the environment as well. Here is one. This is 50 at F/4, same kind of idea. If I shot this at F, I don't know, one two or something, the bridge you would barely be able to really see, but here we get a touch of the bridge, but it's about the family. Here is 80 millimeter at F/4. Let's compare that side by side to 2.8. Look at the 2.8, like her shirt. Take a look at the shirt in both shots, you'll see the shirt is completely odd. It's really just her eyes. You also notice it's a kind of an overcast day and she was looking down so there's darkness in her eyes, but I had her just look up and then the light fills right in. So I'm all about natural light and so sometimes this to this, maybe change the F/stop a little bit. At least for me, the second one works so much better. It really captures her. Here is 5.6. We see some of the background. Now this is an interesting one. So here 5.6. See the kids in the background and then the same setting, same lens, same everything, but now I'm really close. This is my daughter Annie. She's in a little wagon, but you see how shallow the depth of field looks? If I showed you this picture before, you would say that's probably shot at F/2.8. That's actually what I thought and it looked it up I'm, oh, my gosh, it's F/5.6. I just got really close. So if you can't afford expensive glass, what's the takeaway? Get close and shoot as low as you can and you can create beautiful, poetic, wonderful, authentic images. All right, so shallow depth of field. Here is kind of the summary of the things. You wanna use a low F/stop, long focal length lens if you can. Full frame sensor, and then as I said, get close. And then family photography getting close is almost always a secret, right? Get low and get close saves the day. Mobile is different. So when we work with our mobile devices, if you look up the metadata on them, you'll see that these two shots were shot at F/2. There is my daughter Elsie in our backyard. She was bringing toast to feed the chickens and she dressed up for it. I was like, oh, my gosh, stop right there. She's so cute. I mean, I'm biased I'm her dad, but come on. And then this is a beach I like to go to in Sta. Barbara, but it's F/2, so wait, Chris, you just told me that F/2, it's like everything is in the background, but in mobile, it's different. Here is our family, that's F/2. The lawn is in focus, the ocean is in focus. So in mobile, it's different. Mobile, they would have to do a lot because think of the lens and the sensor, just a whole different equation really. You have to say this is about composition of everything. This is about you can focus on things and sometimes kind of do a little bit of this, but you compose, you focus, and you have fun. So mobile photography, why people like it so much is it frees you up from that and it's really easy to do. Why doesn't everyone shoot at F/2.8? It's really hard. Because what if you miss? What if rather than focus on the eye, you focus on the ear and you have a shot of the ear rather than the eye? You totally missed it. Is it worth it? Yes, if you wanna get good. So anyway, with mobile, we think about that and then comparing that to SLR or mirrorless, the conclusion really is some kind of aperture value mode, low F/stop, and then low ISO. Now with all of these things, remember I started with vision and voice, taking a breath, thinking about your style, this kind of stuff, the question then is to bring this back what is your style. The journalists, my buddies who are journalists and I know some who are amazing like work for the LA Times, I know another guy who was a White House photographer for over a decade and what he used to always say, the White House guy, is F/8 and be there. What that means is F/8 is a lot of depth of field. So if I'm photographing you, this is in focus, all of you are in focus, so is the wall and just get to the moment and capture the moment. Not all journalism has done this way, but that's a saying there and maybe that's you're saying. With families, I wanna be more like my mobile phone. I just wanna be there in the moment. I don't wanna worry about it. I wanna capture that whole scene. That's a great way to go. Or maybe your style is something a little bit more like this. You're like I'm gonna shoot a group, I wanna shoot at F/5. Like Chris photographed that group on the beach at F/2, I don't wanna take that risk. I wanna make sure the mom is in focus, so is the dad sitting behind and the grandpa, I kinda need to be safe and there's a time for that, right? Maybe there's a family event and you need everyone in focus so you're gonna say rather than one person, I'm opening up how many people I wanna shoot. My saying to myself is F/2 and be real. Be who you are. What the world needs isn't someone else, they need you. Your own voice, your own authentic self and so that's what it is for me. Do I miss shots? All the time, right? Go back to my old mom who taught me about photography even though she didn't know it. There's no such thing as bad art because it's iterative, because it's getting you there. All right, moving on to gear. Now that we've done some vision and voice, we started to think about our style, actually let me go back. Let me go to this one. I went back way too far because this, you guys got to pause to think about this. What's your style? Someone tell me which one you are or you would like to be and then tell me why? Am I only choosing from those two now? You're gonna use for F/2 now? Yeah and it's actually-- And why though? Why? Because I make mistakes all the time anyway (laughs) and I've got my best shots that way. It just took so many, but it's still scary. It is scary. But, yeah, I like the realistic face. I want every little bit of detail. I want as much of an expression as I can get. That's my goal. Okay, that's a beautiful answer, isn't it? The other thing that's nice about shallow depth of field is it's retouching on camera so it makes blemishes disappear. We'll talk about how we can do that with light as well. I don't retouch family photographs really very much, but I do that with the choice of the lens and different things. So I like how you said some of my best shots, I get that way, but it's scary and that's what you have to do. Like go back and say which photographs do I like? And if you like the ones where you have everything or maybe you're more into mobile and you like that idea of composing with everything that's there and you can handle analyzing a lot of information at once, do that. Like I can't. I'm kind of a one person at a time or one thought at a time person, if that makes sense. So if I'm like talking to you, I'm actually talking to you not thinking about anyone else. Other people are maybe a little bit more, I'm thinking about the whole group right now and I'm like going here and everywhere, and if that's who you are, that's where you wanna start making these choices.

Class Description

  We love photography because it helps us celebrate and savor life. Capturing those images can be difficult, especially when it’s your own family or friends. Photographer and artist Chris Orwig walks through all the techniques that go into capturing a photo quickly so that you can focus on your subject while relaxed and confident. He’ll discuss tips for working with available light as well as how to develop your own creative style. He’ll discuss gear recommendations and location scouting tips to set your photo shoot up for success. 

He’ll also cover: 
  • How to connect with children and capture real emotion 
  • Finding moments that photograph well and how to set them up naturally 
  • Wardrobe tips that make your photos timeless 
  • When and how you should turn your passion into a profit 
  • Essential Lightroom workflows for quick processing of your photos 
  • How to deliver your images or prints and share them for all to enjoy 
Start improving your photographs of your family with this course and learn the essential skills you need to make photographs that last a lifetime. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Family Resources

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Meredith Zinner Photography

Chris is a FANTASTIC teacher (and photographer). He is so very very authentic, warm, REAL, talented, knowledgeable, honest, open and true to his wonderful self. This class, in addition to endless nuggets of knowledge and insights, highlights how being true to your own self makes you a better photographer- emphasizing connection, authenticity, fun and easy relaxed simple joy. A refreshing take on children's photography for sure! Thank you Chris and CreativeLive!

lisa james

Wow, I have been in search of my style. I've been reading and researching and listening to inspiring speakers and from each one I've gathered pieces of information that help guide me. This class, however, has been the most successful for me. Chris's approach to teaching and his material that he provides is Spot On for me. Thank you, Chris. I am so inspired and eager to move forward now that I can see my vision more clearly. I highly recommend this class.

Neeraj Arora

Oh my god!!!! What a class. I couldn't stop watching. Chris you are an inspiration, loved every word you said, loved how you said it. I am in the process of getting a plan together for doing photography professionally on the side, on top of my research career, and you just hit a home run in getting me motivated and excited in taking the plunge. My photography of people gives me a lot of satisfaction and meaning and you just validated what I have been thinking of doing lately. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.