Capturing Authentic Portraits


Lesson Info

Live Shoot Demo

It takes a true connection between photographer and subject to create powerful portrait photography. A portrait doesn’t have to be dramatic or glamorous to be compelling. In fact, the best portraits often showcase people expressing their vulnerability or discomfort. It’s the photographer’s job to evoke and capture authentic emotion by establishing a genuine rapport with the subject.

Join veteran portrait photographer Chris Orwig to learn how to take meaningful portraits and use them to make your transition from amateur to professional. In this class, you’ll learn:

  • How to confidently approach a stranger and convince them to participate in a shoot.
  • How to connect with and pose your subjects naturally
  • Which lenses, camera settings, and light considerations to keep in mind during a shoot

Chris Orwig has created images for companies like Google, Adobe, and Patagonia, and his work has been published in Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Surfer Magazine. His experience has taught him how to keep a subject comfortable, authentic and engaged throughout a shoot. He has learned to deal with the technical demands of a portrait shoot - lighting, setting, constraints of time and budget - while also staying focused on the story he is trying to tell. 



  • Thanks for making this course available over xmas 2016 - it's a course that had seemed interesting for awhile. It's also clear from the reviews that this course has worked on some level for a lot of participants. That's awesome. There's an audience for everything. "all cameras have their own voices" ok that's where we're coming from. AUTHENTICITY = TIME Portraits, we are told, in sum, are- about developing a relationship with the person you're shooting (ironically, then, still called a "subject"). Hence perhaps the title "capturing authentic portraits" - which has an implicit criticism of other portraits/approaches, doesn't it? Look out sue bryce and bambi It's not clear that Orwig's version of "authentic" is "realer" or less constructed than JoeyL's commercial photography (tho perhaps less powerful because not owning what the consruction). Possibly the biggest uniqueness (working hard to find it) is that Orwig foregrounds (though implicitly) that he is keen and willing to go wherever the "subject" feels most like themselves. His customer queries are largely focused around figuring this out. Does that work better? Or does it brand the person? If the person is really into deadlifting, do they have to be photographed with the weights? Is the challenge can you get a deep portrait of one of Orwig's sufers without the surf gear? AND THAT RELATIONSHIP When we look at Victoria Will's Portraits Under Pressure - doing portraits moving from pose to pose in small sets, whippig thourgh portraits at Sundance, all as efficiently and effectively as possible, getting compelling portraits, it's not clear what the added value is from orwig's approach - it's not clear that the examples from mr orwig's oeuvre presented in the first few sections are that compelling - not more compelling. THis is not to say that it's not possible to develop a great shot from this attempt at rushed intimacy with strangers (or friends) but where is the qualitative difference? what by the way is a non-authentic portrait? so, DOES THIS AUTHENTIC so-called approach REALLY WORK? COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHY/CATALOG WORK more INTERESTING THAN THIS Intriguingly looking at Orwig's site the most "authentic" stuff are the photos associated with something called the SeaVees fall catalogue These are really interesting pictures for a catalouge BECAUSE they feel more like personal portraits than selling clothes - like the clothes are incidental. Compare these with Victoria Will's Levi's work for instance ( - which work looks still the beautiful people, but more intimate. I'd be way more interested to see what his process is for dealing with commercial work than these TM portraits - where one is on a clock. "i wanna be like that [horsewhisperer]" - oh dear - does that work for you? if it does, maybe this course is a happy place for you. Orwig claims he doesn't use gimics, but then recommends Dale Carneige's work on how to win friends and influence people to help connect with strangers to take their portrait - perhaps gimics that work are "techniques" and "authentic" like "have an excuse" to take a picture. Hmm. Not a gimik? to "blame it on someone else" in order to take advantage of someone's empathy? In his shoot with his friend, he positions hair and positioning her hand. the ironies. "Portraits don't just happen. Portraits don't happen across the street" Ash Gilberston and other street photographers might take issue with this - and their techniques for doing portraits of people on the street - quickly - are all v.similar to Orwig's - just much quicker perhaps. And more ecologically valid? In sum, this course tries to present an approach to portrait photography where authenticity is the orwig special sauce (rather implying that most other approaches are contrived) - perhaps if you take your stereotype of a surfer and imagine that person giving a portrait course - this would be it. It seems that there's nothing new in this course besides the assertion that his approach is authentic - becuase he has conversations with the people he shoots (as per victoria will) - but does this lead to great pictures? What do you think of the model shoot? And you get to see him shoot - So what's different from this to say victoria will talking with subjects while shooting - except he takes few photos? Or peter hurley who's working all the time at drawing out a participant? And for a creativeLive audience - we see v.little about the images that result or the business that's created. In other words, there's all this philosophising about relationships, not technique - and what's the result? THE BUSINESS OF AUTHENTICITY? IS THERE ANY? - Business that is Coming back to business and this may be the kicker. And speaking of clock - there's nothing here about how this process works in terms of pragmatics of making a living. Perhaps Orwig who has books and courses as well as photography doesn't need to make a living on a portrait - or he gets enough from one personal portrait to cover his week. or maybe it's just a small part of commercial work? THIS CAN"T BE ORWIG"S BUSINESS: his web site has a hand ful of portraits, and some commercial work; and if he takes portraits of strangers, they're not paying him for this. it's not clear to me therefore that Orwig makes or has made a business to feed himself with his portrait photography (vs lectures, workshops, books, teaching how to use photoshop, working at the now defunct Brooks), so not sure this is a great model for folks thinking about business of portraits. dunno - but it would be helpful to know too how this approach can be or has been or has not been plugged into a business. IN SUM - DO YOU BUY THIS COURSE: Lots of folks - don't know their experience or what tehy're hoping to achieve - but they liked this. Maybe they have their technical stuff and lighting and posing (or not) all down, and just want to listen to how someone else does photos. But again - hard to really appreciate this material without knowing what he's made his living doing - at CL it's technique courses in software and stuff you can't test like "searching for your creative spark" That's not a living from portaiture. maybe that's ok. But for me, trust is not high. But if money is tight - or for whatever reason you have to choose which seminar to go for first to get both approach and technique, where would you go? Lots of options mentioned above Check out on youtube the clips from the courses - Lighting Technique positioning and engagement Sue Bryce, Peter Hurley, Victoria Wills lighting/compositing/photoshipping Joel Grimes Posing and doing styled photos that look real Scott Robert Lim - great posing flow The ultimate commercial portature course JoeyL - really recommended Business Kevin Kubota JoeyL Scott Rober Lim Sue Bryce thanks again CL for the freere-view this free view is what makes CreativeLive such a great resource: we can check out the work to find the folks who resonnate with each of us. This one doesn't work for me for the reasons above; if it does for you, fantastic. Best of the new creative year
  • Wow. This course was about so much more than "just" portraiture. Chris Orwig is a fantastic speaker and teacher - very engaging, down to earth, wonderful photo examples and live demonstrations on how to interact with the subjects you are photographing. I love that he brought in quotes and artwork and poetry, as well as some really great personal stories and experiences, to make his points. Fabulous! This man is an expert in capturing that spark in others - and you can totally see why. Really great.
  • wow - Chris Orwig is another CreativeLive gem in their list of amazing photographers and classes! From what I've been able to watch on live class, I agree with the previous review - looks like it'll be a great investment into this gold mine of knowledge and inspiration for portrait photography! Can't wait to learn more!