Live Shoot Demo


Capturing Authentic Portraits


Lesson Info

Live Shoot Demo

All right. Thanks for coming, brother. It's good to be here. A couple things that I'm gonna do when I'm shooting is I'm always gonna have my camera out of the bag, so it's not a sneak attack because if you have your camera tucked away and you chat with someone and then, all of a sudden, oh, now I'm gonna take the picture, it kinda throws them off. I also need to make sure tethering is on here. I'm gonna let you guys solve this and I'm gonna hang out with Drew. All right, what I would do, I normally don't shoot tethered, as you can imagine, right, because what I wanna do is connect with subject. What I'll do with Drew is I would have my camera out and I would just start to talk because I gotta make that connection, I gotta think about all the stuff, so I will start shooting in a second, but we talked just a minute before this whole thing started, but fill me in a little bit. You were just in Japan. Yeah, just in Japan playing music with my family. I grew up playing in a family ban...

d. Partridge family style? Full-on Partridge family style, yeah. Blue grass music. We were over there for 10 days getting to play music for a bunch of little Japanese kids that spoke English, so it was super fun. Wow. Yeah. Then, what's the breakdown of the band? Tell us about that a little bit. Five... well, six kids. I'm one of six kids. My youngest brother's 19. Older sister is 33. Yeah. And, mom and dad play with us. We grew up doing it and had the opportunity to go all over the world and do that. Awesome. It's a fun way to travel as a family. So cool. While we're getting this sorted out, why don't you grab an instrument? Okay. Maybe the fiddle. Let's grab the fiddle. Okay. The handshake, super important and because I know Drew, it was more of like this kind of handshake, but if I didn't know Drew, I wouldn't assume that, right? It would probably be a little more formal handshake. Also, if it's someone I've known for a while, maybe the hug's right, but if it's someone I've never met, I'm not gonna do that. I'm thinking about all those things. Also, we'll talk about mirroring a little bit later and this is cheating. Normally, you wouldn't say this in front of the subject, and if you notice, Drew was standing with his hands in his pockets, kinda like this, so I'm going to, as well. It's called iso-practice. We'll talk more about that, but mirroring is showing connection with people and there's often ways that we can do that and it doesn't mean you have to be exactly a mirror image of the person, but if they're moving kinda fast, it's helpful for you to move. Kinda figure out, hey, what are we doing, you know? And also, you might have noticed, when Drew came on and I fed him the question about Japan, which I do sincerely wanna hear about, it has to be sincere. You can't be faking it. I'm gonna ask him a question so that I get a sincere emotion. Ain't gonna work. But, he lit up. He talked about that and you can imagine he's thinking of all this cool travel stuff he did. It was a ton of fun. Just to keep that flow going, Drew, why don't you play for us and I'm gonna take some photos of Drew playing, which I don't think are gonna be very good, but I'm gonna do that anyway. It doesn't matter if the photographs aren't gonna be good. Part of it's getting in that flow and the, the other thing is, as far as bring in a prop, because a lot of times you'll be like, oh, you have a prop. How do you work with props? This isn't a prop. It would be a prop if I gave it to you, but for him, it's something he does and if you have someone near or around something they do, it just adds this fluidity to how they move or work, so if I'm photographing a surfer or a golfer and they have a golf club, yeah, sure, and it may be cliche, but I'll let them swing the golf club a bunch of times, portrait right after that will be amazing, guaranteed, but if I just say, hey, dude. Cool, golfer. Stand there. What do I do? Well, look over this way. Okay. But, if they're doing their swing and you talk about their... You with me on that? That's all we're doing here. Just warming up. Drew, play for us. This'll be a ton of fun. We'll try to shoot something. Scoot this way a little bit. (upbeat fiddle music) Wee hoo! (upbeat fiddle music) Woo! Let's give it up for Drew. So great. (people applauding) Just stand like that. Just stand like that, yeah. All right. That was a great little jam session. Did you guys enjoy it? A couple things, and again, would you normally do this? No, you never stop the flow and then, to get to the deep portrait, but this was a cool moment. You guys saw it happen where he was playing and then, he naturally went to that spot and that's the spot to get the authentic thing is that, there, and again, it would have been better if I had a little bit of eye contact, but I could do another portrait. I could work this. Often, that natural spot happens after you physically move or after something goes wrong. What I mean by that, it's kinda like, let's go to the athlete. The soccer player's really cool. If the soccer player tripped, they would sort of dust themselves of and laugh and then, stand back up and that's the real them, but before, they're managing their perception: soccer player, chest out, and I gotta be cool 'cause all my teammates are watching me, but that moment after is a really beautiful moment. Just do like you were doing, right there, and then I'm gonna fake them moment after. Yeah, just stand like that. I'm a 50 millimeter lens with sort of a normal focal length and I'm gonna try to get a little bit of eye contact, here, and again, part of my composition, I feel like, is a little bit off and odd, but that's okay. I'm working with it. If I have big space like this with a background, I'm much more free with my composition, especially shooting with a camera at a higher res camera, I know I can crop into it a little bit, but if I knew my composition, there was a pole right here, I would be much more exact in how I did it, right? Not that you don't wanna get it right on camera, but you do wanna think about how we're using the situation. Then, maybe we capture a natural picture. Then, let's say what I wanna do, Drew, is one where maybe I'll hold your bow. I can set it down. Or set it down, yeah. Where we do something with an instrument. Pass it off, here. Is this kinda cool, you guys? Kinda interesting to step back, fish bowl, kinda watch this? Okay, the instrument. Okay, yeah, let's hold this real quick. Just hold it like that. Like that. And then, step back towards the wall, just so I have a little more space. Yeah. Okay, that. And then, maybe, hold it up to your chin for a second. Yeah. Then, look back towards me. Yeah. And then, I'm always trying to get near eye in focus and shoot with a shallow depth of field. So far, it's like this is how you might... I mean, that's a little bit of a different posture of holding the instrument, which to me, is interesting. If I were really working it, I would pay attention to the reflection on it. I don't like the reflection on that. This is a little bit more normal. Not that interesting because we've kinda seen it too many times. What we're trying to do is always... If we were able to compare it to that previous one, that previous one was a little more intriguing than the one that's kind of the typical. So then, I would say let's try something else and maybe if you could hold it... Actually, that's actually cool. Yeah. Do you guys like that look? That's pretty cool. Let me just get set. If it were real, I wouldn't be talking to you guys, but I'd be talking to Drew, so let me do that and I'm gonna ignore you guys for a minute and then, we'll talk about other stuff. I'd be like, okay, Japan. Your whole family's there. Yep. And your role in the band is fiddle or guitar. Both, yeah. Okay. I'm singing, playing. Yeah. Leading most of it. And, is the fun of Japan, is it the culture? Is it jamming with your family? I think it's probably jamming with the family, just having the whole family together and getting to hang out. Yeah. All expense paid vacation for eight people, plus my wife, is pretty unusual, so we felt pretty special and blessed to get to do it. Yeah. Keep holding that. Why music? And, I'll just shoot through talking, so don't worry about... Music was just part of school when we were growing up and then, I realized that I kinda had a gift to do it and I actually enjoyed it. Yeah. Then, I just kept doing it. Okay. And, I'm really competitive, so I got into contests, like fiddle contests, and that's where I really started practicing. It gave you that motivation to just push through it a little bit. Yeah. Okay, let's try something where you hold... Can you hold it upside down some how? Ideally, on that thing, there, yeah. Maybe with your... Here, wait. Can I trade you for a second? I said I wasn't gonna teach, but I'm realizing I kinda have to teach. I can't totally ignore you. Almost every shoot I've done, I hand my camera off to the subject at some point, even if it's a kid. If a kid, I just hang it on their neck and I'm like, hey, hold this for me. And, the reason I'm doing that is I'm saying the camera isn't this special, weird instrument we have to be afraid of, and it's insured so if it drops... It never has in 12 years. It's fine. Or, I'll set it on the ground and that's another way to just say, this isn't this precious... We don't have to worry around the camera, right? Camera's are just a thing. And then, the other thing, if there is an idea and are you cool with me holding your violin? Yeah, that's insured, too. And, I know Drew well enough to know that he's cool with it. Some people, you grab their instrument, they would be like... (terrified gasping) and I would pay attention to that non-verbal cue. Anyway, with him, I also will... Maybe you stand over there and look towards me and you can figure out how you might wanna hold it, but I wanna have something where the violin's upside down, somewhere along these lines, like that, you next to the violin. If I do do that demonstration of what I'm hoping the viewer to do and I look very different, the subject, Drew and I I feel like look like we're buddies and pals, you know? But, if it was very different I would say, like... Let's say I'm photographing a beautiful woman in front of a cherry blossom tree. I would say, I want you to stand here and grab the branches. Obviously, imagine someone more beautiful than myself. I would call that out and, if they were a dancer, move in the eloquent way that you do, but I'm thinking of you connected to the tree and by doing that, if I just say, hey, stand in front of the tree, a lot of times, they don't know what to do. So, showing them can really help and it also shows that anything you ask someone to photograph, you have to be willing to do yourself, right? It's showing that, hey, I'm in this, too. I showed that ladder guy, the one with the guy and the ladder out in the ocean. That was actually really sketchy. It's hard to tell, but waves are coming in and so, I climbed the ladder first, myself, and I got knocked off by waves. And then, he was like, oh, I get what you want me to do. Then, he swam out there, pulled the ladder up out of the ocean, climbed up on it. You're with me on that. That's what I'm doing, even if it's subtle, like this. Anyway, back to Drew, the main point of this thing. Yeah, that's kinda cool. Let's see. Then, maybe what I'll do... Let's just experiment. Hold it out further, bring it back close... Yeah, maybe... Further was cool. Further was cool and a little bit more in front of your face and a little bit more straight up and down. Let me see. Hold it right like that. It could get kind of funky. I don't know if this is gonna work, but in this case, I don't think it does 'cause of the reflection on the violin is a little bit too strong. I can spin it. Yeah, let's spin this. Yeah, what if you tilt it a little bit? This way or this way? Just try to tilt... Well, actually, that's good, right there. Right there. And then, take a deep breath for me, Drew. Just take a breath. Yeah. And then, even roll your shoulders for a second. We're gonna do that same holding. Roll your shoulders, take a breath, kind of settle into it. Yeah, yeah, cool. Okay, awesome. All right. And then, what I say we do is let's pass off this and just go through a couple different iterations of shooting. You guys getting any interesting insight, thinking about things? Okay, yeah, and just hang out on the stool for a second. Yeah, even just like that. Why I have someone sit, it's just like posture shifted, it's changing up a little bit and that's worth trying. Yeah, just sit. And then, lean towards me a little bit. Yeah, like that. Like that, yeah. And, part of what I'm doing is I'm shooting with a 50, so in this case, I have to stay a little bit back. 50's an amazing focal length. We'll talk about gear and what the characteristics of that lens are, but if I get too close, it's gonna look a little distorted as far as it's not flattering to get too close. I think of that 50 having a warning indicator on it and, for me, it's almost like an alarm, so it's like beep, beep, beep and then, I'm like, okay, okay, and then, I scoot back a little bit. It's almost like when you have a mic and you stand in front of a speaker. You've all seen that in performances and someone gets too close to the speaker and it's like (squealing). Going crazy. The 50 has that, too. The 85, you could just do anything you want. You can get as close as you want, you can get as far away as you want, you can just, once you get to those longer focal length lenses, it's the more normal or wide ones that have that thing, so you're kinda thinking through that stuff. I have no idea. I'm not really tuned into my exposure. I would be a little more in tune with my exposure... Kenna, how is that doing, as far as what you're seeing on the screen? Will you help me out here? Yeah, absolutely. What do you guys think? That's a cool picture. I think it's working. I think it's beautiful. Yeah. It's beautiful or is it handsome? (laughing) Can it be both? Yeah, yeah, it can be both. This is an interesting thing. Drew's a handsome guy, right? But, with anyone who, I think, has a striking way they appear, what we also have to do is get underneath that a little bit. Anyway, with this... Yeah, stay like that. No smiling, just like you are. Maybe... And then, take a breath. Tilt a little bit. Yeah, just like that. Take a breath. Yeah, breathe a little bit more. Roll your shoulders out more. I gotta get you in the zone. And then, I want you to go... No, your smile's great, but I want you to go to a place in your mind where you've faced a difficult situation and you had someone who helped pull you out of that and I want you to think of that person or what happened in that thing and I want you to do that by looking down or away. It doesn't matter. And then, look back at me. When you look back at me, I'll take the shot. (camera clicking) Then, just keep looking at me like that. Yeah. Then, maybe look off to the side a little bit. Yeah, just like that. Just like that. Yeah, hold that for a second. With the light so even in here, I know I'm gonna need to do some post to make it a little more dramatic. Okay, now look back at me. Yeah. Okay. A couple things: I feel like my exposure's a little down, but that's okay. Part of what I'm doing with the look away stuff, which is really important, is as photographers, we wanna have eye contact. What's your name. Bethany. Bethany? Okay, so if I'm talking to Bethany and the whole time we're talking, I'm not blinking and we're staring at each other, it's very unnatural, but if I say, hey, Bethany. How was your trip to whatever? And, I look away just a little bit, it's a much more normal thing. In photography, especially for me, I want eye contact, but I know that I need to break eye contact every once in a while, otherwise eye contact becomes a little glassy. Do you have a question? Yeah. I noticed in the last series that you were not crouching as you had done for the first series when you were using the 50 millimeter lens. You have now gotten up a little bit on your toes and come in closer and shot downwards. Tell us your thoughts on those two stances that you took. Let's bring in... Lacy and Drew, do you guys mind bringing in our coffee table thing? Yeah, we'll have that thing out. Yeah. And, I'll answer that question, but with a new thing, it'll give a perfect way to talk about it. Yeah. Why don't you sit down on this thing? Cool. Yeah. Actually, sit in the middle I think we'll be good. Do you mind holding this for a minute? I'm gonna test it. Yeah, sit right in the middle. It'll be fine. Okay, Drew's now even a little bit lower and then, I wanna take a picture. Ideally, I might even try to get a little bit higher, but to your point. Yeah, just like that, like you're leaning sideways, like that. Yeah. And then... Yeah, can you just hold that for a minute? I'm gonna do a couple different ones. You guys watch. Let me fix my exposure, too. And then, breathe for me here, too. Yeah. Yeah, there we go. I'm also noticing there's a little bit of shine. I would... Yeah, hold that. Like, you're leaning like that. And, I would be talking to Drew about the deeper things in life. We're surfing. We're surfing or the synchro. Adventure. Adventure. Yeah. No smile here. No smile, yeah. But, breathe a little bit. Yeah. Okay, just like that. Hold that, hold that. And then, for a moment, just ignore everyone, ignore cameras. Me and you. You see how I'm a little bit... That screen looks like I'm too hot. Okay. The images I'll have to go through and figure out what's actually working, but I'm trying to unearth something. So, camera height, which essentially is what you were talking about with that. When I was doing the 50, I was a little bit lower, trying to get a little bit more of him. He was a little bit taller in the frame, has an instrument, trying to do that. In this kind of portrait, when you drop someone down, they're looking up. They're gonna look a little bit more... I don't know what the right word is. How would you describe that look? It's a little bit less hero status and a little bit more searching, maybe? Pensive. Pensive. Sensitive. Yeah, sensitive, Drew. Wow, my wife's gonna love that one. Yeah. And, it's not that you have to do that every time, but we're thinking of range and doing different things. Just to add more range, let's do one standing on top of this thing and I'll go lower with the other lens. But, just try and exaggerate that height. There was a National Geographic photographer I heard speak once and he carries a step stool ladder with him everywhere he goes to change his height in order to be able to do that and he captures portraits out in the field. I think height can do a lot for us. Yeah, just stand there and maybe scoot a little bit this way. Yeah, so that table doesn't fall over and then, with your arms, maybe just stretch them out or something. It doesn't really matter. And then, a lot of times when I ask people to stretch or do things, I won't look at them. I'll be like, stretch or stick out your tongue or something. You don't have to watch them or have the camera scrutinize that moment. But, yeah, okay. So, yeah. And then, settle into it. Yeah, just like that. Okay, cool. Then, this one... And then, if I go, maybe drop down a little bit lower and grab a picture like this, he's just gonna have more stature. I'll get in closer. Let's go here. We're kinda looking up to him and he's becoming taller than he was in the other types of shots. We'll see if those come in. I think this look fits this environment though, too. What I feel like I've done a good job in, as far as showing you some different options. What I haven't done a good job in is connecting with Drew. That hasn't happened yet, 'cause I've been adding in these other pieces, but that's the nature of what we're doing. You guys with me on that? Kind of okay on that? Otherwise, it would be completely quiet to you and connect to him. I'm gonna try to connect to him just a touch. You sit here, Drew, and then tell me... Just sit down. They'll work around you. But, tell me, what is your ikiɡai? 'Cause, you were just in Japan. What's your reason for waking up? Why are you who you are? I love the idea... Mark Twain said the two most important days of your life: the day you were born and the day you find out why. Yeah. So, what's your why? I found out why a couple years ago when I realized that everything that I had ever done, what I loved about all those things was helping people, a lot like you, figure out what their calling is and what their purpose in life is and what they were created for and I found that, through that process of helping people discover that, it was really life-giving to me, so I quit a really awesome six figure job at Microsoft and went back to grad school. Hold that, right there. Hold that, yeah. Hold that. So, you go back to grad school. Yeah, keep going. Went back to grad school with my wife. Yeah, so you guys were in school together. Yeah, sat right next to each other and we're super competitive. And, you didn't kill each other. Yeah, she beat me. Her GPA was a tenth of a grade point better than mine. Okay. Two years. But, we won't mention that. Yeah, we won't mention that. Hold that for just a second, just like that, but no smile, no smile. Yeah, just like that. So, you go to school. Go to school and then, we started a practice together, so we're counseling people and get to encourage people every day. Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. And then, tell me about the adventure side of you. I know you like going out and doing all these crazy things. Yeah. I think we're created for adventure. I know I am. I think everybody is. Everybody needs to have an adventure and that's life-giving, too. We go out and adventure with friends or just adventure, me and my wife, or I'll go out and adventure by myself, whether it's surfing or climbing or mountain biking. Okay. Brings life. Let me tape this thing up. All right, one more picture and then I think we're done. (camera snapping) Let's thank Drew for all of his help. (people applauding) Looks good, brother. Yes. Yeah, I think we'll need to some post to darken this up, kinda bring it in a little bit more, but the things I would go do with Drew if we had more time is I think I might next talk about, I don't know... Our conversation didn't get very deep. Part of it was the nature of it, but one of the ways I might have gone from the adventure thing, he's traveled places, I would talk about this concept. What came to mind was this Celtic concept of thin places, which is this idea that the Celtic people believe that heaven and earth were separated by a short distance, but in the thin places, it was even shorter and so, rivers, mountains, oceans. And so, I might talk about then, say, for you, what are your thin places? What are the places where you just have that sense of awe and grandeur? And then, I imagine Drew would have said something like, well, for me it's the Olympic Peninsula Rainforest or something and then, there would be a little more awe in his tone and in his look, so that's what I would have done, but for the sake of doing what we did, we accomplished some good things. If I were to say, hey, you guys, let's keep shooting for 20 more minutes, is I would have people stretch, move. Like in your case, you're sitting down, but if you would do that for me. Even just stretch your hands, your ankles, whatever it is, and the reason you wanna do that is if people are too stationary in learning or in portrait photography, it becomes dull. Unless you want that. With models, models move really well and what they'll tend to do is move too much and so, for them, you almost have to quiet their movements down, but for the rest of us humans, mere mortals, we need to move more than less.

Class Description

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. 



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.

Martin Backhauss

Amazing class and what a great AND inspiring trainer. Thank you Creativelive for giving Chris Orwig the stage. Perfect choice! Learned a lot but more importantly, I got so inspired by his presentation and that is what matters the most .....for me. Super grateful. THX CL!