Shoot with Non-Model


Capturing Authentic Portraits


Lesson Info

Shoot with Non-Model

Let's bring out our subject for this one, and then we'll go from there. Do you guys want to welcome Luke to the stage? (audience clapping) And it's Luke right? Thank you, yes. Okay, so what we'll do first, Luke, is we will just chat a little bit and then we'll shoot. And this will be, kind of, awkward because normally you wouldn't chat with people watching you, but we're gonna get over it. Hello everyone. Yeah, yeah, and we don't know each other, we just barely met and that's, kind of, the point is how do you photograph someone when you don't know them and how do you to do that? So one of the things I would say to Luke, and this would be authentic, is that his beards awesome don't you guys think? And I would talk about, probably, how I commiserate that I don't have a beard anymore. I had one but my wife and kids hated it. Really? Yeah, I know, do people like yours or what's the deal? People seem to appreciate the beard. I'm curious, did your kids, did they freak out went ...

you from bearded to no beard. Yes, well you keep yours really groomed, mine got a little out of control, but they did freak out. And the way I did it was, it my wife's birthday, and in the morning I had some presents on the table, and one of them was a wrapped box, and I said, hey save that one for later in the day. They left for school and then I shaved my beard off, wrapped it up in tissue paper, unwrapped the box, put it back in there, it was horrible, and then wrapped it back up. Then all the kids came home from school and they opened the box and they were like ewww, ohhh, ahhhh dad shaved his beard. And then they FaceTimed me and I held my phone so they couldn't see, I'm like what are you guys talking about? Well you look good, the beardless look works. Okay, so what I'm trying to do too, I mean, that story didn't really work, but I would try and just talk about something we have in common for whatever reasons. And then I also gotta know, tell me a little bit of your story, like, where are you from, what are are you into, what are your interests? I'm local, I grew up here in the Seattle area, Pacific Northwest, born and bred. I'm a photographer as well so usually I'm on the other side of the camera. Perfect, so you get some of this. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And what do you like to shoot? I usually do documentary style photography, so definitely travel photography, I do a lot of product photography for work, that's what I do for work. What are some of your favorite photographs, like what are the ones you really like? Definitely some candid street scenes that just unfold when the light is beautiful, and people are moving around their normal lives, and you find that perfect beautiful moment that you snap. Love it, I love it, all right, well let's try to shoot, we'll come over here. And what I'm trying to do here is basically just talk about using this kind of light setup. And maybe to keep it simple, I'll have you sit down. I dig the socks by the way. Thank you. Or the shoelaces, maybe it was the shoelaces that caught my, caught my attention. You guys feel so far away now, see you later. (audience laughing) Goodbye. And so part of what I'm trying to do today, this whole deal is, just try to get a capture, a bit of character personality, so it's basically you being you, and so that's all the deal. And so if you were born and raised here, do you still have family in town? I do, I have family that live very close. I'm very close with my family. My parents both live near by, and actually my grandparents also live near by. I feel very fortunate to have grandparents who are very close and we have a great relationship together. And so did you grow up hanging out with them and stuff like that? Not really actually, they lived out of state when I was growing up, so it's only since I've been an adult that they have been near by. That's a gift, and what are they, here I'll snap one right here, but yeah maybe just take a quick breath, sort of (breathes in). You don't need to smile too, just like that. Do you shoot film at all, anymore? I do once in awhile, yeah. All right, let's try one of these guys. It's, kind of hard with all the noise, but we'll make do. Okay so, yeah just look towards the light and maybe lean forward just a touch, yeah, like that, like that, that's great. One of the things I often tell people is that, here wait, yeah look right towards me, ready. Awesome man, is that watching me photograph is kind of boring. Here, will you come up out of the seat real quick, I'm just gonna scoot it closer. Because I don't know, you know the deal, it's like you're working, you gotta try to get stuff done. And all that I'm doing, I'll tell you in a second. So good man, your blue eyes. I'm just moving you a little closer to the wall to get some a little bit subtractive light coming off of that. Let's do something where you look towards our gang over there, our long lost friends. Hey gang. And I just want to see how it looks from this side, yeah, and look back towards me. And then I'll show you guys what that's looking like, why I might change that, and we'll compare it as far as the images we're gonna get. I have to modify my settings here a little bit. So in this case, I mean, you guys can probably see it from there if you look towards them. We're obviously getting more shadow over there, you guys see where I'm going with that? And then if you were to be able to see it from, and maybe look over your shoulder at the screen just so you can see that. You see how it's a little bit more split? And then let's look at this view, yeah, just stay just like that and looks towards me. And now even turn more towards me, like, swing your, maybe position your knees, yeah like that and then look right at me. And in this case, part of it because he's close to the black wall, at least what I'm seeing in you, you and I know this but it's like, I get more of a shadow here 'cause this is subtracting a little bit of light. So let's stand in front of the blue thing, the blue backdrop, and yeah even just standing right there. Actually, I think sitting will give us a better spot. So what kind of stuff do you shoot with? As far as a camera? Yeah a camera or lens that you tend to gravitate towards. You know, I'm, kind of, all over the place. You are, okay. I shoot with Cannon. Okay. Actually, I started shooting with Nikon, I grew up shooting with Nikon, my grandfather and my mother, sort of, instilled in me, shooting photos. So I had a lot of photos taken for me throughout my life. And then moved to Cannon so I could shoot more video years ago, and now I shoot with Sony, and I recently made, kind of, a move into Fuji as well. Different tools for different purposes. So mirrorless stuff too? Mmhmm, yeah. Awesome, and then just looking towards me, perfect, and then, yeah, just like that's good. And try looking down towards me, yeah like that. And do one where you look out towards the window, and, kind of, get in your zone, either thinking about, well let's just go to your grandparents. How do you think about your grandfather? What you appreciate about him. So you don't need to give me a full big grin, but just that, like, contentedness that seems like you have that you get to have this connection with them. Yeah, awesome. Okay, and then I'm gonna swap lenses out. Focal length, what's your, what's kind of your, I mean from the street stuff, do you like being far away and using a telephoto, or being a 35 guy and just being right in there, or how do you? I really love shooting with a 35 'cause I feel like if you want to get close, you physically have to move in close. And if you get a little bit more perspective then you can see a lot more of the scene, a lot more context, if you're shooting people, that your people are in. Yeah, how about wider, do you go, like, ultra wide at all, like, do 16? I've never gone much wider than 24. Okay, 24 is a sweet spot. Yeah. But I think 35, at least for me 35, is kind of cool. Yeah and let's do the same thing, like, looking towards the window a little bit. Think about, why don't we go to grandma, might as well. And then look back at me, yeah, yeah. And then do one where your turning your shoulder towards me, yeah, yeah, just like that. It does feel like our audience is far away, which is kind of nice. I feel like they're our old forgotten friends. Yeah, right? You guys okay over there? How am I doing, am I doing okay audience? Oh my gosh, you're doing great man, this is really good. So not to put you on the spot, but the stuff I'm picking up on is you're firmly planted on your feet, I can tell obviously, and you're grounded in who you are and what you do, where is that coming from? Well that's a great question, I feel like for me traveling, so I'm a local right? I was just having a conversation with someone in the green room that it's surprising the longer you live in a place that you're still there, at least it's always been surprising for me, you're from California yourself? So I'm surprised that I still live here in Seattle, but the longer I live here, the more I love it and the more I travel, the more I love where I live. So to answer your question, I'd say travel definitely keeps me more grounded in place. Interesting, and then what would you say, we'll keep shooting here, I'm gonna ask you another, what would you say, and then let's do that thing where your one shoulder, yeah like that, that looks really, really good, I like that. What would you say are the, from the travel stuff, how has that stuff, how has travel changed you? Right, 'cause it always does, it always awakens something, or shifts something. Yeah, I feel like, every place I go, I try to really get in to, get into where I'm visiting, I try not to do the touristic activities and sites, like, going to museums and stuff. I like to keep it off the beaten path and really, I might travel in strange ways in that I like to sit on benches and, kind of, watch the world go by. Walk through markets and try to experience what it's like for people to actually live in a place. So I feel like that experience, that very authentic observation and interaction and experiencing with people in places instead of just being a consumer of places. When I come back, those are the memories that stay fresh in my mind. What about this question, I'll change lens while I. One of my favorite quotes is by Melville, who he first went on a trip, like, as far as travel goes, he first went on a trip, I think it was 18, he took a voyage that kind of changed him. And then he went on his big trip, which from which he wrote Moby Dick. The quote is that he said, a whale ship was my Harvard. Oh, yeah. And that was where he really learned life. So my question for you is, bring your shoulders towards me, is what is your Harvard? If not the school, but where have you learned the most in life? That's a great question, for me at this point in my life, Brazil is my Harvard. So I work for a Brazilian spirits company, and we produce a spirit called Cachaca in the middle of the jungle. So for me, I spend everyday thinking about Brazil, trying to learn how to speak Portuguese, bend my Spanish into Portuguese. And that was a place that it was never on my radar until I started really getting into this type of work. So now I'm really striving to understand as much as I can about what makes Brazil tick. Which is very difficult, it's a huge country, a lot to explore and I've just barely scratched the surface so far. Brazil is your Harvard, man, I love that. Yeah. Okay, one more lens change, and we're gonna go down these steps here. What I want to do with this one is just get a little closer to the light and then we'll close the garage so it's not quite so noisy, Kenna, if that sounds good. And we'll do a couple other things, but let's head down. So part of what I'm trying to do here is in a casual and colloquial way is just say, like, how would I really work? If I think we're really doing this, you and I would have hung out a little bit more, gone and talked about all this stuff, but you get the vibe of what we're doing. I'm just gonna step out this way a little bit. Let me turn and look towards those windows over there. And then look back towards me. And do this where, just take a little breath, and, like, shoulders, the way you're hitting the wall is perfect, you're not pushed into, but your-- Kind of relaxed here. Yeah, just relaxed, yeah like that. Even looking towards the ground was actually really cool. Yeah like that, like that, there we go, that's it. Now look back towards me with your eyes, look back towards the ground again, but then rather move your head just, yeah, yeah, use your eyes like that, yeah, awesome. And then let me modify a couple things. Yeah that's perfect, man, it's money, and then one more pulled back. Okay, good, let's head up. Thank you. Yeah. So what do you guys observe, anything? Do we have mics, we do have mics. What do you guys observe from that? Or have questions about that little segment. Go for it. I was trying to hand it to her. (audience laughing) We observe that there was a connection that you worked to get him not just at the initial handshake, but you continued throughout your shooting, so that he was, appeared to be as relaxed as possible. Yeah and that, kind of, happened right? When that happens, you guys know my bag of tricks so to speak, but really it's like a gift. You, kind of, gave us this gift of talking about some of your real stuff, that's hard to do on camera when you have a camera pointed at you. The other thing for me, I'm thinking about, once I knew he's a photographer, I'm like, oh he's like one of us. But also that, I need to shift a little bit to let's just say tricks might be a bad word, but I can't use the same methodology with a photographer than with a non photographer. 'Cause he knows where I'm going with all of this, so I need to be, kind of, honest about that, right? And just be a little bit more casual, I think, than I would of if someone wasn't a photographer. And then also when you chatted about Brazil, like, Brazil is my Harvard? That's a great quote, I'm gonna think about that for awhile. And how work, 'cause it was through work, work brings us to this places we wouldn't have expected and then we learn things through it, right? And that's the beauty of work, not just the work itself but the things we gain. So if we were really hanging out, I think I would have gone there more, and we would have chatted about that. Obviously I'm trying to keep it a little condensed so we didn't disappear forever, but you got some of that. Kenna, anything from your side? Well, for me, I think it was, excuse me, just, again, that interesting trying to find, as you were talking about earlier, what makes you tick, or why do you get up in the morning? And so you were able to get there really quickly. And part of that's a gift 'cause you were, you know, you did that for us. But we'll look at a scenario where that doesn't always happen so much maybe next time. But yeah that was really cool. And then what I was trying to do with the light, we'll see how it translated in the photographs, but was just look at with the backdrop, we're getting just a whole lot of light, like really coming forward. If it were an ocean wave, it's like a wave that's just breaking all at once, have you ever seen those on the beach? It's like a straight line marching in, like that. And then, moving closer to the wall was my way to say, like, well what if we add a little variation to it? And then also down there below, I was just looking to get a lot of brightness, so we went there, we were going closer to the 'cause there's more sky, and really you're gonna see it in the eyes. So, like, yeah question. Oh, well it always takes a minute to have people start to tune in or comment, so I just wanted to pass it along with regard to what people saw. Bald of sing culsa says, you kept throwing new perspectives at him so his consciousness shifted to different experiences, which brought out a different feeling from him. And very astute, and I wanted to point out that Brazil is watching and says hi. (everyone cheering) Eliane in Brazil. (laughs) Very cool. Okay, I had to capture some real emotion, that's the real emotion, which is really cool. And then the other thing, maybe, that I'm thinking just so we all know is, and it's Luke, right? I'm, like, my heads spinning. Yeah. You're doing great George. Yeah, thank you. (laughs) I don't know if you heard that part where I was saying, like, you can tell, Luke's really firm on his feet, you know what I mean? Like, if there was a fight, I would hope Luke was on my side, kind of thing. I'm very fast, but not good at fighting. He does have a strength that comes from somewhere. And that's a really interesting question to ask people because sometimes they'll say, oh it's from my grandma. Like, my grandma was no nonsense, like, the only way I'm grounded as I am is 'cause she drilled it into me that if you have money, you give away money and that's why I'm a philanthropist. And then you're like wow, and there's somewhere to go, there's a lead to go on. Let's shoot this, let's shoot just like you are 'cause you're, kind of, in your zone and we'll just see a different lighting scenario too. And I'm gonna pull back just a touch. Sometimes, what I'm looking to do with, as far as distance to subject, sometimes when I get close like this, 'cause now I'm pretty close, and I think, I'm gonna get a little bit closer to. The closest that I can get with this lens is right here. So what that does is, it's gonna be too close, and you'll see that if you're watching this. It's gonna be a little bit too close, but if ever I want to get, that's actually pretty cool. It, kind of, has some intensity to it. So maybe it's not too close, scratch that, what do I know? And I think that's part of it 'cause you do have a strength of character, and he can, kind of, maintain me being that close. But what I was gonna say, my teaching point that didn't work 'cause of him, thanks. Was that when sometimes when you get in that close, people are a little bit, like, kind of like, whoa, you're, like, really in my space. 'Cause I think I was right here, and to shoot someone that close, I could get the same close up shot with my telephoto lens, but I could do it from here, like, you know, fill the face with the frame. So I'm just thinking about that, but this guy, like, I feel like, I could punch him, he doesn't even move, you know what I mean, so I can get in there, and have some fun with this. And then what I think we should do is, let's go to his strength and I don't know about your grandparents, but I'm assuming they're interesting people, you talked about them. They must have some kind of strength because people of that generation tend to have more than the rest of us have, they've been through more, so I need to try and create a strong portrait of you. One that they would be proud of. So what that means is, why don't you look down, look away from me, I'm not in the zone. You guys don't matter for a second. And whatever that is, and when you're ready look towards me, I'm gonna take a couple of pictures just to make sure my exposure is right, and then we'll snap the frame. You ready? I'm ready. And now do one where you breathe in and hold it, and then exhale and just completely exhale, all the way, keep exhaling, yeah, yeah, right there. Okay, awesome. Then, someone, do you mind helping me out on the spot? I'm just gonna have you hold the backdrop behind him just so we can see we had the gray. And then way that you can, it doesn't, maybe this side 'cause I think it'll read better for the camera. You're just gonna hold it up like that, and whenever you bring someone into the set, I'm always thinking about how they're affecting the subject. We've already established that, Luke's awesome, you know what I mean, he has this great spirit, this red beard, really cool look, these, I wish you could see his blue eyes, I don't know if you can, but they're like these piercing, that's where I know he has his strength. You know what I mean, it's like this deep soul strength, not to put you on the spot, but that's there. But if I didn't sense that, I wouldn't necessarily want someone standing so close to him. And many of photographs are ruined by who is standing there. You think it's about that, but if you know that someones actually behind your back, and you don't trust them for whatever reason, they just looked at you a little weird or something, that comes across in the eyes, and you see it in that subtlety of the eyes. So in this case we're fine, you can... And then, yeah, let's do this, yeah just relax into it, relax into it. Yeah, that's really cool. All right, so, do a couple more portraits. And then let's do, let's do something else. Here I'll grab this. And I'm gonna pretend you're friends with Luke for a second. Will you sit in the seat for me? Sit in this seat? Yeah, and Luke you're coming out of it, yeah you hop in. You don't mean onto him? (laughs) Yeah, no, no, no, sorry, whoa, whoa, whoa. Nice to meet you. Luke, grab my film camera. Okay, point your knees towards our friends in the audience, and you just get to look towards me, and then take a breath, you know the routine. You know the drill, so just take a breathe. And then tell me a little bit about yourself, who are you or what do you do? I'm Megan. Well, I'll stand close. She'll have to hold the mic. Well I stand right here, can you hear it if I go like this? No. Thank you. Now it feels formal, now it killed the moment, but we'll go ahead, you're Megan. I'm Megan, I live in Portland. I have a husband and two little girls. Two girls, yes, I love girls. I love that portrait of your daughter where it's all dark in black and white. Oh thank you, what ages are you guys at? Six and five. Okay, six and five, okay so I'm gonna leave it at that, I'm not gonna interview you too much, but that's enough to go on, like I know, daughters, this was not planned, you know what I mean, it wasn't planned for me, it wasn't planned for her. And why don't you go towards your daughters, and think of those guys back home, and then look away at these guys for a second, and then look back towards, no it's okay. (laughs) Do you ever get nervous when you're on camera? I don't, yeah, okay, okay, now just look towards, take a breath, and then look back towards me. Okay, awesome. All right and then Luke, do you mind shooting a photo with the film camera? Sure. And what we're gonna do is, have you ever shot this one? I never have, teach me. Yeah, and I'll tell you why I'm doing this, you may think I'm crazy, I am crazy, but I'll tell you why I do this. So this hand tends to go on the trigger, this hand is your focus, the focus is, there's a little split in the middle once the split isn't, so if you look at the eyes, you'll see that aligned, and then elbow, kind of, hits in the ribs. What I tend to do 'cause it's not a super fast shutter speed, here I'll do one. Yeah, if you look towards me, no smile, just like that, take a breathe. Oh, that's beautiful. Is hold their breathe and then pull the shutter release. So show me how you would photograph her 'cause I know you do some photography. And this is your friend, you guys know each other from Portland or something. Portland, it's a great town. So what would you do if you're directing? I very rarely shoot studio photographs like this, but I would ask you to get into a head space, kind of, like Chris was doing with me. The way he said go to your daughters and I almost saw something happen. I would like for you to go to your daughters, you're watching your daughters play, can they walk? Yeah. Mostly, okay, they're playing in a park and you're watching your daughters play in the park. It's a beautiful day, and they are having a blast. A Beautiful day in Portland on that River, what is that the Willamette River? Mhmm. Great, and they are just having so much fun. Isn't that great how it goes black? That feels so good. Okay hop out, and let me get one of you. You need me to hold that? No you're done, you were perfect, thank you. Let's give it up for our friend, thank you so much. (audience clapping) Let me get a portrait of you and then we'll talk about it. Okay, so now one of you, yeah just like that, just like that is awesome. Okay, hold that, hold that just like that. One more, getting in here. Okay, ready, take a breathe. All right man, we're done, amazing. Thank you so much brother. Thank you so much well done. Really appreciate it.

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!