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Capturing the Narrative

Lesson 3 of 9

Connection & Chemistry

Nigel Barker

Capturing the Narrative

Nigel Barker

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Lesson Info

3. Connection & Chemistry

Lesson Info

Connection & Chemistry

Anna's on set, she starts talking actually about an acting experience that she has. Anna, you're an actress? Yes. You're also a dancer? Yes. You've done some modeling. I've looked up all kinds of things about you on your Facebook page, which I found very interesting. One of the things that I loved was the fact that you are this, sort of activist as well a little bit. You write some powerful things in there as far as activating people. Yeah, I can't help it (laughs). I guess the first thing I'll say about that is I've found that just growing up and having a very outspoken family, growing up as a biracial black person, I have experienced a lot of things and then also it allows me to have empathy for people in other situations I can't necessarily have myself so I have a hard time being quiet when it comes to injustices in the world. Which I love, and for me one of the reasons why this is so important is because not just do I learn that she can obviously move 'cause she's a dan...

cer, or that potentially she could act a character because she's an actress, but I also understand now what kind of person she is and that kind of empowered person, I love that. So I know that when I'm gonna take a portrait of you, I'm gonna ask you to move, I'm gonna ask you to be romantic, and we'll go through all those kind of shots that you would get, they're gonna be really beautiful, this great hair and all the things, this great outfit you're wearing, but I love this empowered woman. And that is also a modern woman, it's about the future, and to build you up into that too and to make you feel that, I think that's something that you're special and that's something I've learned from researching you as well, which I potentially may not have known otherwise, right? I might just have seen you and gone okay, beautiful girl, great outfit, got a great location, let's shoot this picture, I hear you're a dancer, dance for me. It doesn't work like that, guys. It just doesn't work that way. You can do that, I'm gonna get a great picture of her, 'cause she looks great and it's a great location, but it's not gonna be memorable necessarily. You might luck into a memorable picture, something might happen, a lucky accident, but again, we're not paid for lucky accidents. And if I can somehow have more control over it, and that's not to mean that I want to control everything so that spontaneity's not there, but again, by having an idea of who you are and what buttons I can push to help you, reveal who you are, your inner beauty, that's where the magic is. Alrighty, that being said, Toby, can I get my camera? Thank you very much. By the way this is Toby. Hi. Hi. And this is Anna. Nice to meet you. Perfect. Okay, gorgeous location, when you see the tree, what's your first reaction? I don't know, the color's really beautiful and it looks kind of ethereal. It is isn't it, right? So we're talking about capturing a narrative in the picture. Picture is about you, it isn't about the tree, but that being said, obviously you can't get away from how gorgeous it looks. The incredible moss on the tree, in fact it's got multiple branches. If we had more sunlight which we don't have right now, we would have dappled light coming through. So there are elements here where you can play off it and something that I do, that not everyone does, but I think it's because of my background, it's because I started as a model, I myself now oftentimes get into where you might be first and I kind of survey what you're gonna be looking at. And I do that to empathize with you because if I don't, as a photographer, all I'm seeing is you, the tree, and this beautiful scene. What I may not be realizing is what you're looking at. And you're looking at the camera, but you're also looking at a parking lot. What you may not realize behind you is that there is a parking lot back here, it isn't nearly as romantic and as interesting, as exciting, or as glamorous, or as stunning as this tree and this beautiful background with the light coming through. It's a parking lot. So she does need to act and she does need to get into the moment and it is actually harder for her to do that, so by me seeing that, I can kind of feel that too and help you to work through that. Alrighty, let's get you in here. All right. Toby, have we done any light readings yet? Yeah, let's take one. Thank you. What are they? 800 five six at 200. 200, so that's, okay that's an ISO of 800, F-Stop is 5.6, and the speed is 200. I am shooting with a 24-70 millimeter lens, just so you know, it's one of my favorite go to lenses. It isn't necessarily my number one favorite portrait lens, but in this particular situation, when I'm off sticks, and we want to move around, and we wanna be flexible, obviously the ability to zoom in and out and it's a really good lens. It's a beautiful lens, it's fast and really, really useful. All right, let's have a go, let's have a look at you. (camera shutters) Have a look at that light here. Well, I would say we've got it, because she's beautiful and it's a fantastic shot. But that's just it, right? You can take a really pretty picture of someone who looks gorgeous, but we want to push it, and we want to really tell a story. I want to get a little tighter. Can we get a reflector in here too? Yeah you can play all into that tree. And feel the tree, right? Feeling it on your body even if it's uncomfortable or rough, all those sorts of feelings too, I think 'cause it is quote pokey. Sturdy. Sturdy? There you go. (camera shuttering) Beautiful. (camera shuttering) I notice when you get photographed and in your pictures I saw of you online, your head is back because of that big hair so you try to reveal your eyes, I like that. I think it's interesting and creates an interesting shape. We're going to also try stuff where we push your hair out of your eyes already so that you don't have to do that as much, you know? Your hair is extraordinary, it's beautiful, my goodness. Nice moment there. (camera shuttering) Now I want to ask you something, what are you thinking about right now? (laughs) I am thinking about how I can use this tree. You see, that's it. I asked her that question because after all of that, she wasn't thinking about anything. She was thinking about how am I gonna use the tree? Now that is not an emotion, right? It's not a feeling and I can see that. I'm looking at her and what happens is you change from being a portrait about who you are, the dancer, the actress, the activist young lady into being, you're modeling. And that's a very different type of picture and it can happen to anybody by the way, it doesn't matter who you're shooting, they do that, they drift off. I've shot CEOs, I've shot athletes, I've shot actresses and actors and after a while they kind of daze off and they get into the movement, the motion, the lights. So you have to keep bringing them back. Bring them back or give them a story to play off. Give them a role to play and certain people can go with that, you can be like, okay this is what I'm thinking of right now. So I'm asking you what you're thinking of 'cause I wanna put something in your mind. Alrighty, let me have a go again. Beautiful, relax the face, breathe out. (camera shuttering) So what are you thinking about right now? I'm thinking about nature and the preservation of it. Can I ask you a question, what did you have for breakfast this morning? Yogurt (laughs). (camera shuttering) Okay so sometimes the most absurd question is best. It's not about being a genius, I'm not trying to say that you have to be a psychologist to get this, she started talking about being, you know, preserving the forest and people will say things like that and that's why at that moment I'm like, okay, what did you have for breakfast? Because then she has to revert back and go you know what, I had yogurt, I had cereal, what does that matter? And she gave me a beautiful laugh. Honest, true laugh. Not like laugh for me, please? So those are little things, little kinds of tricks that are really helpful. Breathe out, don't forget to breathe. Seems like the most obvious thing. Relax, relax, relax, slow, slow, slow. Right here. (camera shuttering) So it's important to realize that, obviously, I'm shooting a person, but there's also, I'm a person too. There's that chemistry that's very important between both the photographer and the subject. I'm not voyeuristically necessary, taking a picture from really far away trying to capture someone doing something randomly. This is about that relationship and that interaction. So with that being said, here we go. (camera shuttering) Beautiful. Breathe, relax the eyes. (camera shuttering) Close to me, right there, eyes to me. (camera shuttering) Then turn here, even higher, now relax, don't go back into the pretty face, relax, just you as you are. Just you, right there, right now. You're gonna make me poke you, but like make you like, there you go. (camera shuttering) Come around. That's right. (camera shuttering) Push off the tree, there you go. (camera shuttering) Okay, you've got me on my knees now. (camera shuttering) There you go. (camera shuttering) Relax the face.

Class Description

The more you know about the subject you’re photographing, the better the image will be. Internationally renowned photographer Nigel Barker wants to show you the best methods to connect with your subject and how to bring out the story using lighting and direction. In this class, Nigel will show you in a live shoot:

  • How to connect with your subject using conversation
  • How lighting and posing can create the story
  • Different ways to connect with commercial and corporate clients
  • Ways to use the environment to create different and creative portraits that the client might not have expected

Connecting with subject establishes trust and allows you to craft a story behind an image. When you can create a story in a single frame, you'll be able to capture the imagination of the viewer and your clients.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Brenda Pollock Smith

Nigel brilliantly demonstrates how to connect soul to soul. He uses his finely tuned empathic gifts and transforms them into art. This class will help you relax, trust and find what is real and honest in your subject. I love his flow and intuitive approach to creating a narrative with passion and soul. I want all of his classes in my library, he's just that amazing.


The feeling of this class is one of the Joy of the Why we do this. His excitement is perhaps the best lesson. Talking through the working with the models was VERY instructive. Not an overblown, pretentious, too techie, I am impressing you with me, type of class. Loved it!

Stefan Legacy

Nigel is an excellent teacher. He always explains everything he does which in turn helps you understand why he's doing it. Short but effective course for someone looking to learn how to capture people and get comfortable with shooting them.