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Experimental Portraiture

Lesson 7 of 14

Experimenting with Props

Jeremy Cowart

Experimental Portraiture

Jeremy Cowart

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Lesson Info

7. Experimenting with Props


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Experimenting with Weird Light Duration:1:21:31
2 Experimenting with Seamless Duration:1:05:53
6 Image Critique Duration:55:15
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Experimenting with Props Duration:31:36
5 Experimenting with Motion Duration:1:07:55
6 90-Minute Challenge, Part 1 Duration:1:02:11
7 90-Minute Challenge, Part 2 Duration:32:55
8 Q&A Duration:28:05

Lesson Info

Experimenting with Props

we're going to start with props, experimenting with props, which is probably my favorite thing in the world to do. Um, And thanks to our set designer, Kallio, we have all kinds of stuff here to play with. And and so it sounds It sounds kind of funny. Experiment with prop. It sounds very simple and whatever, but there are a 1,000,000 things I can do with with simple props. And I wanted to start with one example here and tell you a quick story. Um, this little umbrella, So last year might need somebody to actually fix this for mineral quickly. I'm talking, um, last year at travel with an organization called Passion, and they I talked a little bit about this yesterday, but they basically hired me to travel with them for three months and two of the world with them. And my job was just to document everything the cities, the people, the events. And so every day I got to go, just hang out. How does this look? Is this like, amazing? Uh, a little flower umbrella here? Um, I got todo you know, j...

ust document the city's every single day, and, uh, one of my favorite tricks that we pulled off when we're talking about experimental portraiture is my assistant Had that, um, that small pack we use it rates a little 600 watt pro photo pack, and, um, he had a mono pod with light on it. So what we would do? I remember specifically when we're in Tokyo. We went to this very, very busy street corner, you know? So imagine you've got a, um uh, the corner of a really tall building right here, Right. So there's people crossing the intersection right here. So my assistant went around the corner of the building and he's just standing there with his light, you know, with the soft bucks really, really high. And he's just standing there. Meanwhile, I'm way around the corner with the 200 millimeter lens, and I'm just I'm kind of hiding right. I'm hiding behind this poll and I just got my lens zoomed way, way down the side of this wall and he's around the corner. And so everybody's looking him because he just just this guy standing there with this random flashing light and what we're able to it was also kind of raining, so everybody had their umbrellas sell. So when people would walk away from him, they all had their umbrellas behind them like this. And so what I was able to do on the street corners as he was lighting people through their umbrellas and I was shooting from this way. And so I was able to get these amazing lit portrait with all this crazy color splashing through their umbrellas, you know, in the middle of a busy street corner in Tokyo. And so that's the kind of things that I like to do is find Find the interesting pops of color find that, you know, make interesting use of light and props to get really, really crazy Portrait's. And, um, we made a book of that whole SYRIZA or that whole project. It's called Awakening, and I think the website is awakening the book dot com. If you watch that video, there's a whole collage. And we also talk about all the gear that I went on that that I think on that trip we talk, talk, show all the work. What else did I cover? I'm talking about my DVD. We cover this whole trip. Um, anyway, so these are things we're gonna be talking about, someone to show you. Um, which do we have actually even have more umbrellas here today? And it's anybody umbrellas around. What's that? Sure. Yeah. What's up? I have a couple of my car as well. Yeah, scrap some. You have pair cells often. So, um, and then I have lots of other things that I'm gonna play with an experiment with that, that's what That's what? Why I get so excited last night watching the comments because, um, so many of you were already posting images of things you had shot after yesterday's workshop, which I just thought was amazing. So many of you bought the little experience experimental TV cameras I was using yesterday. In fact, somebody said they were already, like, going like crazy on eBay, and that's awesome. Um, so yeah, let's get started. Uh, and again, we didn't want to set up lights because we wanted you all to see the full process of all the setups, all the computer tethering everything we're doing today. So, um, who are models already? Ah, Let's see. Start with you. You ready? All right. Um, that outfit will be cool. I don't know that the umbrella matches your wardrobe, but oh, you know the Peirsol's? Yeah. Yeah, that'll work. So we'll start with this thing. Um, do this How The chat rooms, chat rooms, air. Doing good, Jeremy. Good. Hello. Ever betting I was spying on them last night? Spying on everybody? It's fun. I was amazed at how really get it. The audio is like, a lot of times, actually. I was speaking very quietly, and I was like, Oh, man, they didn't hear that. And then yesterday, the audio is so good that literally everything was picked up. So that's awesome. Yeah, it sounded really good. Um, I'm actually gonna can we? Are there any of these boxes? Start enough that she can stand on this? You wouldn't. Oh, yeah. Anything to elevate her just a little bit? Yep. That'll work. You come to what's going on That you you Can you take your shoes off. You want? Because I'm not gonna be shooting full body. It was perfect, actually. I'm sorry. Hop down. I must get your Ford. Yeah, uh, let's send her her with this one, and then I'm gonna move you. Uh, maybe over here to my the sun you go. And then, John, let's get my small 600 watt pack so we can literally show them the exact same. Already. Looks cool. And we're getting more umbrellas ish. We have some more Kool. Okay, that little red one might be called. And I have some paper in my, uh, some fabric I want to use in that bag over there, so? Well, Jeremy, photo Nater on the chat room. Wants to know what the word of the day is. The word of the day. That's a good question for anyone who missed yesterday. Our word of this I can't even routine. It's a walker. What's Ah, word of the day? Yesterday was moist. Yes, just Teoh. We were talking about how sometimes to make a band loosen up or to get them out of that, like, you know, what I do with my hands phase will give them a word of the day. Just toe, you know, dwell on think about. And, uh, yesterday's word was moist, so I hope you guys enjoy Ah. So, um yeah, I might need a camera that might begin. I've always wanted to show up to a really big photo shoot. Alright, guys, I'm ready. You're ready. Let's do this, OK? And you make them think I was going to shoot holding with an IPhone. Hello. It would be a fun challenge. We should do it. In fact, they all said Google, one of my favorite photographers. Damon winner. He's the photographer of The New York Times. He just did a Siri's in Afghanistan. I think with only his IPhone, it's really beautiful stuff. I think it's just I think it was just posted last week on Hey did a whole series of the soldiers in combat. Using an IPhone is very cool. Um, and I actually met Damon winner and when I was in Haiti weirdo random restaurant and, uh, I didn't know he was Damon Winter. I just said I just saw all his camera says here you with And he told me his name and I was a little bit start struck because he's awesome, so you'll definitely check him out. Pop your flash. I like to talk. I like to talk smack of my assistance. When when I was when I was growing up, my my dad, I love my dad to death. He would Ah. If he was mad at me about anything, you know, he would use whatever was just said against me. I'm like you, madam, Like I gotta go. I'm gonna get in my room. Our room? You? Yeah. That doesn't Didn't make sense. Good. Try that. Bathroom. Your face. Um, kid, I am really rambling today. You ready? We're What's that? I know, right? Yeah, that is a good idea. So let's talk about these really, really exciting camera settings, because I know it's riveting information. Um, we're going to get 100. I So, ah, to it, uh, to wait, maybe. Ah, in a shutter speed of 1 25 I know that was a mind explosion for you guys. Um, we're joking yesterday. How? I'm just not I don't like technical information. I'm not a big gear fan. I'm not a big fan of what? Lindsay's aids or settings that just just do what I need to do to get the job done. So the funds for the fun part for me almost of the fund, for that would have been fun. The fun part is ah, you know what happens creatively. Not what settings amusing. So, um it's It's It's always interesting shooting into light because ah, your camera, if you're if you're person that prefers to auto focus like me because I have terrible eyes, you can cameras hard to focus when you're shooting into light as a hard time. Maybe Nikon is better for all your Nikon users. But I knew where this thing sometimes a little tricky, uh, so skewed out just a little more, John. We'll just see. I'm telling you right now, that's a good start. We're not there yet, but, oh, let's change those good default on the settings in the contrast and to they just okay, I think you're starting to already. See, let's do it from the side, actually, turn your umbrella, put it over your right shoulder. Yeah, and then turn more facing that wall with your whole body. And then now look at me a little bit. Yeah, right there. And then skate around a little more to this way yet, mats, Really hot and hot in an overexposed way. Uh, what's that? Yeah, Let's Let's turn it. Let's turn it down a good bit. People tuning in right now. This Jeremy know that shots really over exposed. Um, so let's do this. I still don't like it a zoo of yet. Um, now cover your whole body. Yeah. Let that umbrella be more diffusion. So even bring it closer. Like wrap. Wrap it around to camera a little bit more. Yeah. Click cover your face of the umbrella. So that will probably provide. Yeah, I like that kind of covering part of your face. That's nice. Once again, my cameras having issues, focusing, even cheated in a little more over your face. So see one. I see how that looks. Yeah. So we're starting to get their cause You're seeing What's happened is it's really, really soft diffusion on our face. And we covered up one eye and what we could do. Do we have the, um, found sport anywhere v flat? Yeah. It might help to bring that in tow, because right now, our faces going dark, But But I do like the Okay, so now let me see both eyes, but still kind of keep it really cropped in close. All right, there. I think we should and turn your head a little more cheated back this way. Yeah. Like looking over your shoulder like that since you really? And you're just gonna stand it straight up over here? We'll see if that will feel in the shadows. Just a little bit. I am so not a fan of brick. I'm sure crop out the brick. Let's see. Yes. So, yeah, that's much, much softer light. Um, on her face, you can see with the umbrella. Gets a little bit, um, overexposed. I'm gonna go lower and shoot higher, cause I don't like to sing her shirt, actually. Want to see some for arms? Um, I think that'll be nicer frame, but I do like leaving out the bricks. Um, I've always wanted to dio photo of all the photo cliches in the world. Like, you know, you get your brick walls that air cliche, right? And get your train tracks. You've got Thea. I always say the loan couches the new train track. You know, like, how many photos have you seen? Somebody I'm like sitting in a random couch the middle of nowhere. Then you've got the guitar over the shoulder. So what if you did a photo of somebody sitting on a loan couch, but the loan couches sitting on train tracks and then behind the train tracks is a brick wall. And then maybe you do some selective coloring on Maybe just the Maybe they could have, Ah, one balloon sitting on the couch with a gets horror. Maybe across their lap. What's that? Yeah, Sun Rays coming. It actually probably a pretty cool photo. If you combine all the cliche is right. So maybe somebody should try that. I think that'd be pretty funny. Um, don't get me wrong. I've done some things. Cliches. I've done the There's a lot of brick walls in my past, that's for sure. Both literally and figuratively. I don't know. That means once again, this is can you We have that flashlight from yesterday. So can I have somebody to Shauna on? Her eyes were quick. When we're shooting in the dark, a lot of times get really close over here. We're shooting in the dark and ended Focus. I'll have somebody using IPhone or flashlight or whatever and shot it in the ads just to my camera. Little red dots can pick up the focus. Um, that's better. Uh, still too dark. My goodness, what happened there? So look over your shoulder again. Really? Back towards the lane. Do you like the crop? A little better. And then let's bring in the red umbrella. That little tiny red on over there. And then, um, one more time. Turnaround, everything nice and symmetrical. Straight to me, your body. I'm really everything. Yeah, And then we can move this. I tried the V flat. It did help a little bit in the shadows, but we don't have enough power really blasting at it to fill in enough. But I do see that I made a little bit of a different. So I just kind of wanted to show you all that, um and then John Go, Let's go and switch to the red umbrella. It doesn't really match your kind of matches. Skirt close. Close enough for illustration. Turn it around. So this little flap is behind your back. There you go. I'm gonna move on here in a minute. This mean you'll get what we're doing in the story I told a minute ago of of getting the color splashing behind people. It's just a fun trick, Especially as I was talking about a street documentary thing. It's really fund to to use the light to give people color When when they don't even there's probably a lot of people are asking about moderate leaflets on the street photography I might let somebody else answer. That's always a fun, interesting subject to discuss. Let's move this around on the back. I do encourage. When I was in Haiti, um, we every single person I photographed in Haiti, we First, though we're already taking the time to talk with them and explain my Siri's that is a part of that. We made sure that they signed a model release. So, uh, I had translators with me who are speaking Creole in Haiti, and it was cool. They really respected the project we're doing. Basically, what I did is have them hold up signs expressing their thoughts right after the earthquake to kind of get a personal view. You know, at that time, only the media was showing gloom and doom. Here's dead bodies. Here's crumbled buildings. Look at all this disaster, but they weren't telling the human side of the story. So that's why I went down there to let people hold times and express their thoughts, and it was really cool because there were a lot of other photographers down there who almost looked like paparazzi. I mean, it was just that I remember hearing about some scenes where there are more photographers and there were people helping in saving lives. And so I wanted to go down there and just listen and let them tell their own story. And so because we were doing that because we're showing them a lot of respect. Uh, they were willing to sign a mall release, and I've never sold those photos. I mean, I didn't We just needed wanted to do that to let them know that their photos were being shown on the Internet. All that good stuff. So, um, anyone quick little Jeremy tangent right there for you to put it right behind her umbrella and put the stand behind her body. So I don't see anything. And I'm also going to, you know, uh, lower the light real quick and removed the soft box. Another one of my favorite tricks when you're talking about experimental portraiture is that backlight people all the time with one light and use their body as a flag, which means use her. I'm gonna use her head to block the actual bulb. And, Ah, and it's a little trickier here cause we already ah, have the backlit window. So we're adding to that with a bomb, so I have to play with that. But the basic thought is it. Sometimes it could be really cool to backlight somebody with, uh, with with light. And then when I was shooting the Britney Spears to our all the best photos were when I was ableto lineup that spotlight, you know, they have tons of lights on a concert. But there's always that one big spotlight. And the best photos were always when I had that spotlight behind her head. And it just did this amazing kind of whole body glow and ah is really interesting. So So my favorite little tricks to do no idea what it looked like care about what's right and, you know, going crank the peril. Let's try to overpower that back line. Yeah, So I'm gonna guess, um, we're gonna try a dough. Just see if that's exploding. Look off. Not it may. Look, look over here and chin up some. Yeah, that's better. Yeah, looks yeah. I mean, that red is kind of annoying, but I can I think of it d set rates a bit. It will be a little more interesting. So, as I said yesterday, this is an experimental class, you know? So you guys were seeing all the weird shots, all the the good and the bad. So it's very interesting trouble stuff. Very interesting to try it live, I should say. See, I think I'm gonna open up my girl. Basically, I know. Zach says if you your shutter controls Amy at light in your your aperture controls strobes, So I'm gonna, um, go slower on my shutter speed to allow more ambient light to come in on her face. I'm gonna go to 1/60. We'll see if that helps. I mean, I kind of just corrected it with exposure and capture one, but I'm gonna try toe, get it in camera. Because, like I said yesterday, it's always better to have things in camera than to You have to fix it later. Sweet. Said it did help a little bit for sure. Um and I dont like her the way. Opposed her it all yet So I'm gonna work on that for a minute. Make a little more of an interesting composition. So make that that the poll of the umbrella Gombe or like, back across Yeah, There you go. And then chin up. Someone look back of that air conditioning thing right there, chin up a little more, and then just use one hand, drop your left hand, and then I kind of just pull your shirt straight, not know of the wrinkles out on your shirt. You can Yeah, that's good. Yeah, I like your hand upon your hip like that. It's good trying to make this composition a little more intriguing. Just turn your head a little more this way. Yeah, so in this case, that red umbrella is getting pretty overexposed because we're blasting light through it. And honestly, I don't think this is the best example, because I'm battling with that with the natural light of the windows. And so it's a little bit, actually a lot overkill. It's pretty some. I think there's a bad example because of that. So as we say, this is creative live. You're seeing all the things too good and the bad, and I do not approve of this photo just yet. Um, so let's try one last thing. I think it might help. If we reverse this, you're going to stand on the chair right here. And you're gonna put that light behind her. How many times you try an idea like this before you just beg it, Decide? Maybe that's a great question. Um, that's what I like to do. I think a good I think a good photographer should should know quickly when something is not gonna work on. And I do that all the time. If I'm on a music job and the client is waiting for me to execute an idea, um, I will kill it as soon as I just know. You know what? This This I don't love this. In fact, with this idea, if this is a real job, I might I might just probably move on because of the way the light is bouncing around in here. Because when I want a deal on street corners, there was just this really soft settle light. It was nothing like this massive window giving this huge source of life. So everything was more evenly exposed when we flash that light overpowered everything. And it gave this nice, consistent color in the umbrella, and that light was wrapping around that all of skin, and it just really gorgeous. And so I think this might help, though, to move away from this crazy big light. In fact, this light is gonna like her face, which I think will help some. Um, so let's try one more time and then we'll move on. And another thing I do a lot, which is very real world is that even though this window was my initial ideal background, um, I like kind of sitting upon my lights perfectly and then swapping around, even though we have this huge studio full of stuff. I still like the idea of trying to make this work as a background because I can get really low and only get those those lights in the background, which is kind of cool. Let's try this one more time to get even lower, and John moved the lights a little bit, but this way, give me a big smile. Just get good smiling shot. Of course, in this context, it looks weird for her to be holding an umbrella indoors, but yeah, that light is still way too hot, said John. Let's Ah, crank it down. Um, about half power. Sometimes I just become a, uh, what's the word from the veg? Get determined to make something work into one of those times. And I know there's a shot here, and this is, uh this is me working it out. So and because we're tethering, it's also slowing me down. Like usually, this can all be worked out in a much shorter span of time because I'll take a picture. Look at the back of my camera. Just my setting them. This is much quicker when I'm not tethered. Um, so this is definitely much longer, uh, longer process of figuring this one out. But I wanted you to you guys to see the full full deal. Oh, thank you. Okay. Yeah. You see what happened there? The umbrella does look better. That's what I'm gonna do now is just open. Really good. A very slow handheld. Probably 20th of a second. A lot more ambient light in. Yeah, I think. Yeah. See, I think I even moved on that. You gotta be very careful when you're the 20th of a second. Yeah, I can see where I moved in her hair. Her face looks a lot better. And the thing is, all the details there. And so, uh, you know, and the whites of pretty hot, but they're not nearly as hot as they were. Um, so let me mess with that for a second. Yeah, I could. Essentially going to put a shovel. I never face a little bit. Um, like the what might be nice. No, this is that awkward thing. I'm like, OK, I still don't like my picture. No big deal. So I'm not gonna waste your time making seeing, making me watch umbrella? Uh uh, work. So we're gonna move on and do something else very experimental and expect doing things experimental by nature means that you're experimenting. There's a very good chance that may not work. And I think I could keep pushing this if I wanted to. And we could get the very perfect exposure on the umbrella and her face because I've done it in the past. But I don't want to waste your time trying to do something that mundane. So we're gonna move on. Um, so you're done for a minute. Let's clear out the space right here with the the latter and the self box and all this stuff. John, let's get out that Mylar paper. Do you have any questions? In the meantime, Jeremy do usually shoot each other. You almost always shoot tether. No, I mean actually tethered on my bigger shoots on the TV staff, the bigger music sheets for most of time because of what I just said. I shoot to card cause I'm able to process things much, much quicker than what we just did. Um, because it's like, you know, try it. Look at the back. A gesture sayings tried again. I mean, it goes away faster when I'm not tethered. But sometimes client don't give me that option. They want to see what you guys were so on. Screens, they forced me toe, you know, And in sometimes it does work because the client is standing of your shoulder and then they know we've got the shot. Let's move on. But I have to stand there and keep shooting and figure it out. You know, um, so sometimes it does keep things quicker, but then sometimes you've then got 10 cooks in the kitchen who are analyzing every misplaced hair and every wrinkle when it just makes things more complicated. So ultimately, though, I prefer to shoot to card because I'm moving much quicker that way. Um, and later yellow. Gonna see that are a little afternoon. Uh, delight. Yeah, We're going to see me. She is straight to card and not tether. And you'll see how How much faster we go and you will still see those images we're gonna download as we go.

Class Description

ex·per·i·ment (noun) - a test, trial, or tentative procedure; an act or operation for the purpose of discovering something unknown

How do you make extraordinary photos that surprise and delight? Join Jeremy Cowart and a lively mix of first time models in an exciting, eye-opening 2 day workshop. We'll explore methods and techniques to reveal, highlight, expose, enhance and otherwise present your subject in new and unexpected ways.


Lisa Carney

This guy is FANTASTIC. Creative and thinks outside the box. Totally had me rethink my shooting style. LOVE LOVE

a Creativelive Student

I almost didn't watch this one. It was a little slow at first, but once JC get's going it's a fun ride. He transitions from using $2k strobes, to using just a few dollars for lighting. This course opens a lot of doors and shows that it's ok to go against the grain and to think outside the box. Lots of good ideas to see in this one!

Mike Taylor

Experimental portraiture is just that. Experimental. However, I don't feel that JC was properly prepared. Shooting a single person with a 2400ws pack is simply overkill, considering that he wanted to be shooting wide open. A fairly simple solution would have been to use a few sheets of Lee ND filter over the light head. I do suppose this was typical of any shoot. Especially a shoot that I'm doing.