Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chris Crisman: Master Of The Person In Their Place

By Mark Edward Harris, Photography By Chris Crisman Published in Photographer Profiles
A University of Pennsylvania graduate, Chris Crisman creates masterful environmental portraits. The art of environmental portraiture is to show something about a person by incorporating key elements of their work or other avocation. On these pages, you can see how Crisman does that and how he uses dramatic lighting and composition to guide the viewer to the critical elements within the frame.
A University of Pennsylvania graduate, Chris Crisman creates masterful environmental portraits. The art of environmental portraiture is to show something about a person by incorporating key elements of their work or other avocation. On these pages, you can see how Crisman does that and how he uses dramatic lighting and composition to guide the viewer to the critical elements within the frame.
In addition to his stunning still photography, Crisman has branched out into motion work. Inside many still photographers there's a budding filmmaker. Crisman is using RED cameras in his motion projects.

What I Use

Cameras & Lenses
Hasselblad H2 camera with Phase One IQ160
digital back
Hasselblad 50-110mm
Hasselblad 35mm
Hasselblad 80mm
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L
Canon EF 50mm ƒ/1.2L
Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L
Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L
Lights
Dynalite 2000 watt-second power packs
Custom-built Dynalite 2400 watt-second
power packs
Chimera softboxes
Photek octabanks
Lightrein octabanks and grids
Other Gear
PocketWizard Plus III and Plus X transmitters
Pelican and Tenba cases
Software
Adobe Creative Suite V6
HDRsoft Photomatix Pro
Phase One Capture One Pro 7
Computers & Printers
Custom-modified MacBook Pro for shooting
Mac Pro with EIZO monitor for retouching
LaCie 75 TB storage array
Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer
Epson Stylus Pro 7900 printer
Crisman: As for cameras, it depends on the project. The Canon cameras are easier to use and there's a lot of flexibility with them, but the image quality from the IQ back is amazing. When I need to get faster shutter speeds to bring the background down outdoors, the Hasselblad is fantastic for that. When I use the Hasselblad, I like to shoot on a remote so I'm not bumping the tripod and also have the mirror up because that mirror slamming down can cause camera shake. It's a nice sound, but it doesn't help the pictures.

My strobes and battery packs are Dynalites. It's what I learned on. We use a range of small to large Octabanks with them. Sometimes, I like using the extra-small Chimera softboxes. Sometimes, we use grids on them. So, they're a direct light source, but soft. I don't like hard shadows on a face, but I like shaping the face. The general idea is real people in real spaces. That's what I'm trying to convey. I want to give a summation of that person's experience. I almost always want something to be inspirational, even if something has a darker tone to it. I want people to connect to it and for the pictures to be thoughtful.

DPP: In your work, it's obvious people skills are an important component.

Crisman: I try to get people to look at my work ahead of a shoot; they usually can find some people in some of the images who they can relate to. If it's about just getting through the session in time, I try and show that that's what I'm concerned about, too. If they're worried about looking bad in front of the camera, I'll discuss what their concerns are. There's a lot of therapy involved with this. They're putting themselves out there for the world to see, so there's fear that comes with that. I think it's a good idea to get yourself in front of the camera once in awhile to remind yourself of the experience.

DPP: In addition to your still photography, you're working with motion on occasion, as well.

Crisman: It's the reality of the times. The general idea that I like to shoot from a tripod and shoot remotely frees me up to direct. It's a similar process. We've done some behind-the-scenes videos of my shoots and some pieces for AARP. Those were shot with the RED. I'm not the cinematographer. I'm the director.

DPP: You often use the word "we" instead of "I" when talking about your shoots. Your team seems to play a big role in your work.

Crisman: In the last few years, as the productions get bigger, the schedule gets tighter and the expectations become a lot higher, it has really become a lot more about trusting and collaborating with the people I work with. We're trying as a team to do unique things—not be boring, not be simple—and produce special, meaningful work.

Go to www.crismanphoto.com to see more of Chris Crisman's photography and motion work.

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