DPP Home Profiles Ryan Schude: A Novel In Every Frame

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ryan Schude: A Novel In Every Frame

As his career takes off, Ryan Schude exemplifies the youth movement in photography as a visual storyteller using all of the digital tools at his disposal

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Adds Schude, “For at least a month before the shoot date, I cast each subject specific to their exact placement in the photo so that when we got there, we knew where everyone was going and how we needed to light them. We set up for about six hours, which wasn’t nearly enough time, but we had to start shooting as the sun was going down and I wanted to get some dusk fill light in there. Shooting lasted about an hour with fine-tuning everyone’s positions and getting a few options.”

Schude strives for perfection in the camera, but he shoots options to cover his bases during postproduction. The digital imaging is a significant portion of the process, and it can’t be overlooked—it must be factored in during the shoot. It’s rare that everything comes together in a single exposure, but it has happened.

“The post is always a pain,” Schude says. “Ideally, I’d get the shot in one frame and not have to do much later, but with so many people involved, there can be a fair amount of compositing. It would be possible to shoot everyone separately and put them together later, but it’s a fun challenge to direct such a large group at once and try to get it in one frame. The only time that happened was in the ‘Saturn’ photo; the very last frame I shot was the one, and I knew that because I was able to look at the computer monitor and check each subject’s expression and positions, and ensure they were how I wanted them.”

The “Saturn” image should be familiar to DPP readers—it accompanied Schude’s first mention in these pages as an Emerging Pro in 2007. Shooting digitally allows him the freedom to composite layers and fine-tune every element in the image, but it also allows him to check his work and maximize the possibility of getting everything right with a single click.

“Everyone in the ‘Saturn’ was from the same frame,” he says. “Everyone was static, and we didn’t shoot any options for their positions, so once I had the girl and the suitcase in the perfect spot, we were done. It took her about 20 tries to throw the suitcase exactly where it needed to be and still hold her pose right after throwing it. Some of the other images have kids moving around or a lot of options on people’s placement, so I’ll composite as needed—usually pulling from five to 10 different frames, depending on how many subjects are in the shot. There’s generally only one angle taken, so the camera is locked down on a tripod, and I try not to change the light too much once it’s set to make it easier to put it together in the end.”

I still really enjoy shooting everything from street photos to landscapes to snapshots without thinking about how the reality of the content differs from a staged scene,” Schude says. “One of the reasons I’m more drawn to staged scenes now is the freedom to create a narrative from scratch rather than having to find one that already exists.

The lighting bit is key. Even though he often composites multiple exposures into a single finished image, any change in lighting position—even if only aimed at one small portion of the frame—is bound to have an impact on other areas of the image. That’s where Schude’s access to vast quantities of lighting gear becomes invaluable. Lighting equipment is expensive, but necessary, and if you’re funding projects yourself, it becomes an even bigger concern—which is why Schude relies on the impact of his portfolio to bring in new assignments.


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