Narrative photography is the art of using your photos to tell a story. When viewers can relate to a story or in your photography, they are more compelled to feel emotion or take action.
Kate Woodman, instructor of PRO EDU's The Science of Color, is back with an inspirational tutorial on storytelling. Whether you’re a commercial photographer, working on a personal project, or specializing in portraiture or landscapes, narrative photography is the answer that will add complexity and depth to your work.
In this course, Kate uses a case study of her invention to tell a romantic and mysterious story. Follow along as she shoots 2 models in 6 different, color-coordinated rooms. Learn her lighting, framing, and color thought processes as she directs the models and makes calculated changes to get her desired result.
Narrative Photography Tutorial Overview
In each of the six color coordinated rooms, Kate shows the location, explains the props, frames the shot, and sets up the composition according to the tone of the Narrative Arc. She directs the models explaining her thought process on each model's hair, makeup, wardrobe and styling so the emotions of the characters are drawn out through camera.
Kate talks about why she chose her gear including camera, camera settings, and lenses for this image. As she begins shooting, she makes changes in the lighting, props, color temperature, and styling to add to the authenticity and believability of the scene. Once Kate has made intentional decisions about the image she wants, she makes adjustments and takes final images as well as a backplate. Back at the studio, Kate explains her entire workflow for editing and color grading using actions.
In this chronological exploration of Kate’s narrative storytelling process you will learn:
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll feel confidence to forge inspiration, conceptualize your ideas, and execute your plan to see it all come together in post production editing.
This 3+ hour advanced tutorial uses Adobe Photoshop and Capture One. You can get 2 free sections of this tutorial and one of the color actions that Kate uses in post production for free by entering your email address here.
Introduction To Narrative Photography (2:11)
Welcome to Narrative Photography with Kate Woodman. In this course, follow Kate as she creates a narrative series of images from conception, an on location photo shoot, and retouching. Learn about the importance of narrative arc, emotion, theme, and using color to create your own unique stories.
Finding Inspiration (3:48)
Sit down with photographer, Kate Woodman, and hear about her process for finding inspiration to create compelling, distinctive narrative images. Listen to where Kate found her inspiration for this narrative series.
Creating a Narrative (3:30)
Before a single image is captured, learn how to create a narrative arc that will guide your focus as you create your images. Identify the main components of a story and how those elements influence and guide the planning and execution of your photo shoot. Define narrative arc, theme, and emotion to create images with depth and layers. Identify a process for developing stories for your narrative photography.
Story Building Tools (3:38)
Having identified the main components of creating a story, go further by learning specific tools that a photographer can use to facilitate the narrative. Learn to leverage the power of framing, lighting, and color to create intentional mood, theme and emotion within your images.
Story Breakdown (6:04)
Listen as photographer, Kate Woodman breaks down the specifics of the story she built for this course. Understand how color, relationship, emotion and time will all come together to create a narrative arc across her series. Learn about her process of creating layers and intentionally defining dimensional elements to communicate abstract ideas.
With an idea in hand, see how storyboards can help to pre-visualize your concept and create a cohesive feel to your images - before committing on the day of production. Follow Kate as she examines each frame of her narrative series via storyboard panels. Identify the value of storyboarding and how it affects framing, lens choices, lighting setups, subject placement and the overall continuity and efficiency of your narrative project.
Producing A Story (2:34)
Another important aspect of planning and building a concept for a narrative photography shoot is to manage the logistics of the production. Consider casting your models, contracting a makeup/wardrobe stylist, and location scouting to have a productive shoot.
On Location-Scene Breakdown (8:24)
With pre-production complete, go on location at the Angad Arts Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. Follow photographer, Kate Woodman, as she executes her vision for a vibrant, colorful narrative series. In this first room, the Purple Room, establish the scene and intention of the shoot. Identify camera gear, lighting, casting, environmental elements and a general workflow approach for the shoot. Set the foundation for the narrative arc with the Purple Room as our subjects meet and begin their relationship.
On Location-Setup (8:16)
After identifying the important components of the Purple Room scene, follow photographer, Kate Woodman, as she works through the location setup. Identify camera settings and watch as Kate iterates through a series of captures, honing in the story and perfect look. Learn how to manipulate pose, adjust lighting modifiers for effect, and dial in a scene to capture all of the work that went into planning this setup.
On Location-Photoshoot (6:49)
With settings, lighting and pose perfected, watch as Kate executes her plan. Iterate through a series of captures (both subject focused and additional backplates) that will be composited in Photoshop during retouching.
Photoshop-Layer Blending (5:43)
Enter post production on the first step of the narrative series. Follow photographer, Kate Woodman as she guides you through the image selects preparation in CaptureOne. Learn to composite multiple layers into a finished image using the power of Photoshop. Blend layers, manipulating scale, opacity, and perspective. Paint layers masks for effective layer compositing.
Photoshop-Color Adjustments (8:30)
Move from layer blending and compositing, into making dynamic color adjustments within Photoshop. Create color separation and motivated shifts in hue and saturation, while protecting skin tones. Employ a 2 pass approach to modifying color with global, then more targeted adjustments. Utilize solid color adjustments, making targeted manipulations to highlights, and blend it all together for a cohesive, dimensional feeling. Utilize the spot healing brush and clone stamp tools for quick cleanup in specific areas.
Photoshop-Dodging & Burning (5:28)
Focus on creating a more dynamic and dimensional image through using Photoshop’s dodging and burning tools. Using a curves workflow, create separation and impact through subtle and targeted lighting adjustments in post production.
Photoshop-Final Adjustments (7:47)
In this section, focus on the final adjustments for the first image of the series - The Purple Room. Utilize the included custom action from Kate Woodman, entitled Mona Lisa, for a compressed dynamic range that yields a more painterly, stylized look. Learn to adjust a preset action for a customized look. In addition, learn how to correct frame distortion and manipulate perspective for cleaner lines and symmetry for an object within the scene.
On Location-Scene Breakdown (6:31)
Move on to the second location for the series - the Red Room. Follow photographer, Kate Woodman, as she establishes the scene and narrative goal for this scene. Look at model posing, wardrobe intention, camera settings, lighting, and prop placement. Understand the mindset of the characters to set the mood and narrative intention for the scene
On Location-Photoshoot (5:43)
With the scene set, follow photographer Kate Woodman, as she captures multiple images for a composite workflow. Hear her insights as she shoots and listen to her directives to her subjects, to achieve the next phase of the relationship of her characters.
Photoshop-Layer Blending Part I (6:08)
Follow Kate at a more accelerated pace as she works through the retouching/compositing phase of the Red Room image. Begin as she identifies her photoshoot selects in Capture One and preps them for Photoshop editing. Work through part 1 of her compositing and blending workflow to create the second image of this story arc - the Red Room.
Photoshop-Layer Blending Part II (6:29)
With the scene extended, continue blending and compositing layers, stitching together the best elements from each capture for the final image. Utilize the crop tool guidelines as you continue to align and adjust your composite for the optimum framing and composition. Add the backplate to composite a clock element into the scene. Leverage Photoshop’s lasso tool to make quick isolations. And learn how to scale an element within your composite.
Photoshop-Dodge, Burn, & Color Adjustments (3:20)
In this phase of post production, transition from compositing into color and lighting adjustments. Follow Kate’s workflow in adjusting skin tone utilizing Photoshop’s hue/saturation adjustment. Paint masks to target color adjustments to specific locations within the composition. Utilize a curves workflow, to dodge and burn for dimensional skin tone.
Photoshop-Final Adjustments (3:04)
For the final step on the Red Room - focus on color to complete the image. Utilizing Kate’s custom Photoshop Action, Mona Lisa - apply a dynamic range shift for a painterly aesthetic. Learn how to manipulate her action to fit the context of this image.
On Location-Scene Breakdown (4:59)
At this phase of the narrative, move forward into the Yellow Room. Go on location with Photographer, Kate Woodman, as she crafts the next frame of her story. Follow Kate as she sets the scene, describing the location, props, wardrobe, characters, gear, camera settings and story motivation.
On Location-Photoshoot (7:20)
In this environment, follow Kate, as she walks through how to efficiently capture her vision within the space constraints of the location - the Yellow Room. Hear her philosophy on shooting without a tripod for composite imagery and when she chooses to shoot with a bracket and stitch mindset. Learn how to utilize your lens choice, framing, and camera angle to achieve the optimum shot.
Photoshop-Layer Blending (3:37)
With the photoshoot complete for the Yellow Room, follow Kate as she exports her image selects from Capture One and begins compositing and retouching with Photoshop. Watch a quick overview of the composite process.
Photoshop-Shaping, Color, & Perspective (5:39)
Build on the composite of the Yellow Room by adding dimension to targeted areas with Dodge and Burn. Add lighting detail to the image subjects and environment for dramatic effect. Manipulate color with Kate’s custom Photoshop action, Mona Lisa. Change the image perspective to correct frame edge distortion.
On Location-Scene Breakdown (5:56)
At this point in the narrative arc, the characters have reached a point of conflict. Follow photographer, Kate Woodman, as she sets up the narrative goal of the Green Room. Continue to build on the principles of using color, lighting, wardrobe, props, and specific model casting to achieve the next emotional stage and plot change in this story.
On Location-Photoshoot (4:33)
With the scene established and a plan for the narrative, follow photographer Kate Woodman, as she captures the pivotal story turn in the narrative series. Learn about posing and perspective as a means to create an emotional implication between the characters. Learn the importance of an intentional focus point in relationship to a wide angle lens and a constrained environment. Capture a backplate element for compositing in Photoshop.
Photoshop-Homework Assignment (1:48)
It’s time to put your knowledge into action. For this section, take all of the concepts you’ve learned across each room and apply them to build your own version of the this phase of the story - the Green Room. And don’t forget to use Kate’s custom color grading, Photoshop action, Mona Lisa, that is included with this project. Please post your work to our online community!
On Location-Scene Breakdown (5:48)
As the story transitions from climax towards resolution within the narrative arc, follow photographer, Kate Woodman as she captures the Blue Room. At this stage, our characters relationship story arc is nearing its conclusion. Watch as Kate sets the scene to create the final image between our two subjects. Learn how the environment, subject placement, perspective, wardrobe, props, and color are created with detailed intention to communicate this critical point in the story.
On Location-Photoshoot (6:27)
The scene is set for the Blue Room. Follow photographer Kate Woodman as she captures the mood and emotion of our characters’ relationship. Work through a series of image captures to shape the light for character detail. Learn how to direct subjects within the scene covering effective posing and movement to capture dynamic images.
Capture One-RAW Processing (4:28)
Move the Blue Room photoshoot into the post production phase of the process. Work through Capture One and hear Kate’s perspective on creating image selects. Develop a solid workflow in camera RAW processing using Capture One’s toolset. Develop a plan for compositing in Photoshop while working in the Capture One processing interface. Manipulate exposure and dynamic range to create balanced image layers.
Photoshop-Layer Blending (3:49)
With the main layers composited for composition and framing, focus on adding more detailed elements to enhance the scene of the Blue Room. See a fast paced look at Kate's compositing method fo a head swap on a subject. Composite light and shadow movement on the floor, and add a stock image element as a subtle story element.
Photoshop-Dodge, Burn, & Final Adjustments (6:04)
For the final adjustments of the Blue Room, follow Kate as she targets areas for clean up, applies dodging and burning to build dimension, adust and refine the composition perspective, and apply the final color adjustments to complete this story climax.
On Location-Scene Breakdown (4:55)
As the narrative arc reaches its conclusion, join Photographer Kate Woodman, as she creates the final image of her narrative series - the White Room. Learn Kate’s philosophy as she examines the character, location, wardrobe, and intention to craft the last image. Develop a quick plan for the post production workflow, with compositing in mind.
On Location-Photoshoot (5:36)
With the scene established, capture the final image of the narrative arc. Watch as Kate uses multiple exposures to light the subject and environment, to create intentional lighting highlights and spill for the subject and environment. Learn to create a series of plates with an efficient usage of limited props to create a room full of easels that will be composited together in post production.
Photoshop-Layer Blending (4:18)
Transition from production to post-production. Learn Kate’s process of compositing in Photoshop to fill an empty room with painting easels. Use an accelerated approach, following all of the concepts from previous lessons, with layering, masking and blending to achieve your own creative compositing results.
With the majority of the compositing work complete, focus on the detailed image cleanup. Using a combination of the spot healing brush and clone stamp tool, follow a high level look at Kate’s approach in blending all of the elements together for an integrated, distinctive final image. Composite the main character of the narrative into the environment of the White Room.
Photoshop-Clock Composite & Assignment (8:12)
For the final step of the post workflow , follow Kate as she composites a clock element into one of her easel/canvas layers to add dimension to the image and depth to the story. Manipulate the stock image's perspective and leverage Photoshop’s curve controls and blend modes to mimic, match and blend the element with the original environment lighting. Utilize a gradient to manufacture a glowing effect on the paint canvas to match the set lighting. Utilize the included RAW images and whatever creative elements you choose to create your own final composite of this final narrative image.
Closing Thoughts (2:40)
Congratulations on completing Narrative Photography with Kate Woodman. It is time for you to create your own story. Build a concept, plan your shoot, consider post production while your are shooting, and come up with creative solutions as you work to build your narrative series of images. We would love to hear from you but most importantly to see your work. Join our community and share your projects with us. Never stop learning!
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