Photographing Someone in Their Element

Over the years, Chris Crisman has made a career for himself out of telling a story with a single image. A landscape photographer turned creative editorial director, Crisman’s job boils down to something more than just pressing down on a shutter. He forges a connection between viewers and models with the camera as a conduit between the two:

While completing his series, Women’s Work, Crisman shared just a few of his thoughts on what it means to work in the field and how to get ahead with just a camera and some ambition.

Finging a Voice

Crisman claims that one of the best things a photographer first starting out can do is develop a personal style all their own. It’s no easy feat and certainly doesn’t take place overnight. But just as it’s important to grasp the technical aspects of photography, it’s equally essential to take the time to discover what subject matter speaks to you on a personal level. Once distinct tastes are developed, building a career out of the medium becomes much less intimidating and easier to navigate.


Learning to Improvise

Planning ahead can certainly provide a sense of comfort and confidence when walking into an unfamiliar setting for a shoot. However, the fact of the matter remains that life is full of surprises. Situations and scenarios are always subject to change, and one of the most evident signs of a talented photographer is the ability to adapt. Rather than allowing surprises to cripple and cause harm on set, use unexpected moments to your advantage. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances can lead to the most powerful and poignant images.


Pushing Boundaries

The key to making a remarkable image is a willingness to bend the rules to materialize a concept. Having a clear idea and following it through from start to finish can serve as an excellent guide during a shoot. Regardless, don’t let an idea serve as a roadblock in the creative process. “Pushing the boundaries” has a different meaning for every individual. For Crisman, it’s experimentation with “moving stills.” Consider what you could do differently and how your unique eye might contribute to the artistic community as a whole.


“When you’re photographing someone in their space, you’ve got this beautiful play between their real environment and how they behave therein. And beyond that, there’s a little bit of magic that happens because they’re just comfortable.”

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One response to “Photographing Someone in Their Element”

  1. Ken Cannon says:

    Chris- amazing video. Thank you for sharing so much of your thought process and work. Environmental images are the heart and soul of photography. Your work is some of the best I’ve seen.

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