Disrupting the Portrait at Apple Photo Lab

For those of you who are thinking of taking the “Disrupting the Portrait” class at Apple Store – here’s my review, in short; DO IT!!!

For a while now, I’ve been fascinated by portraits. I took a portrait lighting class here in Charlotte and then went on a photo walk with a mirrorless camera – and took portraits.

Thinking that the new iPhone 11 camera might require a class, I checked out Apple’s classes and found Disrupting the Portrait in partnership with Christopher Anderson at Apple Photo Lab. Here’s the class description:

Using the creative approach of photographer Christopher Anderson, learn how to rethink the subject, obstruct the lens, and stylize your shot to create unexpected portraits. Bring a friend or pair up with others, and our Creative Pros will take you through immersive exercises and photo prompts. Try the latest iPhone or bring your own.


When I got to the class, I was given an iPhone 11 to play with. Setting my trusty iPhone 7 Plus aside, I took on the challenge of taking portraits with a new view.

The course covers three topics:

  1. Rethink the Subject
  2. Obstruct the Lens
  3. Stylize Your Shot

Rethink the Subject

Rethinking the subject was easy for me. As a writer, and one who gets paid to rethink everything from words to brands to experiences to parking lots, my brain can not rethink. After all, I was the one who took 32 different pictures of one subject in my first photography class. So did everyone else – right? Yes, and I was the only one who picked an inanimate subject, a rock. My teacher, a kind man, was amused and I’m sure he wanted to say something. And he did “You picked a rock -really?” shaking his head. But the rock pictures were good, at least to me. Besides, it was more about the experiment than it was the subject.

Here, my main portrait subject was our class leader. Other background “subjects” included store employees, images of Apple products, real Apple products and customers. It would have been more inspiring to leave the store and explore, but sometimes you have to work with the box you’re given.

Obstruct the Lens

The next step, Obstruct the Lens, was the most challenging for me. When you think of portraits, you think of a subject facing the frame. Not if you’re Christopher Anderson. His goal is to put something between the lens and the subject. For example, a key, a scarf, a water bottle, an iPhone. What? Why? I found looking at the images intriguing and tense. In some images I wanted to wipe the obstruction away. Yet, the obstruction forced me to stop and look close and to wonder why did he do that?

Given the task of completing this assignment, I was offered a dozen or so pieces of colored film – along with any Apple product I wanted to use as a prop. Holding the prop with one hand and the iPhone and tapping the photo circle with the other took some coordination, but after a few tries I got it. Having an assistant would help, but that would take away from the spirit of being the solo portrait artist.

Other props I used: Apple watch band, iPhone case and a small spotlight.

Stylize Your Shot

The last step, stylize your shot, is the one I enjoy most. When I first got into digital photography, I dreaded editing time. Most of my shots were okay and needed a light touch so it didn’t take that long. Still, going into Lightroom is not a task I dig into when I have hundreds of photos to edit, like I did after a recent trip to Japan.

In the class, you select your favorite photos, edit them on the iPhone and then they get sent to you. It was fun to play around with the new editing features. Because class was coming to a close, I did some very light editing at the store. When I got back to my Macbook Pro, I did some additional editing including wiping away the calves that showed up in silhouette and blurring out customers in an under the table shot.

Here’s a look at my best shots . . . which ones do you like?

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