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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 1 of 48

Class Introduction


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 1 of 48

Class Introduction


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

We're gonna be talking about the environmental portrait today. So basically what I want to start off with is an overview of the entire class, what we're gonna cover over the next several chapters, segments, what have it. And we're gonna be doing a number of live shoots, a number of different type of environments and locations and everything. So let's take a minute to kind of go over the full scope of what we're going to be covering. So chapter one is the environmental portrait. I kind of just want to give a general introduction to what that means. There's all different genres of photography, from food to action sports to photojournalism and everything but the environmental portrait is kind of what speaks to me, what I'm passionate about, what I enjoy shooting the most. And we'll kind of get into what defines the environmental portrait, some samples of environmental portraits, and the importance of the environmental portrait. So we'll cover all scopes of that. Chapter two, we'll go over...

the action editorial shoot. So we're actually going to be doing a live shoot in studio. Two different versions, really. We're going to be doing one that kind of focuses on the environment and action. So we'll have an athlete in here with a basketball. We'll be doing lit portraits with action along our set here. And then for chapter three, we're actually gonna turn it over and shoot as if we're in a normal photo studio, so we'll set up a big white seamless with a sweep. We'll still have the same guy with the basketball, but I kinda wanna show the full shoot of what would happen on an actual editorial shoot, whether it's for Men's Health or ESPN or anything like that where you have this mix of action environment along with what you can do with studio and seamless and how it all comes together, where it might be placed within a magazine or a commercial shoot, that type of thing, and we'll also use different lighting setups and, you know, outfits and the whole works for both to kind of get all we possibly can out of one shoot. And then chapter four will be post-processing. So we'll take you guys from the lighting and the setup of both of those shoots to how we go through the raw processing using Capture One to kinda make all of our adjustments to the raw files and then exporting them and even bringing them to Photoshop and doing the full edit. So it'll be the full thing, from how I come up with the concepts to the actual lighting and shooting to the post-work. So we'll start with nothing and we'll end up with some finished images that are hopefully pretty cool. So that's the goal. Then we'll move on to chapter five. So we had the chance to shoot indoor location shoots at other locations outside of the studio. So chapter five is actually indoor location at an artist's studio here in Seattle. She had a great, just naturally lit studio that we were able to bring in some of our, the Profoto strobes and supplement that natural light. Kind of capture her in her environment, so that's another part of the environmental portrait, is letting people kind of do their thing within their space. So she was actually a painter, she is a painter here in Seattle. We were able to kind of learn her process, put her into her environment, and then capture her doing her thing, and then pair that up with some more staged portraits within the location. So it was pretty cool, I'm excited to share those videos and that whole process and the final images, which I haven't even totally finished yet, so it'll be exciting to kind of see how that all came together. Chapter six we're gonna go through and do the outdoor location shoot, and again, we've shot on an outdoor location at a garage, so it was actually called the MotoShed and it's a motorcycle garage where they do customization, maintenance, and all that type of things to some motorcycles here in Seattle. And we were able to shoot one of the co-owners. His name was Richie, and we shot him in the garage working on a motorcycle, we shot some portraits of him outside to kind of show mixed lighting, of using, taking the ambient, natural sunlight and mixing that with strobe. And then doing some portraits of him that are a little more traditional style portraits but on location in his garage. So again, the full scope of portraits there. And I'm pretty excited to look at those as well, because it was a totally different setup, where chapter five with the indoor location was this light and airy art studio, chapter six was this gritty garage that had a way different feel, a lot of dramatic lighting and a little more grit to it. And then chapter seven we'll go through the post-shoot workflow. So again, while today will be covering, from today's shoot we'll be covering the raw processing and all of that, I wanna go back and show how I do post-shoot workflow on shoots that were on location, how we can treat things differently as far as the processing, the thoughts that go through my head when shooting on location and how it might not look the exact same on camera as the final images because I'm shooting knowing what the post-work is going to be. So we'll go through that entire post-shoot workflow from folder structure to raw processing to Photoshop to color grading and the whole works. And then chapter eight will be, what do we do with all those images once we have them? It'll be about portfolio and marketing. So building your portfolio, some of the thoughts I have about building a portfolio, whether you're brand new to commercial photography, or if you're experienced and just kind of tweaking your portfolio and getting more of a vision for that. So we'll go over building that along with your website, and then also marketing through social media, different ways to go about showing off your portfolio and your website, how to get in contact with potential clients, and that pretty much wraps it up. So we have eight great chapters of a lot of content that I think takes us from the introduction of the environmental portrait through the creation and then showing them off and showing what you can do with it. So it should be a pretty good class and I'm excited to go over everything. That takes us to our sponsors. So Phase One, we'll be using Capture One for all the raw processing, all the tethering. Capture One is a software made by Phase One. I've been using it for 14 years and I still don't probably know even a third of what it can do, so I'm always learning and they're always adding new features. Profoto, we'll be using all Profoto lights. We'll get into all that type of equipment as we shoot. And then WHCC, White House Custom Colour. They do all my printing for my portfolio, so again it's kind of taking it from the capture to the lighting to the printing, so it's the full gamut there, definitely check them out. So let's get started.

Class Description


  • Confidently create environmental portraits
  • Light any portrait, indoors or outdoors
  • Compose strong environmental portraits
  • Cull and polish high-end images in post
  • Develop a portfolio and marketing tactics


Create dramatic images anywhere by mastering on-location scouting, planning, lighting, and composition. Join professional photographer Dan Brouillette in a start-to-finish course on the art of environmental portraits. From planning and scouting to post-processing and portfolio building, gain the skills to shoot high-end portraits, anywhere. While designed for environmental portrait work, this class is also for any photographer that wants to create better light, on location.

In this light-intensive course, learn how to craft environmental portraits using photographic lighting techniques working with both natural light and studio lighting equipment. Work with multi-light strobe set-ups and natural window light to turn difficult lighting conditions into beautiful light. Then, learn how to mix natural light and studio lights for dramatic effects that complement the scene. By incorporating light in new and inventive ways, Dan will help you push the boundaries of your portraits and improve your workflow.

Finally, work with culling and post-processing. Learn how to polish images using a combination of Capture One, Photoshop, and Alien Skin software. Then, gain insight into building a portfolio and marketing your work to work in editorial and commercial areas for environmental portraiture.


  • Budding portrait photographers
  • On-location portrait photographers
  • Photographers eager to learn on-location lighting
  • Photographers branching into commercial and editorial work


Capture One 11, Adobe Photoshop CC 2018, Alien Skin 2018


Dan Brouillette's high-end editorial style has lead to work with celebrities from Anne Hathaway to Scarlett Johansson. A commercial, editorial and senior photographer based in Nebraska, he's known for giving everyday people the Hollywood look. His previous work as a lighting technician helped him build his signature style using dramatic lighting techniques typically used for commercial work. With an insightful and easy listening teaching style, he helps photographers learn to craft with light.


  1. Class Introduction

    Jump into environmental portraits with an overview of the class. Prep for the class with an overview in this lesson.

  2. Introduction to The Environmental Portrait

    What is an environmental portrait? Environmental portraits tell a story using a single image. Gain insight into the genre in this lesson.

  3. Environmental Portrait Purpose

    Why shoot environmental portraits? Environmental portraits encompass history, story, and personality -- and they are more interesting than plain backgrounds.

  4. Personal Work

    Personal work conveys your unique passion for photography. In this lesson, Dan discusses using personal work -- even for photographers with paying clients -- to avoid burnout and stay true to your passion.

  5. Find Your Process

    Every photographer's workflow may feel a little different. Start finding your own process by brainstorming, planning out personal shoots, scouting locations and more.

  6. Tethering

    Tethering allows your camera to instantly talk to your computer for review during the shoot. In this lesson, learn how tethering can boost your workflow and can help you easily pre-process your images during the shoot.

  7. Purpose For Action Editorial

    Ahead of the live shoot, walk through the purpose of the action editorial shoot in the photo studio. Learn why studio-like shoots are often a requirement.

  8. Prepare for Shoot

    Preparation is key to successful environmental portraits. Master what's essential to the planning process and learn how Dan prepared for the upcoming live shoot.

  9. Action Editorial Process

    Dive into the workflow for an action editorial shoot. Walk through Dan's process for this type of image, from working with the client to delivering the photos and invoicing. Read through an actual editorial assignment from a real magazine and learn how those details spark the planning process, including preparing the dramatic effects from studio lighting.

  10. Set Up Action Editorial Shoot

    Set up for the live shoot, beginning with the tethering software. Go behind the scenes as Dan sets up lights and explains the gear and his vision for the shoot. Work with studio lighting placement, including angles and the height of the light stand. Control strobe lighting with different angles and modifiers.

  11. Shoot: Action Editorial With Athlete

    Begin the live shoot with a test shot to adjust the studio lighting and camera settings. Here, Dan shares his camera settings, like the 1/200 shutter speed and a white balance of around 5500K, then works with the "first layer" of lighting with the key light. Add fill light using a strobe modified with a silver umbrella and an accent rim light. Then, move into action shots.

  12. Studio Portrait Shoot Overview

    Take a brief break from the live shoot and learn why studio shoots are often included to supplement the environmental portraits. Gain an overview of the process before heading back into live shooting.

  13. Shoot: Athletic Studio Portrait

    Set-up the studio portrait using strobe lighting and V-flats with a bright white background. Learn how to manipulate the light to brighten the background without spilling over to the subject using side lighting and "cheats" with V-flats.

  14. Shoot: Manipulate Light to Mimic The Sun

    With the right modifiers and light source, you can mimic natural light with studio lighting. Learn how to create hard light to mimic the sun in the studio.

  15. Shoot: Change Background Color With Light

    Using the same white background, learn how to manipulate the color of the background with light. Remove the lights to create a gray background. Work with several different studio lighting set-ups to manipulate the background color.

  16. Shoot: Create Soft Light with Umbrella

    After working with hard light, work with soft light by using a black and white umbrella with a diffusion sock to light the subject. Set-up the side light to feather on the subject without falling onto the background.

  17. Shoot: Create Intentional Shadows

    Working with studio photography lighting is just as much about the shadows as it is the light. Learn how to create intentional shadows using studio equipment.

  18. Shoot: Action Shots In Studio

    Go behind-the-scenes for studio action shots. Watch as Dan works with a handheld light without a light stand to replicate the look of on-camera flash.

  19. Review Images in Capture One

    Review the images from the live studio shoots inside Capture One. Cull photos quickly with keyboard shortcuts and see the results from the live shoot.

  20. Raw Processing

    Move into post-processing by working with the RAW files. Pre-processing with tethering offers a jump start -- learn the process of fine-tuning RAWs and organizing files.

  21. File Handling

    Organizing files helps streamline the process and make invoicing easier. In this lesson, Dan shares his process for sharing and organizing digital images.

  22. Retouching & Color Overview

    Strategize for post-processing in this overview lesson. Learn Dan's process for editing, including finding your style, and working with color.

  23. Retouch Images in Capture One

    Work inside Capture One to perfect the RAW files from the live shoot. Find tricks and tips to working in Capture One, working with exposure, contrast, and basic color temperature.

  24. Retouch Images in Photoshop

    Moving into Adobe Photoshop, remove distracting elements like stray hairs and acne. Work with the patch tool and clone tool to clean up images in Photoshop.

  25. Retouch Images With Presets

    Work with cropping inside Adobe Photoshop. Then, move into Alien Skin to work with presets to work with different colors and dramatic effects. Work with film-inspired presets, then learn how to fine-tune the effect.

  26. Advertising Vs. Editorial

    Editorial work and advertising work have several distinct characteristics. Learn the difference between the two and how to please both types of clients.

  27. Indoor Location Shoot

    Move into the second shoot of the class with an indoor shoot on location. Gain an overview of the goals and process for the shoot.

  28. Indoor Location Shoot Process

    Prepare for the shoot with tips on the process of the environmental portraiture. Work with a checklist and a shot list, then jump into the first in a series of behind-the-scenes videos in an artist's studio.

  29. Get to Know Your Subject

    Understanding your subject helps create unique, authentic images. Learn how to collaborate with the subject. Find the essentials to quickly getting to know the subject.

  30. Test & Frame Your Shot

    With a shot list and understanding the subject, Dan then moves into analyzing the location and the natural light or ambient light that's already in the space. Work with testing the light and framing the composition.

  31. Create Natural Light

    Placing lights where they'd naturally be in the space helps create flattering, dramatic lighting that doesn't look terribly out of place. Work in the shooting space with initial lighting and start shooting.

  32. Natural Light & Alternate Light

    Every portrait doesn't need studio equipment lighting -- work with natural lighting and window light. Alternate lighting can build variety into your environmental portraits.

  33. How to Shoot Indoor Location Portrait

    Along with action-based environmental portraits, a more formal, looking-at-the-camera shot is often part of each shoot. Work with shooting portraits on location, from setting up the studio lighting to composing and getting the shot.

  34. Indoor Shoot Results

    Review the results from the indoor shoot in this lesson. Dan explains everything that went into the shot and why he made some of the decisions that he did.

  35. Outdoor Location Shoot Goals

    In the third shoot of the class, head out to a location with natural light inside a garage and outdoors. Learn how Dan prepared for the session and the goals for the shoot.

  36. Indoor/Outdoor Light Setup

    Work with outdoor and semi-outdoor locations by tackling the lighting. After scouting and settling on a narrative, work with studio lighting tools to create dramatic effects. Go behind-the-scenes for the three light set-up using artificial lighting.

  37. Studio Light On Location

    Mix the natural light with the ambient light in this shoot outside the garage, continuing the third project of the class. Learn why you might use artificial lighting outside and how to mix the sunlight and a studio light kit.

  38. Create Location Portrait

    Work with the location portrait from the third shoot of the class. Learn how to spot locations for the more formal portrait and work with graphic compositions and more dramatic light.

  39. Outdoor Shoot Results

    Take a look at the results from the final shoot. In this lesson, Dan shares his thought process behind creating each shot and why he made the lighting and composition decisions that he did.

  40. Post Processing Overview

    Make a plan to polish the images from the second and third shoots. In this lesson, get an overview of the editing process before jumping into the post-processing.

  41. Choose Selects & Sort Images From Indoor Shoot

    Cull the images from the artist's studio and the garage inside Capture One. Review the images and go through the process of choosing what photos to edit and deliver.

  42. Edit Raw Images from Indoor Shoot

    Learn how to polish those indoor shots inside Capture One. Work with exposure, contrast, and color with the shots from the artist's studio.

  43. Finish Images in Photoshop & Alien Skin

    Work inside Photoshop to remove scuffs and scrapes on the walls and other clean-up tasks. Then, work with files in Alein Skin to color using presets.

  44. Portfolio Management

    Moving into the portfolio and marketing segment, gain insight into building a strong portfolio. Dan shares tips on building a portfolio, from what order to use to choosing what images to include.

  45. Importance of Website

    Websites serve as a first impression of your work. In this lesson, learn the dos and don'ts to building a photography website, like focusing on images and simplifying navigation.

  46. Marketing 101

    Your portfolio doesn't do much good if no one is actually laying eyes on it. Develop strategies to get your work in front of potential clients for editorial and commercial work.

  47. What About Reps?

    Reps work with the numbers while you focus on the photography. Learn the basic pros and cons to working with representatives or agents.

  48. Bring it All Together

    Wrap up the course with a final chat on environmental portrait photography. Once you've built a successful business, remember to take the time to get back to your roots and shoot for yourself.


Julie V

I had the chance to sit in the audience for this class and absolutely loved it. Watching Dan create amazing images from start to finish in front of us was so inspiring. I've learned so much from this class. It actually gave me the confidence to start playing with lights in my studio. It was really useful to see how he sets his lights and how he can easily mix ambient light with artificial. I also love how he focuses on getting the image right in the camera to only do light edits after. I recommend this class to anyone wanting to learn more about lighting, shooting tethered and editing efficiently!

a Creativelive Student

I love this guy! I so appreciate his honesty while he is explaining his thought process, admitting that his “shoulda/coulda/woulda’s” - which I experience ALL the time. I am now going to dust off my light meter and start using it on location as I’m convinced that it works now that I’ve seen Dan’s class. I enjoyed the detailed way he sets up each light individually, checking to make sure it adds the amount and quality of light he wants. Definitely recommend this class - especially for those people who have experience using studio lights and want to see how they can be used to get specific results. Dan’s clear, simple explanations, his unabashed humility, and his sense of humor made this a truly enjoyable way to spend my time learning his methods.

a Creativelive Student

Dan is an excellent instructor! He's completely transparent with his thought processes, from technical to creative. He doesn't waste time horsing around or getting off topic, but is structured and sticks to his outline. Every minute watched is on topic, and is understandable. He's sincere and likable. The course is great for anyone interested in this genre!