Skip to main content

Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 38 of 48

Create Location Portrait


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 38 of 48

Create Location Portrait


Lesson Info

Create Location Portrait

The next thing I wanna talk about is creating that location portrait. Again, this comes back to my personal preference and my personal love of these portraits. When shooting, and again it's kinda what keeps me going as a photographer, when creating the portrait, that's for me. Again, just as we did with the artist, just as you'll see a lot of the shots on my website, these are the more symmetrical, the more graphic compositions with this kind of still moment and where everything's placed and curated exactly how I want it to be. Whether that means, you know, we've added accessories that weren't in the shot, we've added details, all those things are thought out. And there's also some work to be done in the back-end when it comes to Photoshop to really make it all come together. And the first shot I saw when I entered the garage was there was a tool rack which you haven't seen yet, and it had all these wrenches lined up, and it almost looked like a crown or a perfectly symmetrical backgro...

und. And there was two yellow air hoses hanging down from the ceiling, equally spaced on either side. So right when I saw that, I knew that was the frame for this portrait, so I saved that for last. And you know, this might be the client request or a personal goal for me, I just wanna do this. But I also love presenting these shots to the client, because a lot of times their vision does not perfectly align with mine, or I might see something that they don't see. And being able to present something like this is really fun and it shows that I kinda took my take on the shoot. Not only did I deliver what they want, but I was able to deliver the things that I wanted to do as well, and give them a different sense and a different viewpoint they might not have thought of. In this case, the shot was purely for me, it was just a personal shoot. And the graphic composition and unique lighting, they all play off of each other. So I'm analyzing the background and figuring out where the lights need to be, what kind of mood I'm going for with the artist. It was still specular light using that magnum reflector, but it did have a diffusion on it. And I also used that second Softlighter to really fill in all the shadows and kind of make it, you know, there was definite direction to the light, but it was a little more soft, the background was all white. Here, what you're gonna see with Richie is a black background and a tool bench, so I took the diffusion off the light. At least I think I did. And the fill light was also a silver umbrella, not a diffused Softlighter. So it's just a different quality of light that I felt fit his personality, it fit the garage, it fit the portrait I was going for, and you'll kinda see the differences as we go through that. And these are the shots that just really speak to me, so I'm always really happy to explain 'em. I'm really happy to be able to create 'em. So let's take a look at this video as we bring Richie back into the garage. I dunno if you'll be able to see in the video, but they had like 12 motorcycles parked in the space of a one-car garage, so the other challenge was navigating a C-stand and two lights and myself, I'm literally leaning over the tank of a motorcycle to square up to this wall to shoot. So there's those challenges as well that every location brings. And you'll probably get a kick out of that, of seeing us and the whole CreativeLive crew have to sift our way through the garage. So let's take a look at the creation of the portrait, and then we'll go over all the results. So now that we've done the wide shoot in the garage, the outdoor shoot with mixed light, we're gonna do the portrait, just because as I mentioned before we like to kinda get the full effect of all three type of shots from wide, to medium to closeup, and then this portrait. When I first walked in the garage the thing that caught my eye was the symmetry here of all the wrenches on the wall, along with the two yellow hoses. So we're gonna have Richie just kinda stand right in the middle, we'll prop this out a little bit with some other tools. And I'm not sure the exact angle, but standing somewhere in here, looking straight at the camera, it's gonna be a real flat, symmetrical shot where I'm really square to the wall. We'll have Richie lookin' anywhere from right at the camera, to off to one side to the other, and then maybe messin' with a tool or somethin' like that. So pretty straightforward, you can come right in here. And you'll just kinda lean back against there. I'll make sure you're centered. Do you want the tools? Yeah, I'm thinkin' if we, because we have this part of the engine over here, and then maybe to balance that out with something on the other side, whether it was a rack of sockets or whatever you got. Could put a couple of those over there. Might look pretty good, we'll figure out what works and what doesn't here pretty quick. As far as framing, this is definitely gonna be a horizontal frame because of the way the background's oriented, so let's see. Actually, throw that one back up there, and grab one of these, uh, let's see. Maybe just grab one, a bigger one off that, 'cause I like the symmetry here. There we go, and that way you can be holdin' on to that. We are all tethered up again. So I'm gonna do one test shot, we've already metered. We're at a 200th of a second, ISO 100 at f8. That drowns out all the ambient light, so it's, if you were to take a shot without the strobes it'd literally be black. I'm gonna, can I stand on this? Yeah. 'Kay, right here. I'm gonna have you move this way ever so slightly, so yep. Right there, I'm just centering you up. A little tiny bit more, like one inch this way. Right in there, and then I'm gonna have you start off by looking off this direction a little bit. Yep, move, I know this is finicky, but like, a tiny bit this way, right there. Alright, so one test shot, this does not count. We're just testing off the first light, we don't have the fill light on yet. Alright, so with that, oh yeah, we got a great, moody frame. So now what we need to do is add in our fill light to fill in some of that shadow, so we can see a little more of the background. But this is gonna be lookin' pretty sharp. So what I need to do, my fill light is just a silver umbrella, I'm gonna turn that power up. We're gonna start pretty low and kind of work our way up. So you can just do the same frame, lookin' off to that side like that. One, two, three. We'll see how the fill light's comin' in. Still, we need more. We're gonna make a pretty aggressive bump outta here, make sure it's firing, yep. Alright, one, two, three. There we go, we're startin' to get a little shadow fill. I'm just gonna go up one stop at a time until I like what I see. And we've done no adjustments to the raw yet, tethering. So, we'll get in there and play with that in a second. Alright, we're at a good spot. I'm gonna do one more test shot, and then I'm gonna get in there and make a couple of adjustments. So again, I'm shootin' with a 24 to 70, so I'm gonna zoom in just a little bit, one, two, three. Alright, let me make a couple raw adjustments, just so I can really, and I'm gonna move the computer so I can actually see it without crankin' my neck around. Oh yeah, that looks pretty sharp. Okay, so we have already made, it took the color and adjustments from our previous frame, but that was a totally different look. So we're gonna adjust it slightly for this new look. Gonna turn down the saturation just a little bit. We should be pretty good right in there. So I like what we're doin' with this. I'm just gonna shoot more and we'll see what happens. We'll try some different angles and things like that in a moment. So I'm actually gonna try a couple. Keep lookin' where you're lookin', I like how you were lookin' at that screen for a second. Right in there, we're gonna try a couple of verticals. It's gonna have a little different look to it. Try another horizontal zoomed in. Look straight over the camera, like you're lookin' towards the front desk. Yep, and again, I'm leaving myself room to crop on these, I'm not super tight, I don't wanna cut off anything. Leaning over this motorcycle, I'm a little bit crooked with the frame, and I'm gonna be picky about that later, so I'm givin' myself room to crop it, straighten it up. 'Kay, now I'm gonna have you turn sideways, we're gonna end up doing both ways, but turn like you're facing completely this direction, like you're leaning, yeah, can just lean into the bench. I like that, and now looking straight toward the camera. Yeah, right there, one, two, three, great. Yeah, that looks good, just kind of a couple more of those. One lookin' down at the, like your fingers once. Great, let me do a couple vertical, same thing. Lookin' down towards your fingers once. Yep, back up here, awesome. Now I want you to turn completely this way, so this is gonna be lit the opposite, it's gonna be a more of a broad lighting. Looking maybe down here towards the grinder or whatever that is. Alright, perfect. And I'm zooming out quite a bit for these, just to get a different look. Look right here, yep that's great. More of those, couple verticals. Yep, just messin' with framing. Okay and the last one I wanna do, I'm gonna have you go straight on again. And just set the wrench on the, and I'm just gonna have you go like hands in your pockets or somethin' like that, like pretty casual. Yeah, just shoulders, relax your shoulders a little bit. And I'm gonna have you kinda lookin' off that way, kinda through that window over there. Chin down just a little bit. Just gettin' a couple of different focal lengths here. Zooming in all the way with this 24 to 70. Eyes to camera real quick, yep. Pretty cool, last thing, I'm gonna have you turn completely this way again, and lean on to that bench, and then I'm actually gonna have you kinda lookin' over your shoulder like you're lookin' towards the computer screen over here, yeah. And these ones are gonna be zoomed out a little further. Looking right at the camera. One more, then I'm gonna zoom in, then we're done. Lookin' towards the computer. Eyes right to me. And one lookin' that way more. Lookin' down a little lower, eyes right here, we're good. Sweet, thank you. Thank you. Alright, so you kinda saw the challenges of working within that small of space with all the clutter and everything. And again, I saw that background right when we walked in, so I knew that's where I wanted to do a portrait. He was wearing all black, the background was black. It just, it would really make him pop. And there was like the yellow coils of the air hoses. So that was a shot I was excited to create, and definitely those are the shots that, they're not gonna be totally perfect up front. It's gonna take some work in Photoshop to really fulfill my vision, but that's okay, I'm willing to do that. We have a good base and we'll go through that editing process in a little bit. For those interested in more of what Richie does, you can check out the Yeah, they do a bunch of different shop stuff, they do some upholstery service and restoration, they had a whole bunch of motorcycles there, and it looks like they stay pretty busy, so they must be pretty good. And they had a really cool shop too, with a coffee shop right next door, so it was pretty convenient for us. But again, check out the MotoShed.

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!