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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 43 of 48

Finish Images in Photoshop & Alien Skin


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 43 of 48

Finish Images in Photoshop & Alien Skin


Lesson Info

Finish Images in Photoshop & Alien Skin

So, first thing I would do is zoom in and look for anything that's really distracting, like all these marks on the wall where art had been previously hanging. I hit Command + J to make a background layer, I'm gonna use the patch tool to remove a few of these scuffs and scrapes and wounds of previous art on the wall because they are, they make it look I just never clean my camera, which is also true, but I'd rather clean 'em up. It's probably camouflaging all the dust that is on my sensor. Okay, there we go. Get rid of a couple of these. So there we go. That's already just a little basic cleanup. Nothing to it. We'll zoom in on her, see if there's anything. Again, I like to leave people pretty well as they are. If there's a couple distracting hairs or anything like that, that I think aren't giving me anything and I can clean 'em up quickly. We're gonna have to use clone stamp, and again I might not even do this. We're gonna turn it down pretty low. I just wanna have a little cleaner lin...

e here. So something simple. As far as the rest of skin I'm fine with that. I just think that adds just a little bit to it, just a little clean up. I don't mind the rest of her hair. It is what it is there and it looks pretty good. It kinda fits her personality. I like how this is in the shot, I like how the torch is in the shot, we have pretty good composition. I don't mind this framing down here. So I'm gonna save that, we'll open it up in Alien Skin and do just a little bit of work. So that was that shot there. So we'll go to Alien Skin, go over to our Folders, oops. Alicia Torney, CLselects and I believe that was this photo here. So we'll double click that, get rid of all these thumbnails. There we go. And we'll go to our Presets. So, I don't have really any original thought with this one as far as what I wanna do. I wanna keep it light and airy, I wanna keep the contrast there, it fits the artwork. I wanna add a layer, there we go. So, I'll click through the normal ones. These are all too dark. This might actually work as a good baseline. It looks very yellow so we're gonna, I can't do that. We gotta make this smaller and fill to screen. There we go. I'm gonna lower the opacity of that. It's way too yellow so I know that's from what we learned yesterday, that's in this Color tab. We're gonna get rid of the density of that filter. Again, I'm just adding a little bit of contrast and I wanna get rid of a little bit of the yellow. I like what that's doing. We'll add one more layer. I wanna make it a little more creamy, kind of like a pastel feel, so that'll be in these Cross Processing. I think we're gonna go with this one. We're gonna turn that down quite a bit. I kinda like what that's doing. As far as color goes, get rid of a little bit of the reds. And I'm okay with that, so we can export that one out, and you could do this as a batch at the end, too. CLselects. And that'll add this CG, so it's color graded to the end of the filename. You'll see if you go back to that folder we have the original, and then we have the one with the new color. So, that just looks like that. So that's about all I would do to that image. Looking at one of these others ones, one of the portraits. Let's do, let's do this one. So again, the vast majority of the work is already done. For this one I wanna crop it so it's in a little tighter. I wanna have some square lines. I'm gonna take that to the edge of that doorframe. Oops, I didn't mean to do that. I'm gonna take this to the edge of this file cabinet. Somewhere in there, this is nitpicking at this point, no one's, I'm just looking at the brushes and things down here. You can't, like this is one of those things where I can't decide if I want 'em all in or not in. Maybe we'll go right there, and then I'm gonna lower this frame just to above that picture right there. And at the bottom of the frame the decision here, whatever, crop it, is if you want that masking tape in there. So, oh, nevermind. I didn't pan down. So, that's actually perfect. This is not, this is a weird crop; it's not square, it's not four by six, but that's okay because my website doesn't care. So, with that said we're gonna clean up a few of these little blemishes on the wall, again, where artwork was hanging. I don't mind those in the corner. Couple spots there. Oh, that's actually dust on my screen. All right, I'm all good with that. The one thing I do wanna get rid of is this mystery shadow just because if we're not gonna include the brush I don't wanna include the shadow. So we'll clone that out real quick, it'll take two seconds. So, quick clean up there. Get rid of that shadow, we're good. All right, let me save that. We'll open 4914 in Alien Skin. Again, we'll add our layer. Do a little work in here, oops. If you hit over in Alien Skin it picks the different file, not the different filter, so don't do that. Ooh, I kinda like this, it's a a little more moody. It's too green, actually that's fine. So I'll start turning it, tuning it down a little bit. I like where this is going. We'll add another layer there. I wanna get rid of some of that red though first, so we'll go back in there. Her skin is pretty red. There we go. Start another layer, and again this is just strictly playing around at this point. I don't even really know what I'm going for, I just hope I know it when I see so I'm not in here forever. Let's try one of these, and this is gonna take quite a bit of adjustment, so we can turn that layer way down. I just wanna up that contrast. We'll get rid of some of this yellow that I know is in this filter, but I do wanna up the contrast it's pretty well, high on the highlights. All right, I'm good with that. The only other thing I might do with this one is bring it back into Photoshop for one second and adjust the levels to max out the histogram as far as the contrast goes. We'll open up one real quick and I'll show you the finishing steps. Then we'll do a couple with the garage and we'll be good. So I'm gonna go to my layers here, or my adjustment layers, go to Levels. I can see on the histogram I got a little leeway to work to max out the contrast here. There we are. So we don't have anything blown out and if I drag this center slider to the right it'll start upping the contrast a little bit so you can see before and after. I like the after, we're good. I'm gonna save that. So that's our portrait in her studio. So I'm good with that. We'll close that out, and now we'll work on a couple photos of Richie. Let's export two of those to work on. So we need to pick a new folder where those are gonna go. On my Desktop, MotoShed, CLselects for Creative Live. We're gonna work on just one of the ones in the garage. I'm gonna sort by rating 'cause I already selected these and you guys have seen that entire process. So we're gonna work on that one. We'll process that out and then we're gonna work on one of those portraits at the end. Apparently I didn't favorite those, nope. So we just gotta pick one. So I'm just lookin' for one real quick, I already had one in mind, but. We'll crop in and we'll do this one. I like how his hands are on that wrench. And I've already done the work here. You can see I upped the shadows, got rid of all the highlights, color balance, same thing as always. We'll process that out. We'll open MotoShed, go to our Creative Live selects, open this Photoshop, see if it needs any cropping. It really doesn't, it's just a matter of if you want this blue toolbox over here. I kinda like it, but if you didn't want that, I mean you could even crop this in quite a bit closer if you really wanted to, and bring, and get rid of all that trash above there. You could even do something like that if you cut off his feet, which would kinda get closer to that effect I wish I woulda done with the 7200, but I didn't. The only thing I might do here is darken up this background. So what I'm gonna do there is I'm gonna open a curves adjust layer. We're gonna bring those curves down. So I have a mask here, I'm gonna hit Command + I to invert that mask. I'm gonna use my brush, a medium soft brush, 33% opacity, that's just 'cause what it was, now I need to change it to white so I can, we inverted the mask so I need to turn it to white to start coloring in this dark, kinda vignette effect. We're gonna up the opacity a little bit, and I just wanna make more emphasis on him and less emphasis on this wall of nothing behind here. I might even do that a little bit around his feet. So again I'm just darkening up. There's a couple different ways to do this. I'm just lowering it using curves. Again I want all the emphasis to go on his face, so I'm darkening up anything that I don't want people to over emphasis or their eyes to get attracted to just on accident because I didn't fully control that light. So again, we're just bringing more of the look back to his face. Another way to do that is to do like a multiplication layer, invert the mask and do that, but I prefer to use curves. I'm pretty happy with that. We'll save it. There's nothin' too crazy I'm gonna edit out or retouch. We'll open that quickly in Alien Skin. That should be kinda a fun one to do, and then I think we'll be good, and we'll be ready for some questions. So let's open that image quickly. MotoShed, CLselects. Where did he go? Hold please. I can see it. (laughing) Let me just drag it in there the old fashioned way and see if it shows up. Hm. Well we'll work on the. There it is. Oh that's the one I already did. So I'll just show you what I did earlier, because I don't know why that is happening. I don't have answers for that. If someone out there watching does, that's fine. So what I did here was we started off with our base layer, so again, this is our picture just as we just had it in Photoshop. I'm gonna reset all these layers. So the first thing I did under the Presets was I went to these Wizard of Oz. This is one I always use and it darkens up the entire scene. I placed that one on here as the first layer at 73%. So you can see here's our before and after. I like the overall mood that gave me. I'm gonna turn it down just a little bit more. There we go. Next, I wanted to add a little bit more to the highlights so we added this Creamy Polaroid one. It's down here, Creamy Highlights 669. You'll see that brightened it up just slightly. Ready, the before, and after. Watch his face, before, after. That's only at 8%. So it's just little tiny, then I went with this Kodak filter which added just a little more highlights. Again, very subtle, probably not even noticeable to most people, and then I did this blue filter to kinda cool it off a little bit. So you'll see before, just watch the shadows in his shoulder, after. Even the ground you can see a little bit. If we turn it really high you'll really be able to see it. So, blue, and I'm slowly dialing it down. So again, here's the before and after of that image. I just kinda took the edge off a little bit, it added a little bit of that vintage feel, and I'd be happy with that. So, I think with and with time, we are all set to kinda move on. You saw a little bit about that processing, what goes into it. It's very similar to what we did with the studio stuff. I try and keep the process consistent so the images look consistent and fit my overall feel, and you can definitely see how I shoot knowing what the post work is gonna be and how it's gonna affect the image. I had a question from Tammy who asked about how, I know you like graphic styles and everything, how particular is Dan about having verticals and horizontals being straight in these type of environmental images. And is that just based Way, way too picky. on your particular style or is that something that you would recommend. Yeah, that's something, I mean, for this image you can see we're shooting into a corner so I know that's not gonna happen. But at the same time that's just style. Like the photographers that inspire me, I can tell that they put a lot of thought into that, and it's just over the years, probably part of my personality of having, you know, I'm sure I'll be up here adjusting the way my pen sits on this so it's perfectly perpendicular to the wood grain on this table. Things like that just bother me. So, it's kind of like a mix of those things, and I think that's strictly taste. So, I've seen some photos that I absolutely loved that are just pure chaos, too. So, who knows. Right. That we just saw is very efficient editing. Is there every a time where you potentially get stuck? Have to take a break? What does that look like for you-- Yeah. If that takes place? As far as editing getting stuck it'd be more as if I were doing with color, not so much because I have a general idea and I don't wanna overthink it, but if there's, sometimes if I have to do compositing or things like that, they'll be moments were I just can't figure something out so I gotta restart. For the most part I've kind of taken that out of my style though, I don't do a lot of compositing and by lighting cleanly and things like that. It's not like I'm trying to bring back skin tones that got completely blown out because I don't let that happen. So, I've tried to troubleshoot through those things beforehand. So, it doesn't really happen anymore, but it's definitely been that way over the years where I've had to take a little break and try and figure things out. So, I guess shooting clean is the key to not getting stuck later.

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!