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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 33 of 48

How to Shoot Indoor Location Portrait


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 33 of 48

How to Shoot Indoor Location Portrait


Lesson Info

How to Shoot Indoor Location Portrait

The next part is how to shoot a location portrait and for me, when I'm talking about the location portrait, I'm not talking about a action shot, I'm talking about something that's a little more staged. In my work, if you look through my website, you'll see a lot of straight on portraits where everything's either completely square to a wall and compositionally, it's real graphic as far as it almost looks like it's laid out, well it is kind of staged and laid out but at the same time, I want a more quiet moment with, in this case, the artist, where she's not working on anything, kind of putting her in a place where she might be thinking about something. I don't force smiles or any expression, I do give people a three count in these situations so if they do want to smile, I know this comes from personal, having pictures take of me, if I'm gonna smile, I can hold an authentic smile for about a quarter of a second so you need to let me know when you want that to happen and I also think peop...

le like to know, if they're in these moments, when the photo's gonna take place and once I get that initial shot, then I'll just shoot away and keep snapping but I like to give people a little bit of a warning so when shooting a location portrait, for me, this is, again, this is my shot so I like to end shot, end any shoot on kind of, you get that safe shot, whether it's for the client or yourself, then you move on to the alternate things that happen and then usually I have one picture in my head that might not be useful to the client or anybody else but it's gonna be something that fulfills my needs creatively and that's where these portraits come in. They're always more graphic oriented for me. For some other people, it might be adding motion to the shot, it might be doing multiple exposures. It could be, whatever it might be, or, you know, something that you know's gonna be black and white or maybe even using a different camera. I know some photographers who shoot all digital for their clients and then they bust out an old film camera or do something like that just to get something that's a little different, a little more artistic or creative, creatively fulfilling to them and that's what these portraits are for me. So this means a true portrait in my style. Again, real square, I either, I have two ways that I do this. I either find a wall and get completely square to it and line everything up from there to kind of create this perspective or I purposely shoot at a 45 degree angle to that same wall because I don't like it to look like I was off kilter just a little bit. It's either purposely giving you that depth and angles and that's what we'll do, that's kind of what I did for the first shot, I wanted that window so shooting into a corner or else I'll be perfectly square to a wall and I'll even be real weird about it when I'm editing and make sure all the lines are straight and I try and get my camera and all horizontal and vertical lines to be just how they should be to kind of create this really symmetrical or graphically composed shot that has someone in it. So it kind of tells that whole story but it also shows a little bit of a moment and, again, yeah the quiet moments, the graphic composition. So, again, everybody has their own thing of why you're a photographer, what kind of brings you back, what got you started, where you go when you're just shooting for fun so even if this was an assigned shoot or paid shoot, I still would have tried to sneak this in at the end if time permitted because I always want something for me that kind of ends on an exciting note, ends on something that I'm like all right, I'm really glad we did that and, again, I want to fulfill all the creative things that I want to do out of this job because photography is obviously, it's art, it's a creative career, a creative hobby for some of us and being able to get that out there and have that shot makes me excited to go back and edit all the other stuff too and just from personally speaking, I'll save those shots to edit last, it's like let me get through all the stuff that's work related and then I can get to this fun one last. It's something to look forward to for me at the end and usually I'm able to talk myself into being able to do a shot like that so I'll give you guys a little insight into what it looks like when I'm creating something like that and then we'll get to take a look at all the photos afterwards. Shot three is a portrait so we have the action shots, we have the wide shot of Alicia working in the space, we have closer up shots both studio lit and natural lit, detail shots of her hands scraping away the wax and the whole work so now the final shot is a portrait. And I like to include a portrait in every shot, every shoot, even if it's not on the shot list. A lot of times with editorial, if it were for a magazine or something like that, there might be all these action shots but there's an opportunity for you as a photographer to get more work in that publication if you do portraits because a couple things, one, a lot of magazines aren't necessarily set on what's gonna be on the cover and generally speaking, the cover is a portrait. If you look at magazines from Men's Health to Architectural Digest, it's always some sort of portrait on the cover with people looking at camera and this is a good opportunity to really stage up a portrait or if it's not the cover, sometimes the table of contents, you know, you get paid extra for these type of things, not to mention you get more images in the publication which is always a nice feeling so I always like to get the portraits, kind of round out the shoot so, again, we have the wide shot, closer shots, detail shots of her hands and now the portrait and that'll kind of bring us full circle. So what we've done here is we have a two light setup. The main light is, again, it's the same light we've been using the whole time. It's the Profoto magnum reflector with a diffusion sock on it that knocks, it's actually doubled up so it's knocking off, probably two, at least two stops of light. That's our main light and it's camera left, almost 90 degrees and then, because that'll cast some shadow being placed off to the side, we have our second light here which is a 46 inch soft lighter with a baffle on it. That's filling in some of the shadows cast by our main light. We framed up the shot, we're gonna do horizontal portraits and vertical, some with eye contact, some without. I'm definitely someone who loves graphic compositions so looking at this, we've framed it up, we've propped it, I've made sure I'm perfectly square to the wall. We've centered her and framed her nicely with a blank panel and we'll just have Alicia kind of look towards me and look off and this will be pretty straightforward. So these will be less interaction and more of just a straightforward portrait so with that said, we'll get shootin' and, again, I'm shooting tethered so we can get some instant feedback. All right, so right in there and I'm just gonna keep shooting. (camera shutter clicks) Great. (camera shutter clicks) Eyes right here. (camera shutter clicks) Yeah, perfect. (camera shutter clicking) And when I'm shooting, I'm just paying attention to make sure I'm getting the full frame. (camera shutter clicks) And that my lines are all straight. (camera shutter clicks) Some verticals here. Again, looking off a little bit. Chin up just a tiny bit. A little bit more. Chin up. Right there. (camera shutter clicking) Eyes right here. (camera shutter clicking) Horizontal, we're zooming in just a little bit. (camera shutter clicks) Looking off again. (camera shutter clicks) Eyes to camera. (camera shutter clicks) Perfect, let me take a look real quick. Great, I'm just gonna do a few more of these and we'll call it good. So I like how you changed your position there. Can I move? Yeah, you can move. I like you in that general scene with that angle just based on lighting. I'm actually gonna have you look towards the window once so just glance over there once, not quite so much, maybe the other window, yeah right there, just so I can still see your eyes. All right, we'll shoot a few of these. (camera shutter clicking) Perfect, I like what you're doing with that, just adding a little... (camera shutter clicking) Looking towards the window one more time. (camera shutter clicking) Now almost look the opposite, like you're looking towards over here. Maybe not quite that far, yeah right there. That's perfect. (camera shutter clicking) Oh yeah, that's great. (camera shutter clicking) Look almost over your shoulder down a little bit towards the paper towels, right in there, yeah. (camera shutter clicking) Couple more of these. (camera shutter clicking) Eyes to camera once. (camera shutter clicking) (laughing) That's all right. (camera shutter clicking) Two more of these and then we're gonna mix it up and do the last little bit here. (camera shutter clicking) Perfect. Okay, so the last thing I wanna do with, not really change anything, is I'm just gonna have you stand in that space. Okay. It's gonna be the same. But I might have you hold something. Okay. Whether it's a small panel, a different one, or whatever you wanna hold, it's up to you. A torch? Sure. Okay, so I'll have you take one step back and a tiny step this way, right there, perfect, and then, yep, and then you can be like, you're adjusting the torch and then glancing to camera, kind of like what we were doing over there and it'll just be so there's some sort of activity here but it's pretty subtle. Do you want me to actually light it? Sure. Okay. Yeah. (camera shutter clicking) (torch buzzing) (camera shutter clicking) Now maybe. I do love my torch. You what? I do love my torch. Yeah, I can imagine, it seems to be a pretty vital instrument in this operation here. One more looking at, like you're adjusting the dial on it, yeah, just like that, that's perfect. Actually I don't even have to turn it on if you're not really getting the flame. It's kind of hard to get from this angle with the lights. One more looking right here just kind of holding the torch, less like you're presenting the torch and more like you just happen to be, yeah, there you go. Two more. (camera shutter clicks) Just move this way, like one inch. Right there, perfect, that's great. (camera shutter clicks) I feel like I'm a torch model. (laughing) Get a torch sponsorship after this. I'm good with that. So that's kind of how we worked through that aspect for me, you could see the graphic composition, we went through and we actually realigned everything that was on the walls as far as how we wanted those canvases set up. You saw there was a blank panel right behind her head 'cause I kind of wanted her to be the artwork in this case on that panel, we left a little bit of color and I'll explain this more when we have the finished shot that's actually edited here momentarily. If you are interested in following Alicia, seeing some of her work, she does some workshops, some how-to videos, all sorts of cool stuff, her work was amazing and you can see, she had quite the personality and was very giving with her time with us and, you know, just genuinely passionate about her art so if you want to follow her, it's Alicia Tormey, and she has some great stuff on Instagram as well so there's all her information. So check her out, buy some of her artwork, take her workshop, whatever you like to do but she was pretty great and I'm definitely excited for some of the images and that's what we're gonna take a look at next.

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!