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How to Shoot Indoor Location Portrait

Lesson 33 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

How to Shoot Indoor Location Portrait

Lesson 33 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

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.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Introduction to The Environmental Portrait


Environmental Portrait Purpose


Personal Work


Find Your Process




Purpose For Action Editorial


Prepare for Shoot


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.

Ratings and Reviews

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!

Student Work