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Indoor Location Shoot

Lesson 27 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

Indoor Location Shoot

Lesson 27 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

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.


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

Indoor Location Shoot

The first thing we wanna talk about is this indoor location shoot. With the indoor location shoot I always have different goals; it depends on the location, it depends on the subject matter. We're gonna go over the goals as a overall generality for indoor location shoots. We're gonna go over the process of how we go from viewing the location for the first time during the scout to selecting the lighting to working with the subject to get natural shots and then getting the results. So those'll be the actual edited images that I've selected and pre-edited from this indoor location shoot. And then we'll start fresh with those images so you can kind of see how we got from A to B as far as the editing goes. So with the goals, our goals for the location shoot are this The overall goal of photographing indoors on location is to allow the location to help you tell the story. So I want a great photo of the subject, but with any environmental portrait, I want the location to be a major part of th...

at. Again, it doesn't matter the location. It can be your kitchen or it can be, you know, anything that's just way more intense than that and way more-- I don't know, just any location at all is an environment and any portrait taken of those kind of fits that whole story and you want that location, as simple as it might be or as complex, to help tell that story. And to get there, there's a few tricks that I have and a few suggestions I have to help us along the way. So the location will set the overall tone and it'll suggest the narrative, meaning that'll help tell that story. You want the location to speak to the people so it's not confusing, everything is in place for a reason, and it looks really understandable and believable and authentic. This could be from the light, the texture, the depth that you create within. For me, creating these portraits that have a little bit of a cinematic feel comes from some of the depth, whether it's foreground elements, background elements, the lighting, everything that goes into it is included in that depth, texture, and light. And use your resources; you know, when you get to a location it can be overwhelming and there might be a lot going on. In the case of this artist's studio, we're talking about a three-dimensional environment with all these different possible backgrounds. A lot of things to shoot but also a lot of things that I didn't want in the shot. So it's almost kind of breaking it down into which part of this location actually tells the story? What's gonna make a good frame technically as a photograph? What's gonna be solid with the composition, the light and all that? And then knowing, just picking a few, you don't have to cover the entire space; you just need that one good location within the spot that helps tell that story. And again, using your resources for analyzing that ambient light and how can you supplement and polish up the ambient light? How can the location give you ideas? For instance, with this artist's studio you'll see in the video that I kind of ask her to walk me through the entire place and show me what's your process. I let her kind of bring the photos to me so then I can visualize, here's how she works in this space. And as she's working through her process, I am just mentally picturing these photos in my head and knowing, okay, if she's gonna be here painting, the light needs to be here, I need to be over here, and this is how the frame will look. So kind of putting it all together and letting your subject help you along the way. A lot of times you'll have a subject who, they're not models; it's just a lot of real people doing things in their environment and I'll say, "What would you do in this space right now?" And I've gotten some great suggestions from people that I didn't even know would happen. I remember shooting in a place where it looked like there was really nothing to do. And I asked the guy, I was like, "What would you do in this space?" And he was like, "Well, when I was in here as a kid--" It was kind of going back to a childhood era. He was like, "I was really into exercise "so I would pull these two things together "and I would start working out." Well, that was not something that I was thinking, so it's like he helped me. And I was like, "Great, then let's do that." So he took this kind of boring location where I could not think of anything other than having him sit and stare at the camera, and he brought that action to me. So don't be afraid to ask your subjects what they do in the space or if they have any ideas. And don't have them think of it in terms of, "What would you do for the camera in this space?" It's just, "If you were in this space "for 30 minutes by yourself, or with a crowd, "what would you be doing naturally? "What would come to mind?" Other than, you know, get on your phone, cause that's not necessarily the best photo. And that's where a lot of us go now, so it's kind of a-- Using all the resources from the location, the lighting, and the subject to help you make that photo complete, you don't have to really stress yourself out over figuring it out. There's things that can help you along the way. So again, allowing the subject to work within that location to capture natural portraits. That's what we just went over; that's what you're gonna see happen in the videos. And that's what I do on all these shoots, no matter whom it's with. Photograph the location as a whole and in parts. So I like to work from wide and then slowly work my way in. And for those of you who watched the shoot earlier, see, I used my 24 to 70 and I got wide shots of Brock with his basketball with the windows and all that. And then slowly I worked my way into 3/4 length portraits. And then I switched to the 7200 to get close-ups. I want that full coverage because you never know what-- if it's for a client, you never know what they're gonna use. If it's for myself, you never know what's gonna read and tell the story the right way. Sometimes throwing on a 7200 is gonna compress the background and make certain elements that were distracting before less distracting. Or maybe you do need to capture the entire scene to help tell that story. So rather than wish I had done it later, I always do it upfront. And that's what's in my notebook all the time is, "Remember to switch lenses. "Did you get the wide? "Did you get the medium length shot? "Did you get the close-up?" And even detail shots you'll see as we work through some of the videos today, not only did I photograph portraits of the artist, I also went through and did detail shots of her hands working because that was an important part of the process. And you'll see how all that worked out and we'll have the results to show you those photos as well. Just to give you a couple samples of other indoor location portraits and how I worked through these, whether they're challenges or gifts. I wanna show a couple of sample images. So this is actually one of the first environmental portraits I've ever taken. So this is probably an 11 year old photo. There was a little cafe and motel along Highway 20 in Northwest Iowa. And it was along a route I'd always take to college; I lived about three hours from where I went to school. And it was called the Hillside Motel. It's no longer there; they have expanded the highway and it's gone, which is why I'm glad I have these photos. And this guy here owned the motel. You can see, he was probably in his 80s. Like I said, I had driven by this place at least 30 times over the course of my life. And one day I decided, you know what? I wanna photograph this because I had heard they were expanding the highway. I'm like, "This isn't gonna be here much longer." So I went in; I talked to him. He was out riding around a tractor and I flagged him down, stopped him, and I said, "You know, I'd love to photograph this." At that point, I didn't really have much of a portfolio to show him. There was no reason why he needed to say yes, but at the same time he just didn't care, so he said, "Well I have some work to do, "but you go ahead and do whatever you want." And that was that; so I just photographed him out mowing this big field, I photographed-- This was quite the-- It was your stereotypical roadside motel, probably built in the 50s. And there was an old Volkswagen van parked out front, probably 15 cats roaming around the property, and the whole works. So near the end of the day, he got off the tractor and he told me, he said, "Well, at 5:00 I go into the cafe." They had a small cafe with about five tables. "And I read the newspaper and turn on the TV." And I said, "Well, can I photograph you doing that?" And he said, "I don't know why you want to, "but you can do whatever." So this is the shot of him, around 5:15 that afternoon, sitting in his cafe, reading a stack of newspapers. And for me this was like my first foray into environmental portraiture. And I really enjoy every bit, from, you know-- Some people might think it's distracting, but shooting from a-- It's almost like I'm kind of spying on this guy. We have the out of focus salt and pepper shakers in the foreground. You know, you get a sense that this place has not been remodeled; it's kind of back to its original glory. And the fact that-- I like subtle humor in a lot of my photos; I don't like it to be really obvious, like hey, why don't you laugh at this? It's kind of like, if you notice it and think it's funny, that's great. If you don't notice it, that's fine too. I want the photo to stand on its own. But we have this prancing white horse poster that's slightly wrinkled. You can see it's catching light because it wasn't framed properly and who knows why that's even on the wall. Next to a fried chicken crisp and tender poster, that's-- They used scotch tape to put that on the wall. And it's like, at this point, this was in 2007, alright, that I took this photo. Those things had probably been on the wall for another 20 years. So to me it's just kind of a funny element that adds a little bit of humor to the space and also makes it where people question it, like was this photo taken in in 1978 or 2008? So it's one of those kinds of blasts from the past, where it's out of context. And then of course, just having this genuine moment, where I had some photos of him looking at he camera, leaning, but they didn't quite feel right, cause he felt forced. And then I just let him do his thing, so it's almost like this photo-jouralistic type moment, but it's all staged and set up as far as, you know, how I propped up the table, where I put-- He had the newspapers a little bit different, but I wanted to make it clear what he was doing. And even the set itself, so that's kind of my first venture into environmental portraits. And when I went to that porfolio review later and I'd mentioned earlier that I had all these different shots from sports to models to all that and people were giving me feedback of, "We don't know what you do." Which, you know, one of the questions she asked me was which photos did I enjoy making the most, then I went back to this one. And I also asked her the question, I said, "Well you've looked through "this whole book, what do you think "I'm the best at from all these different styles "I've represented in the book?" And she also went back to this photo and one other photo, which was the other environmental portrait. So that kind of steered me in that direction. It'll be different for everybody, but this is kind of the first photo that took me that direction and I still leave it in my portfolio today because a lot of people, we'll get into this later as well, but a lot of people with portfolios think they always need the latest and greatest in their portfolio, but for a lot of people who I'm meeting with, they've never seen my work before, so as far as they know this might've been photographed yesterday. So I always just keep the strongest work in there, not necessarily the latest and greatest. It is great to update and show people that you're working, but at the same time, strong work stands the test of time. So be smart enough to know which work should stay and which work should be phased out over time. Another great example of a indoor environmental portrait. So this is Ward and this is his chicken farm. So he actually was a farmer in Northern Iowa and what he had was his wife liked selling these farm fresh eggs. He was not a huge fan of it because he didn't enjoy the chickens, but I thought that was funny, to put him in this chicken coup, because it was his farm. And so I asked him, I said, "What would you do in here?" And he said, "Well, I'd scrape the corn off the ear and let "the chickens eat it out of the trough or off the ground." And he didn't have a love of these chickens so he was like, "They can eat it off the ground "for all I care; I'm the one feeding them." So he showed me into the chicken coup. You know, I loved all the colors, for one. He definitely wanted to wear his red hat, because if you're a farmer in the Midwest, there's green and there's red. And he was a red guy, so that's a certain brand of the tractor, so he needed the hat. And I loved his every-day uniform here; it's just tan on tan on tan. And he just had a great smile and this is one where the action he was doing, looking down, moving the corn, wasn't so much making the photo, it was when he glanced up at the camera with that smile on his face. And the chickens were terrified of my light. That's one thing people don't know. They're always like, "Why are all the chickens on the left?" Well, my strobe is over here on the right and it wasn't that they didn't like the light, they didn't like the structure of the light. So they were thinking, "No way." But it's just a fun story, compositionally, for me, having all the lines and the colors and the placement of Ward within the photo. And then all the chickens on the ground. It's just another great environmental portrait as far as I'm concerned, that tells the full story in one frame. And there was when I got the location, the first thing I always do is look at the ambient lighting. There was one single light bulb on the ceiling directly above him. So no light in the room whatsoever. The chickens sleep in there, they go out and wander around. So this was a big 48-inch Octobank off to the right, with no grid cause I needed to light up the entire space, cause it was just pitch black in there. And you can definitely see where the light source is coming from. So I just totally ignored the ambient light, because there really wasn't any. So that's an easier way to kind of control the light. And in this case it worked out just fine because there could be a window over there or who knows, but it's a light.

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