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Introduction to The Environmental Portrait

Lesson 2 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

Introduction to The Environmental Portrait

Lesson 2 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

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.


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

Introduction to The Environmental Portrait

Introduction to the Environmental Portrait. Environmental Portraits, what we're gonna run down in this first little segment here is what is it? What is an Environmental Portrait? What's the purpose of an Environmental Portrait? Why should we do it? What do they do? How do they work? Creating personal work. So again, I said my love and passion within photography is Environmental Portrait. So that includes a lot of personal work. Not necessarily paid assignments but going out and figuring it out on my own, what I wanna shoot and what speaks to me. And then lastly, actually not lastly, we have two more points. The process of creating personal work. You know, how to get those ideas and make them come to fruition. And then lastly tethering. So that was an important thing for me is for years I just shot just straight to the camera, straight to card and it wasn't until recently with the software and my computer being fast enough to handle it and now with these large files and everything, want...

ing to see the potential of what is actually there. So I wanna explain how I tether the tools I use for tethering, kind of that whole process. As we will be shooting tethered the entire shoot so from the stuff we've already shot 'til the in studio stuff today, everything will be tethered so you'll be able to see live what's happening how I'm kinda treating those files as we go. So let's get in to it. The Environmental Portrait, what is it? So Environmental Portrait is just that it's a portrait shot on location that tells a story in a single frame. So whether you're at the grocery store photographing someone working there or out on a farm with a farmer or with a fisherman or a basketball player, it doesn't really matter. Every environment has potential to have an environmental portrait. So I wanna talk about how you can get everything wrapped up and tell that story within a single frame. Then we'll move on to the environment. It could be someone's home, it could be work. Anywhere that's relevant to that subject. Generally speaking I like to put people in environments that they're comfortable, that they're used to. So you might be photographing somebody in their own home and you can kind of ask them where would you normally sit, how would you treat this? I wanna make people feel comfortable and natural so when we look at that portrait, it feels real and authentic. And then lastly, standalone, or it can supplement an article or story and what I mean by that is this might just be an image you took for fun that you like how it looks or you might be hired by a client, a commercial client or magazine to supplement, you might be selling something and they want product placement within this environment. Or it could be to go along with a magazine article where you pre read the article or the story and you kinda have an idea what the portrait should help say to supplement that story and help tell that story that's been written. So, there's so many different uses and there's so many different little nuances that you can go with. This is just a sample photo here. This is for Outdoor Life Magazine. It was a story about a turkey call maker and again they hired me, we'll get into the actual email they sent for hiring me in the assignment in a little bit but basically, this is a guy who builds turkey calls. He has for the last 40 years in his basement in Nebraska. And he had this tiny little workshop and I was doing lighting setups and all that. So kind of just, there's always those forced portraits where you got the safe shot, it's like hold this, and look, you know, smile. But then there's these softer, quiet moments where I'm setting up lights and clearly he's thinking about something. He doesn't know that I'm shooting for real. But sometimes you just gotta let people be in their environment and see what happens so, this was just Mr. Turpen here and his turkey call workshop in his basement with his coveralls and camo. So, and just a nice quiet moment that was authentic and real and it kind of captures him in his space so. Just that's what I really like about Environmental Portrait Photography. Couple more examples here just to give everybody an idea of what I'm talking about. This is another one, my brother and I, this is not my brother but my brother and I used to go to go cart racing track in Council Bluffs, Iowa. And after going there a few times, we observed the staff working on the go carts, the mechanics. The whole place just felt like it needed to be photographed. So after going there several times, I went back during the day when they were closed. I shot 'em an email and said, I have an idea for a portrait, would you guys be game to do this and they were all about it. So I went over there, set up my lights before they were open one day and again, I just had him, he was doing something with the go cart wheels and tires and I set him up in his normal environment working and then we did some posed portraits like this as well. So this is fully lit, kind of embracing the environment but also making it fit my vision by using studio strobes to kind of adjust what, it probably didn't look exactly like this in real life, it was a lot brighter so he could get his work done. But by supplementing it with the Profotos, I can make it look however I want and kind of tell that story in my way with letting him be in his environment and be comfortable so. Again, so more examples of that. We have a basketball player up here. We have, these are all staged portraits. None of them are just caught moments or and even if they are caught moment, it was a setup to get to that moment. So whether it's a friend of mine in New York in a Chinese restaurant or my brother and his now wife in my dad's old snow plow blazer, acting like it's the 1980s. The shot down here's actually another mechanic of an old gas station I used to drive by all the time and we kind of just some of it's adding a false narrative where he was holding a wrench action like he's someone's trying to give him some trouble. So I put people in these scenarios because not everybody, these are all real people, they're not models so not everybody's comfortable being photographed that way so sometimes you have to get people comfortable by giving them something else to think about whether it's a story line or whether it's making them or allowing them to do something in their space that they're comfortable doing. Because otherwise the portraits might come across as stiff or contrived or you know, just not what they can be. You need to let people kind of get out of their own way and get comfortable in front of the camera. So these are different versions of Environmental Portraits with different lenses, different lighting, different scenarios but it's all work by me and work that I enjoy doing. One more example here. This is Kyle in Brooklyn, New York. And again, same thing, it's we did some regular type portraits and then just him throwing rocks out in the water and things like that and this is all lit. There's actually a Profoto beauty dish with a stand out in the water, camera outside of the frame to the left to kind of get the look I want. But then it's a matter of letting him work within that space to get different looks that and feel comfortable.

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