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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 39 of 48

Outdoor Shoot Results


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 39 of 48

Outdoor Shoot Results


Lesson Info

Outdoor Shoot Results

The results of the shoot at the Moto Shed. You saw what we first did, it was that wide shot with the three light setup. This is kind of the more edited version of that. So what you could see, or what I was saying when you were watching the video is all that shadow, all those shadows had detail that was able to be brought out in raw. I know that when I'm shooting, that's why I'm shooting tethered. What you were seeing was the true raw files. So all you're seeing is the effect of those three lights. When I'm shooting tethered, I know, I don't need to adjust the light so much because I'm metering, so I know that the lights and the exposure is all spot on. It's just a matter of knowing what do I want accented by the lights. What do I want the lights not to hit, which is why we're using the grid. How much ambient light to I want. So with these fluorescent lights, I wanted you to be able to tell it was a shop and those lights are on plus they give a nice little glow here but at the same time...

, I don't want those to throw off any white balance or anything, so it's this delicate balance of showing that those lights are on, but also not letting them affect the shot too much so balancing my strobes with those. This was the three light setup, so like I said, he was looking at the motorcycle quite a bit working, which is fine, I want him to kind of be in his zone, but I also know that the light's over here, so he needs to be looking back this direction, which is why this is the winning shot from the group. It's the shot that fits the lighting. It definitely has mood, you can tell, even his hands are still up, they're adjusting things and working. I let him set the tools out, the tools he wanted, I didn't prop it. I probably wouldn't have picked, like that white rag but it looks authentic. That's what he does, he sets that on the thing, on the rack and sets his tools on top of that. There he is working with his rubber gloves and the whole works, so I just wanted it to be real. I didn't want to prop it up too much. And then we had our fill light, was the silver umbrella. That's kinda filling in some of these shadows and definitely filling up the back of the room so it doesn't go completely dark and then we also had our kicker light, which is adding just a little bit of accent. It's hard to see, but if I didn't have that, this black would just completely blend in with the background, so that was that seven inch reflector way up in the sky here, aimed down at him. It just adds a little bit of separation without hitting the background too much. This, to me, is like the hero shot, the shot that I had in my head of, you entered the garage, it's pretty clear what he does, it tells a little bit of a story as to where's he looking, what's he doing, he's clearly working on a motorcycle. So this is the environmental portrait as defined in one shot. I'm really happy with how that turned out, once we got that shot. Now we can move on and get the next shots. So what we did was we moved outside. As you saw in the video, that was the look we were going for which you were seeing just the raws. I knew that the light was very subtle, but if I didn't use the light, this was completely in shadow, because as you can see, that white car and things like that are pretty bright. To expose his face properly without a light, everything back there would have been blown out, so I needed to play with that balance where my light was the main light, but it's very subtle. It's not like I'm just blasting him with light. So you can see, now that we've processed it out a little bit, it has this natural feel and letting him do the thing, change the spark plugs, provided a little natural action and motion and it kept him focused on a task that he's familiar with and that he's comfortable doing. One more shot from this set, oh this was the same lens, by the way. It was the 24 to 70, but I'm literally a foot away from him and this is probably at 24 millimeters. It's just a little different look. I love his his head is kind of right in the middle of the frame and it's pretty clear that it's a portrait of him, and then we actually did another version looking down the sidewalk with a little more depth, so you could see some of the texture of the motorcycle. You can see how I framed his head when I'm looking through the images, you probably saw in the raws, there was tons where all the power lines were gone and his head was, it was, things were distracting. Well this was one of those frames where everything lined up to him. He's centered in the top third. You have these power lines but they're not as distracting and I placed his head clearly in this tree. So those are things I'm thinking of that when you're shooting on the fly, you can get a little stale or stiff if you're only paying attention to those, so that's why I shoot 100 frames of the same thing and I'm always moving around because as long as you keep the subject doing things and staying natural, you can get all those technical aspects to line up and again, I'm just going for like one or two good shots from each of these setups because when I go to my website, I'm not gonna put eight photos of him changing a spark plug, I just want one. As long as I get one, we're good. If I don't get one, then that's too bad, but next time I'll learn that I need to take more photos or pay attention to things a little more. Lastly, we went into the garage. We did these two portraits. These are loosely edited, I didn't spend a ton of time on them, but you'll see what I'm talking about with straight lines, he's in the wrench, he's among all the wrenches. We have the air hoses, he's holding on to one. We kinda propped out the workbench a little bit. It's a little bit of a moment, but it kinda tells this story and I like the symmetry of it. Then we did one more of those, where it's a little closer up, with him just leaning back looking off to the side. If I were to be really picky, I could go in there and do a lot of stuff in Photoshop to really clean it up and make, darken some things, lighten some things, and really make it pop. I may even darken up the workbench at the bottom and really bring all the attention to his face and those yellow hoses are pretty cool. How they frame it all in. So that would be something that I might spend a little more time on in Photoshop later. But this is just processed through Capture One. That's the only editing that's done. So it's basically how it looked on my screen while it was being tethered. Kind of again, the full results of that shoot from start to finish of the wide portrait, the outdoor stuff, and this. Helps tell a story if we were shooting for a client, or something like that, we gave them a few options. And there were several hundred photos total, so there's other things to choose from if someone else has some ideas. Any questions regarding the outdoors shoot or anything that had to go with those videos? I was just gonna ask, real quickly, how long did that motorcycle garage shoot take, start to finish? I'd say, it's a little tricky because we're filming it live, but if I were to have gone and done that shoot on my own, without a film crew behind me, I'd say that would have took 40 minutes, so I probably did the first set up in about 10 to 15 minutes. The lighting setup doesn't take me that long, especially when I'm not thinking about it out loud. I can do that in less than 10 minutes. I would have shot him for five to seven minutes, because at that point, I get the idea of what he's doing, it becomes a little redundant. One thing I didn't do there that I wish I would have done, in the garage with that first shot, was I didn't switch to the 7200. I was so fixated on getting the motorcycle and everything in there, I only used the 24 to 70. But now when I look at the frame, we'll go back to it real quick. When I look at this frame, I feel like, knowing the framing of all these wrenches and everything, this could have been a really cool shot compressed with the 7200. I even had that written down, to switch lenses. I didn't go to my notebook because I was in a rush and I didn't slow down like I keep telling everybody to do, so that's my only regret. But everything else came exactly how I wanted it to happen. But I would have spent 5, 10 minutes setting up, five minutes shooting. Once you do that, it's all the same thing. The second shoot would have been outside, he changed the spark plug, the same one twice. That was enough content for that. As far as personality, he wasn't like the most smiley, outward guy, as far as emotions go, so this kind of caught him. He's in his zone, he's pretty quiet. And then I wanted just some different looks that kind of, you wonder what's going on, what's he looking at, things like that. He's clearly working. And then again, this last setup probably took the most time, but that's because it was the most challenging due to the situation with all the motorcycles. This might have been another 20 minutes to set up, so yeah we're looking at like an hour total shoot. And that's pretty typical when I go in to approach people for personal shoots and things like that, I try and tell them, oh this will take like 90 minutes tops. Depending on how many shots I'm trying to get and then I squeeze out any additional time, for instance, with the fireworks guy. I got the shot I wanted. He clearly was enjoying chatting with me cause he was just sitting there by himself, so I thought, you mind if I do another set up? Oh yeah go ahead. Hey what's in this garage behind here? All right, mind if we do a photo in there? I don't know why you wanna do that, but go ahead. Things like that, I just keep pushing until either I'm catching a hint that they're not enjoying it, or they straight up tell me like, all right I gotta go. I'll take all I can from the shoot until the point where I'm becoming a burden to them, or annoying, because I don't want that to happen. I want them to enjoy the experience. With that butcher, with all the sausages and meats. He was one who, I could definitely tell that he was proud of his shop, he enjoyed the photo process, so I had no hesitation. I was only gonna take that first photo and maybe some shots of the product and he started suggesting things, so I knew I was like I can shoot all day, I was probably there for three hours and he wants me to come back and do those other photos with the smoker cause he thinks that'll just be a cool photo. So I know, I can take my time, I can come up with crazy ideas as far as lighting and that guy did not care. He was all about it, so it's kinda feeling out the subject, but yeah, that shot probably would took about an hour. I have a question regarding when you're shooting outside in the street and there's like a lot of cars and you can not move the cars around, like how, do you have any tips for that? Just watch your framing, you could, in the case of this shot, there's obviously a lot of cars, they could be distracting. That's why I'm closer up to him, because the further away I got, the more those cars were distracting. There was plenty of people that walked by behind him on the sidewalk. I just had to wait until they weren't there, which takes 10 seconds, cause we were on a busy sidewalk. It's mostly, you saw that I started off with him standing up. Well all the power lines and all the cars were distracting so that's why eventually you work your way through the shot and I was like all right, would you mind taking a knee, because I knew then then I could get down low and get rid of all that stuff so just, I didn't see it initially, but as you shoot, I kinda worked my way to the final shot. You'll probably also notice, when you watch the videos, the first shots I take are not the ones I showed you later on. Within each set, I slowly worked my way and processed my way from, all right this is the first frame, to let's see what all the little details and how everything lines up, and then you eventually find it. It takes a little bit of time. Christina is asking, are you ever stopping down for your environmental portraits and shooting wide open? Not too often, although, I like things to be sharp, I mean even looking at this photo here. This is probably at F8 and you can see every little detail from the American flags that are 40 feet behind him are sharp, I like that cause I think it helps tell the story, I want the environment to tell as much of the story as the subject. I think stopping down to like 2 8 would make it more about the subject himself, and less about the environment, so I don't do that. There's been cases where I needed to get rid of some of the ambient light, so I stop, I used high-speed sync and would stop down just to get my shutter speed really high because I didn't want certain things in focus, like distracting elements. But for the most part, I leave it at about F5, to F8 depending on what I need, because I like the things in focus but again, that's personal preference. I've seen some awesome environmental portraits shot at F2 with high speed sync to really bring down the sunlight and bring the shallow depth of field into play and they look really great, it's just not my style. And Matthew Chase, who's watching and saw that, the whole scene unfold, and was wondering if you tried photographing, instead of the street view, for the background being the shop itself. And did that not work or? Yes so that was the first thing I actually looked at was having the shop be that, but what happened there was because the shop was actually painted black and the lack of light inside the shop, it was, you couldn't see anything that was in the shop without me setting up more lights and all of that. So I looked at it, I always kinda do a 360 view to see what's there and it wasn't, it didn't quite give the same feel. Plus in the name of education, I wanted to show how that shot affected the trees in the background which were lit by the sun so I kinda wanted to show that balance of ambient sunlight mixed with strobe and how you can kinda do that. The other thing I could have done is turned up the strobe light, raised my shutter speed a little bit and my aperture and really drowned out that background and made him pop. That was a thought too. There's a couple shots that'll probably look that way because I experimented with a few other things that are not on the video but they're all captured here on the file. So we can show some of that. But I definitely played around with looking at different backgrounds and just picked one that seemed to work best for that shot. Cool, it's cool to see you work the scene. Yeah well I mean you have to, otherwise you leave things on the table or you, things happen that you didn't even know were there. I always like to do that.

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!