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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 40 of 48

Post Processing Overview


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 40 of 48

Post Processing Overview


Lesson Info

Post Processing Overview

Three live shoots, the one we shot here earlier in the studio, the art studio, and now the on location. There's a lot of work to be done on the back end to kinda bring those all to life, and I know yesterday we edited through all the studio stuff, but that has a different feel as far as it's definitely more controlled than some of the environments you'll work on when you're lighting on location, whether it's indoors or outdoors, so let's go over a little bit of the post-shoot workflow, and also kind of recap what we've talked about so far. So, so far we went over what is an environmental portrait. We're all well aware of that right now. I've definitely harped on that far long enough. We went over the action editorial shoot. We went over the portrait shoot in studio. We did all that post-processing. We went over our indoor location shoot with all the videos, the outdoor location shoot that we just finished up. Now we're gonna go on that post-shoot workflow and then lastly, in our final ...

segment after this, will be the portfolio and marketing. So with that said, let's start talking about our post-shoot workflow. The first thing I'll do is I make my selects. As you saw yesterday, we go through. Just looking right now, you guys can't see this yet, but you will, from the art studio I shot 442 images. We're gonna go through all in a matter of minutes or less, and I'm gonna quickly make selects with a few explanations along the way. We take our RAW edits, we do all the processing to make those look pretty. We export them for Photoshop for any retouching. We then do our color grading, which either we can do that beforehand in Capture One or if you want to add some things, and this is all personal preference if you know there's things within Alien Skin you want to do or Photoshop, or wherever you do your color grading. That's up to you, but I like to do the color toning last, after I clean up the image. So we'll start with making selects. So, I'm gonna just explain how I do it. I know I did it once before, but it's a little different for this, and then we're actually gonna switch over to Capture One and do all these things live, so I use Capture One, I go off first impression and instincts. Don't overthink it. Again, it's really important. Otherwise you will spend hours staring at the pictures and you'll convince yourselves that you hate the ones you thought you loved and you love the ones you thought you hated, and then you'll either love 'em all or hate 'em all. So ask others for a fresh perspective if you're stuck. Like I said, I have people that I'll email a web gallery to, and I simply tell them pick four images from this set. I'm stuck, I don't want to look at 'em anymore. I need someone's fresh eye who hasn't seen these, wasn't at the shoot, and doesn't even know. I might give them a few parameters of what I'm going for, but other than that, all I want is them to star a few images or take a picture of the screen with their phone and text them to me so I know where to go. The RAW edits, with that we'll create a baseline for each image setup, meaning we'll edit one for that lighting setup, then apply that edit to everything else, tweak as needed. That way we know, you know, certain images, if he turned his head a certain way or another it might add more shadow, it might add more highlights, but generally speaking, I'm trying to create a baseline because I'm not trying to spend forever in Photoshop or Capture One editing. Apply to all images from the setup, so it's just batch processing, and then exporting. So we'll go over the export settings again. One thing I did not cover earlier is importing, so you know, I told you a couple times that sometimes the tether breaks down, whether the cord comes unplugged or you're shooting too quickly. Those images go to card, but I didn't explain how to import those cards, so I actually brought a card with some of the images from yesterday's shoot. We can import that through Capture One. I'll show you the basic settings to do that, and it's pretty easy and self-explanatory, but just we'll show it all so you guys can see it and hopefully answer some questions there. As far as retouching, minimal retouching. I like to keep it real. I'm hardly gonna do any facial retouching on these at all. Just a little bit of blemish removal, watch for distracting elements like reflections, glare, and those type of things. That's pretty much that, and then cropping. I don't do much of the crop. I try and get everything square in camera, but again, I leave space because I know there's different formats. It could be going on the banner of a website. It could be going in a vertical magazine ad. I like to leave that space without affecting too much of the image, so we'll crop last. Color toning, Alien Skin, find your identity and stick with it. I went over that enough yesterday. You probably got the idea, and also doing that in Capture One. So any last questions about editing before we get into it, or any suggestions or anything at all? With regard to your editing style, are there times where you have tried to adapt that to maybe be more widely accepted? Have you gotten feedback from a portfolio review that maybe changed your course with your visual identity with regard to color tone and whatnot? How's that look for you? I'd say the best thing to do with color tone to, for one, find your own identity but not be too wild that you're not getting hired, is to pick something that's not some kitschy trend. So there's always been trends, whether it's in lighting, whether it's in lens choice, whether it's in color grading, and I try and pick something that speaks to my images, so you'll see a lot of 'em kinda have a little bit of a vintage tone, but it's pretty true to real life. You'll notice I add blue to a lot of the shadows. I add a little warmth to the mid-tones and highlights, and that's about it. I don't do any crazy filters that look like you just threw it in Instagram and exported it. For some things, those are great, but for my website, I like to keep everything having that general feel. You saw a lot of my images. I mentioned I like to have them almost feel like they're images stuck in time, so it might just be using a film mimicking filter or something like that, but I also lower that opacity to that filter quite a bit, because I just want a touch of that feel to give the image an overall tone. Even this one, it's a little desaturated, there's a little bit of greens added to there, not a lot of warmth, definitely a lot of blues and greens in the shadow, it's cooled off. But it's nothing that's too kitschy or too trendy that it's gonna throw off someone from hiring me, and a lot of times that'll be a conversation you'll have with a client too is the color toning, whether they want to do it in-house and they just want the RAW files, or whether they have specific suggestions or sample images, but I try and keep it pretty neutral. That way it's not offending anybody and it's not harming me from getting work. Yes, another question. Well, my question is related to his question, and that is, you're a young photographer and you've developed this style over the years. And now is this something, this style, you plan to continue forever, or are you--? I mean, forever is a long time. I know. With that said, it's a style I definitely plan to continue, but I know, this is gonna go on a little bit of a tangent here, recently I was in Barcelona and I got the chance to go to the Pablo Picasso Museum, and this is the same with, another example is I went to the Irving Penn exhibit, which both of these, they're great artists, one a photographer, one a painter, but one thing I was surprised, relieved, and loved about the exhibits is that with both artists, their styles, you know, the stuff, everybody knows a Picasso painting, because you think of the abstract type portraits. But the fact is, he only did those the last little bit of his life. When we were going through the museum, seeing the things he started when he was 12 years old all the way up until he was 70, if you would have had that painting up in front of me and said who painted this, without knowing art history I would have had no idea because Picasso as we know it, is this specific vision. So, hopefully, as I grow as an artist and evolve, this isn't the style that lasts forever, but I keep evolving and finding new things and things that speak to me. Same with Irving Penn, I mean, there was, the early photos in his catalog were still lifes, and everybody knows him for his black and white portraiture so it's one of those things where I can say hopefully, because it would be easy to keep doing this, but at the same time it might get boring. I'm sure I'll, you know, things happen in life that change your viewpoints and your point of view, so it's kind of hard to answer. So I'm sure it'll change, and it's already changed a lot. I know some of the photos I took even 12, 14 years ago, I look at now and I kinda cringe a little bit, but I know that's part of the process because to get here I had to go through those steps and other things outside of art to kind of figure out what it is that I liked and where it was going, so that's why I like going to those exhibits too. It's kind of like all right, well this happened to them and you know, I don't have to stick with the same thing my whole life. So yeah, I do think it'll change but who knows? I can't predict it.

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!