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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 8 of 48

Prepare for Shoot

Dan Brouillette

Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

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.


Class Trailer
1 Class Introduction 06:15 2 Introduction to The Environmental Portrait 06:51 3 Environmental Portrait Purpose 13:06 4 Personal Work 18:36 5 Find Your Process 20:20 6 Tethering 18:35 7 Purpose For Action Editorial 05:19 8 Prepare for Shoot 06:10

Lesson Info

Prepare for Shoot

We'll get a little bit more into that preparation that goes into any of these type of shoots. So, one of the things is to know the parameters of the shoot, whether it's a personal assignment or an assigned assignment, knowing what the client wants or what you expect out of yourself from the shoot. It's really important to list those parameters on pencil and paper, or on your phone, or any type of checklist, because like I said in the first segment, once you get on set, or once you're on a shoot, all of sudden all the things you think you know fly out the window, you get in a rush, there's that anxiety, that stress that happens when you're on a life photo set, or any type of job, really. And a lot of the things you thought you knew, or would be easy, all of sudden you just totally forget. So I'm really a big proponent of grabbing a notebook, going through everything that can happen, whether it's remembering that, "I wanted to shoot with a 50mm lens, but also the 70-200," and checking th...

ose off as we go, or at least mentally checking them off and reading through. So, even for my Creative Life B-ball shoot, I have about 15 different notes I've taken just this morning of you know, things like: "action, dribble, sit, tie shoes, "unzip jacket, carry jacket, portraits, vertical, "horizontal, use the long lens to get a cinematic look." Things like that, that as soon as I start shooting, I might be so focused on using my 24- that I forget to ever take it off. And you get back to the studio, and you're like, "Why didn't I change lenses?" And it's because you just get in the moment, you forget. So, having a little checklist that you can-- Take 30 seconds, you can tell whoever you're shooting like, "Hold on a second, lemme go through my notes to make sure we got everything." And it might be, "Oh yeah, I wanted to sit on an apple box and shoot some to get a different perspective." And those are just things that, if you're in a rush, if you don't take just a minute or 30 seconds to go over your notes, you can forget, and again, you'll go back to your studio and you'll think, "Aw crap, I forgot to do that." So that's just not a great feeling, so knowing the parameters of the shoot, knowing what's gonna go into it, and how to be prepared. Knowing the studio and the subject, and anywhere you're shooting essentially ends up being the studio, so I don't mean necessarily a photo studio, but whether it's an art studio, whether it's a restaurant, whether it's a meat shop, whether it's a football stadium. Whatever it may be, being able to scout that location, whether it's days or weeks ahead of time, or for 15 minutes before the shoot, to kinda get an idea of-- You know, I like to go around, I put a 24-70 on my camera, I walk around a location in a full 360, and I look through at different focal lengths to think, "Okay, at 70 with the compression of this lens, "at 70mm versus 24, it's gonna do this to the scene." And I'll just take snapshots knowing, you know, that these could all be potential locations, but what's gonna give me that shot that I need, that the client needs, that looks the best visually. What's gonna work for the lighting? Maybe the sun's coming in from the west, 'cause it's in the afternoon and you realize, "Oh, I can't shoot in that direction because it's causing this giant light distraction in the background." So, taking the time to scout the location again, whether it's days before, or even for ten minutes before the shoot, so that way when you're on set, it's not a surprise to you, because that's not a good feeling, either. And then, gear prep. So, whether it's making sure the batteries are charged on your Profoto B1s or your camera to, you know, making sure all the modifiers are there. One of the things I like to do with lighting, is that days before a shoot, I know generally what I'm shooting. So, for instance, today we're photographing Brock, he's gonna be playing basketball. So the first thing I always ask myself when going through lighting gear is, "Are we gonna be doing hard light, or soft light?" Because that's gonna guide you to which modifiers you're gonna be using. For me, that also-- You know, whether you're renting equipment or bringing it in the trunk of your car, or whatever you may be doing, it's always good to have a direction on which equipment to bring, so you don't need to have everything. And it's gonna give you the right peace of mind and know that all the stuff's there to create that shot. So, with Brock, and knowing that we're shooting in the studio with a basketball, we're in this warehouse, I kinda have a little bit more of this stadium lighting type feel, so we're gonna be using a beauty dish without a sock on it, so it's a nice, you know, a little harder light, but still pretty. We're gonna be using a Silver Umbrella to give a real specular fill, and then we're gonna be using some of the 7" reflectors, or a Magnum Reflector, to give that hard, almost like it's a streetlight, or a stadium light, to give him that accent lighting, or that rim lighting, that you'd expect from a basketball-type shoot. I know, maybe you were shooting a dancer, and you might want to have, with the soft window light, you might go a different direction. You might think, "Oh, I want softer, pretty light, "so I'm gonna go with a large, parabolic, "or a diffused beauty dish, as my main light." So, that's the first thought I have is, "Which way am I gonna go with the lighting? "Is it gonna be hard or is it gonna be soft?" Because that'll give me some sort of direction as to what modifiers I'm gonna use and you know, to make sure I have all the gear I need for the shoot, and back-up gear, because a lot of times, things go wrong. So, whether it's camera batteries, cards, charging your laptop, all those type of things-- I have a checklist. Usually, it's more mental. It should be probably more physical sometimes, but it's always there and I'm going through all that stuff beforehand 'cause it's never fun to get to a shoot and realize like, you forgot something. So having a good assistant helps too, if you have the budget for it, or the means. For this particular shoot, I'm gonna be using a Nikon D810. I would be using a D850, but it's on back-order still. So that was part of the plan, but everyone wants that camera, so I haven't got it yet. So, we'll be using the D810, along with a 24-70mm lens, the 70-200 to kinda create a different feel within the space, and maybe a 50, that'll be the third lens, although that's pretty much covered in that 24-70. Just a little different, as far as sharpness goes, with the 50 prime. For lights, we'll be using Profoto B1 and B2s, mostly B1s for this part of the shoot. It's gonna be a two to three light set-up, and we're gonna use a whole bunch of different modifiers from the beauty dish to the medium-deep Silver Umbrella, to the 7" reflector, to a Magnum, to some grids, and everything in between. So, we'll be using a lot of different modifiers. I'll explain those as we go, as to why we're using 'em, how I'm using 'em, and that whole process.

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.


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!