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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 10 of 48

Set Up Action Editorial Shoot


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 10 of 48

Set Up Action Editorial Shoot


Lesson Info

Set Up Action Editorial Shoot

Let's start moving into the shoot. What I want to do first is introduce you to some of the gear so, Brock, you can sit tight for a second while we get set up. I'm gonna do the set-up actually live, too, as far as the lighting. I brought all the gear out here, but I'll kind of introduce the gear to you and share my thoughts as far as why we're using it, why we're gonna place it, and I'm sure as every photo shoot does, because we haven't pre-shot it, there's gonna be things that happen where I have to change the way we're doing it. A few things'll be thrown in there that I didn't expect and who knows what'll happen, so, we'll just go with it. And we're gonna be shooting the whole thing tethered, so if we could switch onto my screen real quick, I'll kind of show you the tether set-up so we can get that set up and we won't have to mess with the computer much after that. So, we're back in capture one, this probably looks familiar from the last segment. But now we wanna start a new session f...

or a new photo shoot. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna go up to File, and we're gonna start a new session. And up pops a menu Name, so we'll name this session, C-L, for Creative Live, and we'll name it Brock. And then you see down here, we have our sub-capture folder. That's where all the images will go. Select, any image we process out of select will go in there. Output'll be where I put high-res JPEGS. And then our Trash sub-folder, pretty obvious, that's trash. Lastly, we have our Capture Name. I like to name it the same as the folder, so it automatically goes to CL Brock, but then I put an underscore. Through the template I've set up for naming, it'll then have a four-digit number starting with 0001. Or whatever the number may be. And that'll be all the name, so that way when we go back to find these images later, we know what to search, and it keeps everything consistent. So, that's gonna save onto my desktop. I generally don't save everything to my desktop. Here we do, just 'cause of space. I normally save all shoots to external drives, and then that way, we can back 'em up with other externals, or put 'em in the Cloud, and it keeps my laptop running pretty quick, because I don't like to get it bogged down with tons of raw files, and the hard drive's only so big. For this instance, we're gonna save to desktop. Now that we've set up the new session, we have a blank slate. So we will start working from there. I'm gonna move the tether table over, because we're gonna be shooting along the windows here, and while there's this nice window light, we're actually gonna ignore that, and we're gonna use that more as a prop, and overpower it with our strobe. We're gonna work with the general ambience of the room, and I'm gonna start setting up some lights and tether my camera. First thing I'm gonna do, I like to work in layers. We're gonna set up our main light. For this, I'm picturing Brock either standing, kind of this heroic shot holding a basketball under the arm, or doing some dribbling. I'm a big basketball fan, and I've played a lot of basketball in my life, so I kind of know the nuances of how it all works, and what should look right, what should look authentic, and I feel like that's important with anything you're shooting. If you're gonna go out and do a photo shoot with a fly-fisherman, you should probably watch some YouTube videos if you have no idea, anything about fly-fishing, to get familiar with some terms so you can, I don't know anything about fly-fishing so maybe this is a bad example, but you can direct them by being familiar with what the equipment's called, how it should look. Maybe knowing, when you're planning your shoot, "Oh, I see arm movements," I would be like, "Here, oh they have this small net "for getting the fish," or all these things. It's just a matter of familiarizing yourself with the process so that way when you're working with the subject, you can give them direction that actually makes sense, feels authentic, and they won't look at you like a deer in the headlights, like, "Why would I ever bounce the basketball on my head," or something like that. So with that said, we'll set up some equipment. The thoughts in my head are that we're gonna have a fairly specular light source with a lot of light in the room, but it's gonna be very directional, creating a decent amount of shadow. So we're gonna start off with the beauty dish here. And that's gonna be our main light. I light everything in layers. We might end up using three lights, but I only set 'em up one at a time, and even shoot with 'em one at a time, so that way I know what each light's doing. Because every light not only lights up a portion of the frame, it also casts a shadow that you might need to fill in later, so we're gonna start with one light. My frame in general, when I'm thinking about that, let me get my camera. We're gonna start off, I start off almost every shoot with a 24 to 70. It's a good neutral lens. It gives me a little bit of range to kinda gauge the space. And if I need to zoom out, zoom in, anything like that, I have that, 'cause this is a zoom lens. So what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna move this light a little bit and I'm gonna make our initial frame. So we might not stick with this, but it's where I'm going at least in my head, so I'm gonna, a lot of times I like to shoot from a lower perspective or stand on things. I think images that, I'm five foot 10. If I took every picture from here, it'd be a little boring. I like to give a perspective that might not be what people see when they're just walking down the sidewalk. For this, I'm picturing a vertical shot to start, embracing some of these windows, and I love messing with composition. So I'm thinking, you'll see this when I actually start to shoot, but I'm just kind of framing out, so I know where the lights need to be, and where Brock will be standing. I have a little bit of idea of the frame. And now we can start setting up the light. So we'll start off with this beauty dish, and I'm gonna have, Brock, you can come over here now, and you can bring your ball. I'm gonna have you stand about right here. And the camera's gonna end up being about 10 feet in front of you, so you can just stand here and hold the ball, you really don't have to do anything yet. I'm gonna start setting up all of the lighting. Our first light's gonna be our main light. And we're actually gonna do this twice. We're gonna do it once from each side because I can't totally decide what side, decide which side I want to work from. Because it's a little hard to visualize with the windows being so bright, and knowing that the shot's gonna look a lot darker than it actually is. But I do like this as a general angle, so we're gonna put this light up pretty high. I'm gonna be shooting some full-length portraits of him. And knowing that light fall-off, how it all works, inverse square law and all that fun stuff. I want this light to be as far from him as possible, so that way we can light him fairly evenly from head to toe. I'm gonna put this guy up fairly high. And off to the side, because I'm picturing a more dramatically lit image, so I don't know why I keep carrying around this tether cord. We're gonna put this guy up high. Tilt it down a little bit, and we're definitely gonna light him from an angle. And the other thing is, I'm gonna throw a grid on it, because I don't want the beauty dish, all the light to spill on the window. It's already bright enough. We're gonna put a 25-degree grid on the beauty dish to really control the spill of the light. And that'll be our main light. Alright, so this guy'll go up, and I like shooting with beauty dishes kind of tilted downward. For one, I like the control of the light, and I just like how it looks. It's a little, for lack of a better word, toppy. So it's more of a top-light type of situation and we can fill in that with our umbrella, which will be our fill light momentarily. We're gonna get this guy up there pretty high. I'm gonna try and not pinch my fingers, which I almost did in the last class I taught. I was talking too much to the camera, and I released the wrong one here, and it almost caused some serious pain, but we didn't have it happen, so we're good. Alright, like I said, I want that to be as high as possible, I know the angle's already wrong, so we're gonna make one brief adjustment here. Go back up with that guy. We have our sandbag on there, so we have a little extra weight. I don't have the arm extended out too far, so we should be good as far as that goes. So rather than me move again, I'm gonna have you stand about right here, so he's gonna be right in this light. Any time you're working with a grid, if you can see through the grid to the back of the beauty dish and see white, that's where the light's gonna hit. As soon as you move too far and you can only see black, you are now in the shadow. Stand about right here, and you're gonna be looking towards where it's that little white sign on the ground. Alright, so that's our main light. And then I'm gonna have you either looking there or off, almost towards the chair way in the background that you guys at home can't see, but it's over there. So you're gonna be looking there. So our light, we're gonna be short-lighting him, so we're gonna get this dramatic light on his face. It's gonna be a lot of shadow right now. So the first shot you'll see, there's a picture in my head and we're slowly gonna get there. But this first one is not gonna be it. So when you're viewing at home, or here on my computer or the screen, don't be surprised if it doesn't look so awesome to start. As far as tethering goes, we have a little piece of gaff tape here, I put it there earlier. Tethering is a little tricky in that the tools of the trade are not perfected yet. So with the camera, we have our tether cable. It's bright orange, so I'm supposed to not trip over it, which I probably will anyways. We have this thing called a jerk-stopper. One of the biggest problems with tethering is the fact that this port for the USB cable for the tether is very shallow, so that's just due to the size of the port on the camera, you can see I've already taped it up earlier. We're gonna do it again. This is all that goes into the camera. And it goes into the side here. The problem with that is, you can see this is like a quarter inch long. So that's all the further. That is all it takes to remove the tether cord and become untethered. So with that said, we have this jerk-stopper here. It's a little $15 hunk of plastic goodness from Tether Tools, that prevents that from happening. What that does is, part of it goes under your camera strap, the other part goes onto the actual tether cable. And then that way, when you plug in, it takes the tension off of the actual port so if someone were to walk by and trip on my cable, it puts the tension on the strap, not on the cable. So you can see that comes out that easy. Another thing you can do with that is gaff tape it into your camera. And that's what we're gonna do right now. So I have a little hunk of gaff tape. We're gonna tape the front side of the tether cable, and we're going to tape the back side, and they make other tools that are a little more refined for doing this. But I prefer this method because then I can take it off and throw it away, it works, and the whole idea is that we won't come untethered 'cause it's kind of annoying. But that does happen, and when that happens, oh, one alternate you can do is for about $90, they make a tool called the Tether Block. It actually screws into the bottom tripod mount on your camera, and it looks like a tripod plate, but it's grooved, and the tether cord actually winds through those grooves and it takes all the tension off, and then it lets the tether cord go right up into your camera and it really works well, but again, it's $90, so you just have to decide if it's worth it for you or if you just wanna tape your cord to your camera. Lastly, if you do come untethered, and you don't realize it, and you keep shooting, and you don't have a card in your camera, those images are lost forever. So if you put a card in, and your cable comes out partway through, or you don't know it. All those images will still go to your card. You can ingest them later, apply the same settings you were doing previous through tethering. It'll look the exact same. Always put a card in. That way you have a little bit of a backup there in case you become unplugged. Alright, the next step is plugging in the other end of the tether cable to your computer. We'll just put that in the USB port. They make extensions for tether cords. If you want to connect two of them, they make little connection devices. All sorts of stuff. Pretty much everything I buy is from Tether Tools. They're in all sorts of different camera stores. It works pretty well. Again, I feel like in the next five years, this whole tethering thing is really gonna come together and I can just take a picture and, right now there are some, I have a small mirrorless camera that I use for fun for travel photos and I can just send those images straight to my phone. But for whatever reason, and maybe someone out there even, one of you guys can tell me, there's gotta be something that we can get to a point where we can take these giant 100 megabyte files, if I'm taking in five seconds, all of a sudden we have a gig, to send those over Bluetooth or Wifi, but I feel like we'll get there, and there's probably some other methods that some of the more technical people can tell me, but this is how I do it. This is how I've done it for a while. It works for me. It's probably not the best, but it works for me, and you'll see how I use it, and that's the main thing. You gotta find something that works for you that you can replicate, that you feel comfortable with, and that gives you the results you want.

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!