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Shoot: Athletic Studio Portrait

Lesson 13 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

Shoot: Athletic Studio Portrait

Lesson 13 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

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.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Introduction to The Environmental Portrait


Environmental Portrait Purpose


Personal Work


Find Your Process




Purpose For Action Editorial


Prepare for Shoot


Lesson Info

Shoot: Athletic Studio Portrait

What we're gonna do first, like I said, it's gonna be this hot white backdrop. So I'm gonna open up these V-flats a little bit, and we're actually gonna take two Profoto B1s, and the first thing we're gonna do is light the backdrop. So we're gonna be shooting at ISO 100, a 200th of a second, at F five, six. And what you want with a hot white backdrop, any of these magazine covers you see, is that the backdrop reads one stop brighter than your subject. So we're gonna be shooting at five, six. I'm gonna meter for the background, the middle of it, to read at F eight. So that's one stop above five, six. To get there, I'm going to have to put a Profoto B on each side of the backdrop and blast these into the V-flats. And then that reflected light is gonna evenly distribute over the background and hopefully give us out nice hot white background at F eight. So give me a second to set those up. I'll kind of explain how I'm angling those. Again, we're just gonna use the two B1s. And I'm gonna pu...

t seven-inch silver reflectors on the lights to control a little bit of that spill and actually help amplify the light into the V-flats so we can really maximize how much light's hitting the background without getting too crazy out of control. So we're gonna be shooting. We have a full-width white seamless, but we're not gonna be using the full-width, so I don't care if there's light stands hanging out or things like that. Especially with white, those are easy to get rid of later if you have to stretch the background out. I just don't want anything to be directly behind Brock, because that gets a little more tricky. So we're placing one, just to open this up, we're placing one light stand in here about medium height. And we are just gonna shoot the same power from each side. So we'll just start off with both lights at about power eight. And we're gonna close that down. So we don't want, the reason why we're using the V-flats is if we have Brock standing out in front of him or standing out in front of here, we don't want any of that background light spilling back onto him. So we use the V-flats, the white side, to direct the light into the background and the black side to cut off any spilling light from hitting him so we can control the light that's hitting Brock. So we got that one set up at power eight. Probably won't need, I'm not gonna put a light 20 feet into the air, so we won't necessarily need the sandbag this time, but you never know what I'll do for the next lighting setup. So we'll keep those handy. And we're gonna set this one up to a similar height. I'm gonna turn the power on now, put it also at eight because they're gonna be evenly-spaced, and we want the light across this background to be even. We'll open this V-flat up so it's very similar to the other one, and we'll use this light stand to help us keep it open. So we'll give you guys a sneak peek of that in a minute. And we should be pretty good. As far as how much light's hitting the background, that is yet to be determined. So we'll do a test meter here. See, we can always, the way we adjust the V-flats and how the light's hitting 'em will determine how much light we're actually getting out of this bounced light. So I'm gonna set up my meter to, turn it on first, set it up to a 200th of a second ISO 100 at five, six. And there's a couple cheats. One thing is we're limited. We're bouncing Profoto B1s, they're 500-watt lights, into V-flats, trying to get 'em back in the background. Let's say you wanna shoot at F eight, then your background, it would need to be F11. You might have to up your ISO to get there because these lights are only so powerful. You can max it out and you still might not reach F11. So we're gonna shoot at five, six, like I said, and we're going for F eight on the background. So I'm gonna meter. I have no idea what this is gonna read. That is probably the luckiest I've ever gotten. That's like directly on F eight. I mean I'd like to think somewhat of an idea of what I'm doing, but that has never happened ever. So we don't even need to do anything else. That was pretty good. Again, if we wanted to shoot at F eight, we need the background at F11. These lights still have two more stops apiece. So knowing that right now they're eight, the background's at eight, we would only go up one stop with both lights and we'd be there. So we wouldn't need to raise our ISO. So that's good to know. Again, that's one thing I just learned. If we wanna light a hot white background with B1s, we can easily get to F11 without upping the ISO. So that'll be stored somewhere up in here for the future. So, Brock, you're gonna be a silhouette right now. So you're gonna stand about right here on this spot, and I'm gonna shoot as if it's a three-quarter-length portrait. There's no light on him whatsoever. I'm just getting a read on the background, but I need something to focus on. So turn a little bit this way. I mean, sorry, rotate. Yup. And it doesn't matter where you're looking, you're literally gonna be a silhouette. So I'm just getting a general baseline for how bright this background is. And it'd probably help if I put a trigger on my camera, then the lights would fire. All right. There's our silhouette. And here's even more of a silhouette with a little bit of back lighting. And, again, we're automatically tethered. It's giving us the same settings as our previous tether situation. It's a totally different setup, so I'm gonna reset. There we go. And we're gonna adjust accordingly. So the background's pretty well white, as you can tell here. I upped the exposure just a little bit. One thing when you're shooting on white, I know a lot of times with the different environments I take this highlight slider and I bring back a lot of the highlights with white background. You don't wanna do that 'cause it starts to go gray. So we're gonna leave that. We're gonna control the highlights the old-fashioned way using our lights and our camera, and we're just gonna move forward from there. And you'll see he's getting a little bit of light spill on him just off that background. If you wanna get rid of that, have him scoot further away from the background. So take one giant step towards me. Yup. Maybe even a little bit more. And now you'll see less light. We'll take a very similar shot as far as composition goes, but you'll notice there's a little less light that'll hit his neck, and you can see that right there. A little less highlights. So if you like that look, which a lot of people do, move him closer to the background. If you want less light spill then move him further away from the background. I'm gonna have you actually go back a half a step, not out of preference of light, but mostly out of the space we have. So I'm gonna set my camera down. And now we're gonna move to our main light. Because we're in the studio now and I'm not lighting up a background, I'm not so concerned about this grid. I actually want more light. So for this instance we're gonna use this beauty dish again as our main light, and we are actually gonna take the grid off and hopefully leave it off this time. I'll set that right here. And we can move in our beauty dish. So I'm gonna set that right here. I want a three-quarter-length portrait, so knowing that, let me grab my sandbag. One tip, you always want the longer leg of your C-stand out underneath your light. Keeps it less likely to tip over, and even more less likely when you put a sandbag countering that. We're gonna turn this guy on. And we're just gonna start off with power six just to give us a nice number in the middle. Probably have to adjust it to get our F five, six that we want. So we're gonna get this up a little higher. And, again, I'm gonna do one quick lighting lesson for you guys. I'm gonna move this light nice and low and close to him, and I'm gonna show you what we don't want to happen and why. So we're gonna keep these camera settings the same. It's always gonna be F five, six. Let me grab my trigger here. So we'll meter, I can already tell you this is gonna be too bright. We'll meter, we're going for five, six. We're at six, three. We need to go down a third of a stop, so three clicks. We got five, six, so we're good. So I'm gonna have you hold that ball. Stay right there. Hold that ball down here on this hip and look straight at the camera. And what I'm wanting and what's not gonna happen are I'm wanting a nice, evenly-lit shot, but what people do when they think of a three-quarter-length shot and they think of a beauty dish is they put it way too close. So how the falloff works is the distance from his face to this light is about two feet. The distance from this light to this ball is closer to five feet. So that's two and a half times the distance. How the inverse square law works is every time you double the distance of light to subject, you only get a quarter of the light. So right now his face is getting all the light. This ball is more than twice as far away, so it's gonna get less than a quarter of the light that his face is getting, and it's gonna fall off into darkness. I'll explain how you fix that in a second. One test shot. One, two, three. Again, this is just a basic lit portrait. Let me get rid of that backdrop. One, two, three. Okay. So this is a good baseline. I'm not too concerned about light angles or all that, but you can see the ball's basically dark. So what we need to do to counteract that is we need to move, we need to get these two distances less. So the distance from this light to his face is actually further away, because that makes the relative distant of his face to the ball smaller. So you'll see. I'll explain it when we get it set up. So right now we saw this was two feet away and this was like five feet away. We're gonna maintain the same lighting angle, but we're gonna raise this up. With that, we also need to up the power. So let me do that real quick. And you go up about two stops. And, again, we can adjust it from the camera, the only problem is all these lights are on the same channel. So if I adjust one, it's going to adjust them all. So we'll just have to do it manually a little bit. Now, with that said, we have the light basically at the same angle, but it's just a lot taller. So now the light is much further away from Brock's face, but the distance from his face to the ball is still the same, but the distance from the light to his face is a lot farther. So now the light will have a lot less falloff quickly because you're still exposing for his forehead. So we still need to get F five, six in front of his face, but you'll see that falloff will be a lot less quick, will be happening a lot less quickly with the light. So we're at six, three. We need to go down three clicks, but then I also need to take these back up. So I'll do that manually. And we should be good. So now you'll see the ball will be catching quite a bit more light. It still won't be super bright, but it'll be brighter than this. And the further you move, that's where fill light comes in. It'll help us deal with that. But if you only have one light and you have to do it this way. One, two, three. So you're getting a little more light there. It's a little bit hard to see on there. I need to move the light just slightly. But just so you can see, and we changed position a little bit, but the light's just more even. So what I'm actually gonna do is add a fill light. So this is a good time where we can add this silver light. And I'm gonna do the same thing as I said before. I wanna keep it between the original light and my camera, so I'm just gonna put this directly over my head. He's wearing all black. It's not exactly the most reflective material. In fact, it's probably the least reflective material. So we're gonna put this light about here. And I'm pretty happy with how it's all lined up. We'll turn this on. We're gonna start with it fairly low-power, maybe a little more, and this will be our fill. So now we don't have to worry so much about how this is positioned. In fact, I'm gonna bring it back down closer to him to really sculpt that light and get it how we want. All right. So, again, we're going to meter for five, six. We're at five, six. Right on the dot, so we're good there. And now we can shoot. The only thing we're gonna change is the power of our fill if we want less shadow or we want more shadow. So you're gonna be looking right to camera. That's perfect. And this is kind of our basic shot on white, hot white background. So what we have here is a good baseline. Now we can add a little bit of coloration to it. If we wanted to match the color we did before, we could do this purple punch. I don't wanna do that. I'm just gonna go with a cool look. You can see it's barely doing anything to this frame. We're gonna add just a little bit of blue to the shadows and a little bit more warmth to the mid tones. I'm gonna really go into exposure of that contrast. We're gonna up the shadows a little bit. I'm leaving the highlights well enough alone because I like the background to stay white. And the only other thing I'm gonna do is, I mean really that's about it. So it's just a clean shot on white. The only thing we could really do is if you want more fill, if you want it to be even more flat-lit, we can turn this up another stop. And now you'll see it's gonna be a lot more evenly-lit. One, two, three. So now there's gonna be even less shadow on his face. That's actually looking pretty good. It kinda does have this like Men's Health magazine cover look if you can imagine a giant logo and a bunch of text. I'm gonna move this over just a tiny bit so I can get in the right spot. One, two, three. Yeah, so that looks pretty good. Hold that ball just off to the side a little bit more. There you go. One, two, three. All right. So as far as a basic shot goes on a hot white background with a nice, neutral light, that's about all I would do. We didn't do too much, you saw. It's a total of four lights, two in the background. The background's one full stop over the lighting on our subject. He's metered at F six. We have the beauty dish on him. I don't care about spill because the background's already white. In fact, I actually like the spill. And then our fill light is just right over camera on axis. So four-light setup. Pretty simple. Not a whole lot to it. And, you know, if you wanna get in there and do something a little closer, I'm gonna have you turn completely this way. With your body, sorry. And now looking back over that shoulder almost towards the screen. Yeah. Turn even more with your shoulders towards me. Sorry, this way. Keep going. Right there. Head even more that way. All right, and then eyes almost to this pillar. Yup. So now we can kinda get chin down a little bit. So this will be a little closer up version of the same shot, but you can see it's pretty clean. It gives us a little bit more dynamic shot with the body turned. The lighting's still the exact same. As I moved closer, I'll turn the exposure down just a little bit, but nothing is blown out. We've metered, so we know all the technicalities are there.

Ratings and Reviews

Julie V

I had the chance to sit in the audience for this class and absolutely loved it. Watching Dan create amazing images from start to finish in front of us was so inspiring. I've learned so much from this class. It actually gave me the confidence to start playing with lights in my studio. It was really useful to see how he sets his lights and how he can easily mix ambient light with artificial. I also love how he focuses on getting the image right in the camera to only do light edits after. I recommend this class to anyone wanting to learn more about lighting, shooting tethered and editing efficiently!

a Creativelive Student

I love this guy! I so appreciate his honesty while he is explaining his thought process, admitting that his “shoulda/coulda/woulda’s” - which I experience ALL the time. I am now going to dust off my light meter and start using it on location as I’m convinced that it works now that I’ve seen Dan’s class. I enjoyed the detailed way he sets up each light individually, checking to make sure it adds the amount and quality of light he wants. Definitely recommend this class - especially for those people who have experience using studio lights and want to see how they can be used to get specific results. Dan’s clear, simple explanations, his unabashed humility, and his sense of humor made this a truly enjoyable way to spend my time learning his methods.

a Creativelive Student

Dan is an excellent instructor! He's completely transparent with his thought processes, from technical to creative. He doesn't waste time horsing around or getting off topic, but is structured and sticks to his outline. Every minute watched is on topic, and is understandable. He's sincere and likable. The course is great for anyone interested in this genre!

Student Work