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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 14 of 48

Shoot: Manipulate Light to Mimic The Sun


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 14 of 48

Shoot: Manipulate Light to Mimic The Sun


Lesson Info

Shoot: Manipulate Light to Mimic The Sun

So now what we can do that we have that white background is we can kinda play. Let's do something that has some high contrast. So I'm actually gonna switch up, Brock you can relax for a second. I'm gonna switch this beauty dish and put on a magnum reflector. So we're gonna do, the reflector that I would use to mimic the sun. So I wanna get really harsh light, lot of specularity, with some really sharp shadows. So, we'll put the beauty dish away and we'll bust out the magnum. So there's two versions of the magnum. This is the new version. This is made for b1s. The difference between the older profoto lights and the b1s and b2s, is the front is flat. The old ones had a dome. The dome was designed, the modifiers were designed with that light dome. Now that they're flat, they can make these modifiers different and you'll see, this has a pattern here that actually amplifies the light. And the further you place it onto your b1 head, the more spread you're actually gonna get. So we're going t...

o place that about medium. So this actually will amplify the light. And we'll place that on there. Plus this is a lot smaller than the old magnum, and it's about half the price, which I appreciate because I like to buy all this gear and use it. And though profoto logo is on the front of this slide show this gear is not free. I wish it was, hopefully somebody's listening. But yeah, I just love the gear, I love the quality of it, and I've been using it for a long time so that's kinda why I stick with that. And it gives me the results I want. And it's also really easy to use as far as knowing that if I want to move this a stop I don't even have to look. I can feel the ten clicks and know we're at a stop. So let's fire this guy up. I'm going to turn off the fill light to start, again like I always do. We have our hot white background. We're going to go for some really harsh shadows now. So, Brock I'm going to have you stand in about where you were, probably the intersection of these lines right there. I'm gonna have you go almost straight on and kinda holding that ball so stand, yeah just like that. Chin down a little bit. Yup. And now I'm gonna light him from the side so we get a ton of shadow, really harsh highlights. And I'm gonna move this light kinda far away. One of the keys that I find with working, if you look at there's a photographer by the name of Art Streiber, awesome celebrity photographer, he is one of my favorite Instagram accounts on all of Instagram. If I could only follow one person it would probably be him because he posts tons of behind the scenes photos and all this info about his lighting setup. His Instagram is @aspictures and it's amazing. He's very generous with his information, and one of the things I've noticed watching him over the years, is that, and other photographers as well, is that he uses the magnum reflector to recreate sunlight even if it's an overcast day or in the studio. And one of the things they do, is they like to place, his assistants like to place the light about as far away as possible from the subject because it minimizes that fall off. If you think about how far away the sun is from us, it's quite a ways, so that fall off, there is no fall off on sunlight from head to toe cause its a long ways away. So, being able to recreate sunlight with a harsh reflector like this and have those harsh specular highlights, I like to put my lights far away. So, I know some people have commented, Kena included, of how far away and how high I put my lights. It's because I hate when I'm trying to light someone evenly I hate fall off. So I like to, I like to use distance as my friend. And when you move lights further away, I'm trying to maintain a light angle, so you have to raise 'em up to maintain that angle. Alright. So we're going to aim this just a little more at Brock. And again, this is going to be pretty well side lit. I'm going to come over here even further. Pretty well side lit, there's going to be a lot of shadow and we're going to have no fill to start. So, we are at 5O on that light. We need the meter because this is going to be totally different than a beauty dish. A beauty dish bounces in to a disk, back into the dish, and it's white. This thing is silver and it is coming in hot so we need to read meter. Alright, we want 5-6. We have 5-0. So we need to go up a third of a stop. But because I didn't put these on different channels I have to adjust these. It's better to pay attention to all this stuff now so you either don't repeat these mistakes, or know to pay attention to them when you're adjusting lights. (beeps from light meter readings) Alright, now we're good. I didn't do it the first time, so I actually did that for no reason. Alright, with that said, the other thing you can do is put all of your lights on different channels. It really helps because you can switch between different channels on the trigger, adjust different lights as long as you keep them straight. I have these all on channel A, so anytime I adjust the power of a light it's doing it to all of them. Alright, so now we have our one light setup with our harsh sunlight. I'm gonna have you take a tiny step backwards. And I'm gonna have you looking almost towards the t.v. screen but chin down. Yeah, just like that. Head even more that way. And we're going to get some pretty harsh light here. So one, two, three And this is why you put a card in because I came untethered. We didn't lose the shot. So to re-tether, I don't even know how that happened, it's still plugged in on both ends; sometimes things just happen. We'll fire up the camera. You're looking for this little icon here to light up. There it did. Now we're tethered again. It'll automatically reconnect so... One, two, three Okay, so now you can see we have a totally different type of light. You can also see how much lights coming off that background and onto the side of his face. I actually really like it. It's gonna save us from having to use a kicker. So, we're going to up the shadows just a little bit. We're going to take down the highlights just a tiny bit, I don't want it to affect the background. But, I'm enjoying this really harsh light. And we're going to do just a little bit of fill, but just for purposes of education, we're going to use we'll start with 5. We're just going to up the fill until it gets a little more flat. So, we'll see how this initial frame looks. One, two, three So this is with some fill. You can already see the difference. I'm going to turn it up an entire stop. So we're still going to get that specularity from our main light, which is the magnum. But this fill is just gonna take some of that edge off with the shadow. So now you'll see the side of his face. So now it's almost looking more and more like the beauty dish cause we're evening out that light. I'm going to turn this back down about a stop and a half cause I do like that shadow and that edge. So now Brock, we're just going to go ahead and shoot. So I'm going to have you generally looking towards me or that direction. I tell him that because that's where the light is if he turns his head too far that way we're going to lose all the light and it's going to be no bueno. So I'm going to have turn your body a little this way and then looking straight at me. Yup, so now we're gonna have quite a bit of shadow. I just want to watch a couple of these come in so we see... Okay, I like what we're doing right here. So, you can keep moving around. I'm gonna have you just switching the ball from side to side even up here, but if you do that don't block the ball from try and make sure you can still see that light. And even some looking that way, we'll even see what happens. Take a look off this way towards the windows. It's gonna add a little shadow but I think it might actually look pretty good. Yeah, you can see we lose catch lights if he looks over there. So generally look at me or that way. And I'm just going to keep movin'. (camera clicks) Turn your whole body this way. And now start looking over that shoulder as if like somebody's coming in a fake door that doesn't exist back there. Turn even more this way with your shoulders. Yeah, right there. Looking down hard over your shoulder towards the ground. Yup. Eyes right to camera. Keep your nose that way but eyes to camera. Perfect. Now look in that way again. I'm gonna have you switch the ball to your other hand but up here. Yeah, there you go. Turn a little bit more towards me, shoulders, there you go. Look turn your chin even more that way. Right there. Turn your whole body more towards me. Right there, perfect. (camera clicks) Look even more out that way. Yup. Came disconnected, huh. But again, we didn't lose any frames, it's just mostly annoying. So I'll disconnect, and reconnect. As soon as that icon is lit up. Yup, we're reconnected. There we go. Shoot a couple more of these then we'll move on. Nose more this way. Yup. Don't even look at me, look straight past the t.v. Okay, what I want to do next, is kinda move on and I want to try using the 7200, just to use a different lens, see what it looks like. You never know, it might work great it might be something I don't want. But you won't know it until you try it. And the worst thing that'll happen is you just won't use the images. So we'll grab that lens and switch those out quickly. Okay. We'll reconnect. I'm going to try even more angles so the backgrounds gonna stay the same every time cause it's just white. So turn your body completely around. Yup, keep turning a little bit more. You're going to be glancing back at me over that shoulder. Hold the ball on the other side. And turn even more towards me. Now head straight at camera, like real hard turn. Right there, that's perfect. So this is with the 7200. Just going to be a little different look. There we go. Sharpness not guaranteed with this lens. Okay, there we go. I know that one's good. It's a little bit different on here too, then it will look on my computer. Not too much, but... Now I'm going to have you turn straight onto camera again. I'm just gonna have you hold that ball up here. Turn even more this way actually. And now look over this shoulder. But you're going to be looking at me, but almost like you're turning your head over your shoulder. Right there. (camera clicks) And now one more just out of curiosity. Turn your head, don't look at me at all. Look towards my computer. So this will be way more short lit cause I'm cutting the angle of the light off a lot. I'm shooting from the opposite side. There we go. That's actually pretty cool. I'm gonna have you take one step this way. Yup, right in there. And that's just because I was going to get the B flat in my frame. And, I'm gonna tether up cause I'm all wrapped up. Oh well. What can you do? One, two, three I gotta fix that, that's driving me nuts. Cause I want to be able to zoom cause it'll just be a different look if I can zoom in. There we go. This is gonna be pretty sweet. Perfect. I'm gonna do a vertical here. Look a little bit more forward. Yeah, right there. One more frame. I just, I like to move from like far out like this and slowly zoom in because it's better than cropping. You still maintain that resolution and the compression's just different. Look right at me with your eyes but not your chin. Yup. There we go. So I kinda like these. They feel like, you know, something you'd see in ESPN, or something like that. You can see what went into it. Not a whole lot. And I talked you through the whole set up. So that's some different things I would do from a flat, white type of light to more angular with specularity with this different modifier. In the studio on hot white.

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!