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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 14 of 48

Shoot: Manipulate Light to Mimic The Sun

Dan Brouillette

Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

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.


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

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.


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!