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Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 37 of 48

Studio Light On Location


Environmental Portrait Photography

Lesson 37 of 48

Studio Light On Location


Lesson Info

Studio Light On Location

Now what I wanna do is actually take things outside, so we're gonna mix the natural light with the ambient. And there's different ways you can do this as far as lighting. You can use the sun as your main light and fill it with your strobe, you can use the strobe as a main light and fill it with the sun, or you can use the sun as a backlight and use a strobe as your main light from the opposite side so it's kind of, that's almost like a three-light set I'm using. The sun as a kicker, the overall ambient as the fill, and your strobe as the main light. And there's different styles that you can do within that similar to studio lighting. So one of the thing I like to do is figure out which one fits the setting and with Richie, he was gonna be working on a motorcycle outside. It was kind of an overcast day, the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds, so it wasn't anything consistent, so I don't want to rely on the sun in that situation to be the ambient because otherwise I'm gonna be adjus...

ting camera settings constantly. So I actually went with this more of an on-camera flash type of look where the light's a little more harsh. I used the pro photo with a seven inch reflector, no grids, no diffusion or anything. And I just placed it right next to the camera so we kind of are blasting him with light. He has a wide area he can work on. He was changing spark plugs on the motorcycle. Glancing down the sidewalk, I was just kind of directing him through that to stay within the light and the frame and since we're out on the sidewalk there's also things that can happen like people walking in the background, cars, all that. So with this lighting it's a little more free it's not so finicky, it's not perfect. But it does provide a look that looks different than what you naturally see when you're out shooting. Similar to natural light, studio lighting on location I use both soft and hard light depending on the image. It just depends on what you wanna go for. For this particular light I'm obviously using harder light. I'm using just a seven inch reflector on the pro photo head. So it's almost giving you that bare ball flash look, kind of the on camera look. And mixing ambient with sun light and strobe to create a unique effect. So what you can do is the higher you want your power of your light, the more you can drown out that ambient light. So these are where photographers might take images in the middle of the day and make it almost look like it's night. Or how photographers can get that deep blue sky without shooting a silhouette of a person you can balance that light. For me, I like to make it look slightly more realistic and natural so it's just a touch of light filling in shadows. But at the same time it does have an effect where you know it's lit, it's just not over the top lit. I don't have a lot of hard edge light and kickers going on. And again, that's a look a lot of photographers love. I just prefer this for my own work. So with that said, we'll kind of get into the next video. This is when we go outside and we start combining the two light sources and we're just letting Richie work on the motorcycle with some subtle direction. And then we'll show a few of those shots at the end. And what you're gonna notice is as the raw shots pop up, some of them are gonna look like they're lit more than others. It's a little bit tricky because the light kept changing so I had to adjust for the ambient. But what you'll see when we're going through the raw edits on my computer is that that's not really the case. You'll be able to clearly tell they're all lit. So even though some of the raws will look a certain way here or they might look really dark, it's all planned because I'm shooting knowing the post-processing that's gonna take place. So I'm just accounting for that as we shoot. So let's watch that video now. We've now moved outside with the shoot. We just finished the shoot inside the garage. But we have such a nice overcast day, it's not raining, the weather's cooperating that I want to kind of take advantage of that. And also it's a good time to show how to balance natural light outdoors, ambient light with strobe lighting. So I want to kind of get that on-camera flash that paparazzi look where it's a little more specular. So to get that look we're going to use just one pro photo B one with a seven inch reflector. It's very specular. Definitely has that look we're going for. And I'm gonna position it somewhere just off-axis. So just not right above the camera, but one side left or right but not too much shadow caused by this light. And again, in order to get this the first thing I did was I took a few shots without the light at all. Because my light's not gonna affect these trees or the sky. But I wanted to see, you know I have a vision of how I want the trees to look, then we're gonna use that shot as our background. We're not gonna change our camera settings anymore. And we're just gonna change the power of the light to kind of fit that look. So again, I decided to go with ISO 100, two hundredth of a second, at seven one. Set the light metered to seven one to those settings. And now we're just gonna shoot. So I'm just gonna let Richie do his thing. Kind of looking up once in a while. This one will be a little more, I'll be a little more in your face, a little more closer up. So you just start working and I'll kind of tell you when to look up and all that. I'll be moving around quite a bit. And we are still tethered into the garage. Okay. So I'll have you just kind of, when you have something, I'll have you like is there anything you can adjust, I'm just trying to think of how to get to a spot where you're standing there adjusting something. Maybe the bike's just an accessory to the shot and you're you know, if there was a part, I don't maybe it's something that's not even out here, where you can be adjusting it with your hands, you know maybe tightening something or loosening something, or maybe changing sockets off of a wrench or something like that. I'm just trying to think of things you could do while you'll still be standing up. Let me go grab something. Perfect. So while he's doing that, I'm just gonna frame up a couple shots. So there's always distracting elements in the background, especially when you're outside so I'm looking at power lines, I'm looking at parked cars. Anything like that where I can come up with a good clean frame. And then once he's back we can kind of place him within that frame and begin shooting knowing that we won't have to use our clone stamp tool later to remove a sign from right behind his head or anything like that. It's better to address those things up front than have to waste your time on the computer. Perfect, so we got a ratchet and some different sockets. So yeah that's perfect, just be doing that. And I'll just keep shooting here. I just wanna make sure how they look, and I put the tether in the garage. Because I actually hate trying to see the screen in bright light. It distorts everything a little bit. So I'm gonna go ahead and just keep shooting away here while he's doing that. And there's an alternate way to do this too. Right now you can see we have the light on a stand. I'm gonna move it around a little bit. I'll show you the alternate way to do this in a second. Which gives you a little more freedom to move about. Kind of looking up here real quick. Yep there you go, looking down the sidewalk once. Great. Just kind of looking at what you're doing once like you're adjusting, or even looking down at the ratchet. Glance down the sidewalk one more time for me. Perfect I'm gonna check these out real quick just to make sure we're on the right path with the light. It's a little tricky when the sun keeps peaking out but yeah these are great. So knowing that we're at a good spot with the light, and the color and everything else, I'm just gonna keep shooting so just keep doing that real quick I'm gonna get some different frames. Some with the bike in it. Look up again, down, just kind of yeah any time you're looking down there it looks really good with the sky. I'm kind of zoomed all the way out with this 24 to 70 so I can actually see the whole motorcycle from just above the license plate. I can get the whole handlebars and a lot of the sky. A couple more of those. Now I'm gonna move in pretty close. So you can start, I don't know if there's anything you can even work on with that right? Oh perfect you can do some spark plug work here. So because he ducked down, I need to lower my light to follow suit or else it will be way too high, we'll lose catch lights and everything else. We don't need to adjust the power much. I'll turn it down just two tenths of a stop. You can keep doing that. I want to be able to see what he's doing so I zoomed out again. You can just kind of look down the sidewalk once, every once in a while. Perfect. Yup, now maybe just put it back in there I guess. Even take a knee, would you be able to do that where you're. Yeah that's perfect. So now we can see a little more of the texture in here. Glance down that sidewalk again. Perfect. Do a few horizontals. Just for good measure. Great. One more looking down the sidewalk. Alright I think we're good there. I'm gonna go through and review them. And then I think we're ready to move on to our portrait. Alright, so like I said that was pretty subtle. I just wanted that wider angle look. You're definitely gonna be surprised when you see the final image versus the raw. Because again, I know that I'm shooting for post. The light is really subtle but I do that on purpose. I know there's a lot of detail in the highlights and the shadows that we can bring back in raw. And you'll see that when we get into the editing and you'll see it even earlier when we show the results because I picked a couple shots that I've already edited so you'll be able to compare that. And you'll really be able to see it when we get them on the computer here.

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!