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How To Create Beautiful Portraits By Simplifying Light

Lesson 9 of 10

Finding Your Style

Audrey Woulard

How To Create Beautiful Portraits By Simplifying Light

Audrey Woulard

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Lesson Info

9. Finding Your Style
Audrey will talk about finding your photographic style. She will walk you through an exercise she has done when she was attempting to assess her style of photography.

Lesson Info

Finding Your Style

Now let's talk about who you are as a photographer. This was something that I had to do early on in my journey as a photographer. Quite honestly, I think it's the most important thing I ever did. There's so much noise within this industry and we don't know what to do, what will work for us when we're really trying to figure out who we are. If you figure out who you are, guess what that does. It brings consistency, consistency is something that people are very attracted to and if you are consistent across the board, it really, really shows within your work and more importantly, it doesn't matter the genre that you decide to take. I'll tell you a story. I photographed teens and tweens, but I started off photographing babies and families. I was consistent within my guest approach and style and every single thing that I wanted because I had those different genres. It actually did not stop the fact that commercial assignments such as items, pet food, reached out to me to photograph their bi...

g national campaign, where my images are on the packages of, you know, the pet food and things like that. But guess what? I never photographed a dog ever. Not even my own before I got that campaign, but who I was as a photographer was very solid and it attracted them to call me and reach out. Now, consistency brings confidence and people are attracted to confidence. I'm not going to pretend like I'm the most confident person in the world, but I am confident in what I like and what I dislike. So let me take you through something that I did early on in my career that really helped me home in to what I loved, what I didn't like and what I really wish I was able to create, and I was able to bring all of those different factors in that really helped shaped me into who I am as a photographer and I think it'll help you to. So the first thing that I tell people grab some magazines, pick any magazine from a store. If you pick any magazine, it can be magazines that you like. Let's just say that. So anything that you're attracted to, don't even look for magazines that you know are very much about your style, unless it's a magazine that you like. So like for example, I'm in the fashion I'm into, you know, I also photographed kids and teens. I may pick up a vogue magazine. You won't find a lot of teens in those magazines or even Children, but the aesthetic and all of those things are there. I also love Light. So I may pick up an architecture magazine, Here's the goal with that Find three or 4 magazines that you love or that interests you. What you want to do is tear out images within those magazines. I say tear out maybe 34 images that you wish you would have captured. Stop, Wait two or 3 days rinse and repeat it again. Pull out three or 4 images that you wish you would have taken. Put them in a folder, tuck it away After you do that one or 2 times. Line all of those images up. And then what you want to do is this find, what is this, what similar in all of those images? If you can find what similar it helps hone your eye into what you like. Find something that is within those images that I wish I would have changed. What this does is a couple of things. Have you ever like flip through instagram or any other social media and you see all of your favorite photographers? Well, guess what? You are attracted to the consistency, but now you are attaching a name to what they create. Now that we've got our images picked out and the things that really attracted us remember what we wanted to do was find images that were not attached to someone's name. No photographers name. You're strictly looking at the aesthetic of the image. Now that we've got all of those picked out, we got to go to the next step. I kind of showed you guys and was talking you through some of the reasons why I was picking them, what you want to, you know, really realizes that you're you may not know why you picked up those images. And honestly, that's the goal. Remember I've done this, this, you know, I've done this step before or this particular process. So it's easy for me to flip through a magazine and know why I picked a certain image. But for you, you may not know why other than I just like the picture and that's totally okay. So I once I go to the next step, you're gonna hear me kind of, I guess repeat why I pick things out and then what you'll find out once we go into the city and we start photographing how my images actually look or have a lot of the things within these steps, I'm gonna go over like how they are the same. So remember, you don't have to know why you're picking these images other than you'll like them. Now, I'm gonna give you guys a little bit of an out because I know as photographers, we just don't know how to, you know, not overdo things. I'm so guilty of it. So if you find that you are picking 2030 images, it's okay. But I'm gonna tell you not to do that. Try your best to narrow it down to like 99 is the magic number because then you can do and three. So try to keep it to nine. And that will kind of really, you know, help you out. So let's move on to that next step. So for this exercise, I decided to pull out just a couple of images that I wish that I would have taken. And I'm going to show you why I chose these particular images and then I can kind of help you see how I view some of the pictures that I chose and how it kind of correlates to my current photographic style. So I decided to use this one first. And some things that stand out to me right away are the highlights that are on her face. So I love this directional lighting and you will definitely see me, you know, choose this sort of lighting position a lot um during this course and I also can see, you know, I'm not sure if you guys can pick if it can pick up on camera, but I see a lot of, you know, kind of faded light that's coming at camera left. And this is what I love, love, love some of the things that stand out to me. Also that make me um that made me pick this image is actually just kind of like the everyday things that are behind her. The flowers, you know, this table that she's you know that the flowers on just everyday things that are not necessarily moved out of the way. And it kind of brings the viewer into where she is and everything is just not so perfectly set up but the lighting. I also love the fact that she's looking away from the camera and it's also, you know, you're getting you know, that um camera up for you as well. So the fact that it's black and white, you know, is a nice, you know, touch to it, but that was not what made me pick this picture. Um it's definitely the lighting for sure. And so now let's look at this one. This, I love a lot because of these highlights. They are gorgeous, especially the highlights that are on her lips. All of this just really give the face dimension and it's also coming at a direction. So that directional lighting not, you know, perfectly head onto her. I also love these big catch lights that are in her eyes as well. This is definitely a picture that I wish I would have taken because the highlights and the shadows are perfect. And also the fact that we're getting some nice highlights in her hair as well, All of this really kind of shapes the image and definitely one that I wish that I would have taken. Now moving back to this one. So this is the same setup. You see this lighting that's coming here at camera um left shining directly on her given kind of that illusion of window light and that right there is a key key thing that I love to achieve in any images that I take indoors. You can even see this shadow from the handbag that's shining on her dress so that lighting the way they have it set up, beautiful. The highlights of course, right on the face, directional here, down on her leg. And you'll really notice how this setup and the way that the lighting um is displaying on this particular model is exactly some of the things that I go for within my images. And again, just everyday things just around her, nothing to set up to pretty love this image. And lastly I wanted to chose this one and it was a couple of things that made me choose this particular image that I've already mentioned and you know, in the other images. So again, we've got that looking, you know, the camera angling up to give that really confident stands, love the highlights that are on her legs. But you know, the funny thing about this picture that made me choose it is because I can distinctly think of an image that I've captured that kind of has the same feel nice, blue skies, really pretty highlights. I and and this right here, definitely, definitely um, mimic something that I do within my own images as well. So again, when I'm picking out these images that I wish that I would have taken, because I've already gone through this exercise many years ago. You know, I kind of get it, it lets me know exactly what I like to look for, what I like to capture and and I'm able to bring that into my images regardless of who I'm photographing, where I'm photographing it all sort of falls, you know, with under the same umbrella. And I wanted to show you guys something. Lastly, so I picked up two images that actually like, but I don't wish that I would have taken them. And I'm going to tell you why first, I'm gonna tell you why I do like them so that you guys can kind of get that, you know, I guess distinct thought process from There are a lot of images that you may like but you don't wish you would have taken them. And the way that I like to think of that when it comes down to my own work is that there are a lot of images that I love, but I know how to stay in my lane so I can enjoy the art, but I know that I'm not meant to create it. So what I'm looking at these two pictures love that. You know, again the looking up the angling up of the camera, same thing here. What I don't like is that there's no um facial dimension between shadow and highlight. It's all sort of in the same. Um Yeah, I don't want to use the word flat light because it's flat light sometimes gets a bad rap, but flat light is not bad as you can see here. Um but that is why I don't wish that I would have captured these images because there's not a distinct difference between the highlights and the shadows. You can see a little bit here on this particular image, but overall it's kind of the same tonality, atonality across the board. And that is why these two images would be some that I actually think are really good pictures and I do like them, but I don't wish that I would have captured them. So hopefully that kind of helps you guys when you decide to do the same exercise on your own, and I will see you guys in the next segment.

Class Description


  • Recognize and shape good quality ambient light for dramatic highlights and shadows.
  • Use your existing surroundings as light shaping tools to enhance available light.
  • Utilize minimal camera equipment (one strobe) to create dramatic looks that mimic multiple equipment set ups.
  • Post process with tips to enhance the dramatic light captured in camera.


During this course Audrey Woulard will do a deep dive into how she uses light in the most simplistic way possible to create dramatic looking images. We will heavily dive into capturing ambient light, and utilize just one strobe and one modifier. No other photography equipment will be used. In this class you will learn to recognize many different types of light that photographers may overlook. You will be shown how to recognize light at different times of day and what it can do. We will go over how to utilize our natural surroundings to bend and shape light to create different looks that are often created with multiple light set ups. In addition to finding the light, we will go over different interpersonal skills that will help guide your subjects to setting up the shoots for the desired outcome.

We will explore different locations and will showcase how light changes depending on the different surfaces it is shining on and how to use that to your advantage when photographing people. How light reflects color and how to use that to your advantage for a dramatic look in the most simplistic way. How to use just one strobe light to aid in your light exploration to work with ambient light to achieve different looks. In order to have control over shaping light, you need to be able to control the photo session. Where applicable, we will go over different ways to help steer the photo session timing in your favor to have maximum photographic control.

Once the images are created, we will utilize Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Camera RAW to showcase tips and tricks to accentuate the light that was captured in camera. When we are using Photoshop it will be by hand, and there will be no actions used.


  • Intermediate Photographers who are wanting to learn how to use light creatively with a minimalistic approach.
  • Beginner photographers who are interested in how to combine ambient and created light.
  • Beginner/Intermediate photographers who desire to level up their creativity


Adobe Photoshop 2020
Adobe Camera RAW


Audrey Woulard is a portrait photographer, and she is a Nikon Ambassador. She has been a full-time professional photographer for the last 17 years photographing teens and their families. In addition to her portrait work, she also photographs select commercial assignments for brands such as Iams Pet Food and Pottery Barn. Audrey has been a regular instructor for Imaging, and WPPI for over a decade. Her work has been featured on the cover twice for Professional Photography Magazine. She has been featured in Rangefinder Magazine, InStyle Magazine, People Magazine, and US Weekly magazine. Audrey was awarded the Professional Photographers of America Vanguard Award for her sharing of talents and service that has enriched the profession of photography. She is the creator of AW Teaches which is a website dedicated to providing education to photographers. Audrey resides in Chicago with her amazing husband, and they are the parents of four young men that they are immensely proud of.


Michael A. Gruich Jr.

My goodness! This class is like a breathe of fresh air in the morning. Vey easy to follow along for some very amazing results. Really enjoy the friendly presentation, filled with tips and clear explinations for working with light using a minimal setup. Thank you Audrey

a Creativelive Student

Audrey brings together and simplifies divergent ideas in photography. Finding beautiful available light (based on direction and quality) on location is her first priority. She then perfects the light using a single strobe on her subject. Her style emphasizes shallow depth of field using fast primes and high-speed sync, and her post-production is minimal. She offers a pragmatic workflow and a creative philosophy that values getting out in the field and making photos. The reliability, ease of use, and affordability of the newest off-camera flash solutions make this kind of dramatic portraiture accessible to more artists.

Yo Pal

Wow! I love her non-complicated process and the stunning results! I can't wait to use all I learned from her shooting on location as well as her editing tips. Audrey has a great personality and is a teacher I would watch over again. Will search for more of her classes. Did not want the class to end! Yolanda