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How To Create Beautiful Portraits By Simplifying Light

Lesson 3 of 10

Philosophy Behind The Equipment


How To Create Beautiful Portraits By Simplifying Light

Lesson 3 of 10

Philosophy Behind The Equipment


Lesson Info

Philosophy Behind The Equipment

mm. Now let's talk about the philosophy behind the equipment that you use. I actually believe that the equipment that we use has a lot to do with that personality and how we approach each and every photo session. I'm gonna use myself as a case study because I think that will make it a little bit easier to understand. Now I use a Nikon camera and all Nikon equipment. I'm all in on the mirror list right now obviously because it's like, wait, um there's so many different, you know, thought processes behind why I went all Marylise. Um it has the seamount has a wider base. It lets in more light. I mean a lot of those different reasons but I think today I'm going to talk mostly about lens choice because the lens choice honestly is really where that whole psychological thing comes in. My favorite lens is an 85 millimeter 1.4. This is the G lens. So because I'm all Marylise, I actually have to use the adapter believe it or not. This lens is over 10 years old. I bought it when one of my kids wa...

s in seventh grade. Now he's 20 years old. So that's how trusty this lens is and it's my complete favorite. So why do I use an 85 millimeter and it's my favorite lens? I actually will use this if I'm photographing one person close up or far away, I'll also use this lens with large groups. It forces me just like all prime lenses to use my feet to zoom in and zoom out. But I tend to talk really loud when I'm photographing people. So this 85 millimeter lens actually gives me a really good distance between me and who I am photographic. Sometimes people say, are you too far away not from my personality. Now, if you are someone who is a little bit more intimate than you may want to go with like a 50 millimeter lens that will get you a little bit closer because you have to zoom in closer so works best with my personality, which is why I use an 85 millimeter now, why don't I go one oh 51 35 200 millimeter or a 70 to 200? Let's start with a 70 - 200. The reason I don't do that is really, really simple. I really like to use really white apertures and I'll tell a funny, funny story that I have told a couple times when I've been speaking and no one ever gets tired of it. I think I get tired of it. But I'll tell you why I was actually photographing one of my kids um when he was five years old and I had just bought a brand new camera. It was actually, I'm going to really date myself. It's a Nikon D that's how long ago that was. And he was in a fashion show. He was really um shy at the time, but he happened to go in this fashion show and he had no, you know, I guess he didn't have any problem at all. Right. I'm saying I guess he didn't, It was he just he did really good. I was not the photographer who was, you know, taking the pictures, I was just being a mom. So I brought my brand new camera taking his pictures. And one of the things they said to me was you have to make sure your flashes are off totally fine. So what I did was I cranked my eyes so up, cranked my aperture way down so it was really wide. It was at 1.6 my son because there was no uh did really well. And end of the fashion show now at the end of the fashion show came down and we went to the bathroom and I, as we were walking to the bathroom, I was so happy that he did really well. I'm like, yeah, you know, you did so good. And when I said that my camera, which is on my shoulder, boom fell to the ground and what happened was it was cracked on the aperture ring. I didn't know that at the time. So when I picked my camera up, the first thing I did was, I'm like uh is it working? And it took a picture? So I was great. Well the next day I had a photo session and it happened to be with one of the white sox players. Jim Tomi went to his house and this was a big client of meat for me at the time, it was you know, a celebrity in here in Chicago, got to the house and we were outside Bright Sunny Day family of four and pull out my camera and I'm like wait a minute, I'm trying to adjust for the bright sun and I realized I could not change, I couldn't change my aperture, only camera I had in the bag at the time, So I just said to myself, you know what, I'm gonna wing it and I'm not saying I advise this at all, but this is what really started me shooting at these white apertures. I had another camera home but I decided not to go back and get it now. Anyway, I actually just started shooting at F 1.6 and I nailed the session After that I really felt it was a little bit superstitious. So since that day I stay at 1.6. The only time I don't shoot at 1.6 as if I have a lens that doesn't allow me to. But going back to the the whole philosophy of the lenses that you choose. I really I rarely use a lens that does not allow me to dial to 1.6. So After that long winded story I try to stay at um lenses that are 1.4 or now. The Nikon um has a 1.2 lens. So I'm really at a 1.4 now. Yeah, Here's the thing why. So going back to after that long story, why don't I use like a 70-200? Well, I really like using the prime lenses because moving forward or back with my feet really keeps me personally and mentally engaged with who I'm photographing. What I do find is that people who like to use. So this is a 24 by 70 lens, but photographers who like to use zoom lenses really, I find like to kind of sit back and observe the scene, take a look at what's going on. But having a nice, you know, piece of fast glass, like a 70 to 200. That is perfect for someone like that who likes to be a little bit more kind of stationary zoom in and out with the moments that they want for me. I have to move. I it's just part of my personality moving forward, moving back, trying to really engage, not only with whom I'm photographing, but keeping myself mentally engaged. So really think about that now, what happens if I can't use? Because we all know what happens if I can't use an 85 millimeter lens, right? Because we have to use the lens that gets the job done. The other one I would use. Actually, I would not use a 24 by 70 believe it or not. I mean, I can't think of a time when I would use one, But I would use a 35 and we will definitely be doing this um, while we're out there shooting. But if I need to get just more of the scene in a confined place, that is when I would use a 35 millimeter lens, I may also use a 50 if I don't want to go so wide, but 99.9% of the time I'm gonna be 85 millimeter 1.4 all the way Now again, I don't I don't even know what I'm gonna end up using during this course, but I'm fairly positive I'm gonna stick with the 85 but I may try to Sprinkle in a 35 millimeter if I can but I'm very organic and I also like to remain true and authentic to myself. So if it doesn't work you're not gonna see me pull it out but I'll try to find ways to make it authentic authentic. Make it authentically as we say make it authentically work. That's not gonna that's not a good sentence but to make it authentic, that's a lot better now light. So I use, this is a pro photo be 10. This is literally my favorite light for a couple of reasons, a battery operated beef. It's so light weight. Not only can I take it and hold it and have a camera in my hand if I want, I don't do that often, but I do have that option because it's so lightweight B it's a powerful light. So if I'm in full sun I still can totally take the shot. If I'm not in full sun, obviously I still have the same light. So this is why I tend not to pull out of speed light too much because there are a lot of times based on the look that I want when I want to kind of overpower a lot of the ambient light when it's really bright outside. So being able to keep it simple, I've got one light, one specific light. I won't confuse myself and say hey and pull out one light, pull out speed light, oh no, I don't need that speed light, let's pull out a stroke. I honestly, you guys, my brain doesn't work that way. I would rather know that this light is going to work for me. 100%. So now that I know that this light is going to work for me 100%. We gotta think about modifiers, right? So when we get outside you're gonna know what some of my techniques are, but I'm a one modifier kind of person. So I use strictly just an a two ft off the box. This is nice and like wait it's not so big and it's also double diffused. So there is a panel inside where I've got a little bit of diffused and then I have another um panel here on the outside. So it keeps my lights nice and soft. And me personally that works really, really well with my whole style and in terms of my trigger because I'm shooting pro photo, I've got the air remote, put it on here and I'm good to go and I'm sure I'm going to mention this later on um during this course I do shoot manually. I don't shoot T. T. L. So I can obviously switch everything that I want to have here. But I do shoot manually in terms of um my light and also my camera settings. So again how you have things set up is has a lot to do with your personality. The lens choices is what I really want you guys to glean from this one, pick the lenses that work well with your personality because it will allow you one less thing to think about and it allow you to you know, really hone in on that. Impactful final result. So for me I like my 85 since I want to use myself as a case study because a I have to move with my feet. It keeps me engaged when I do that be. It gives me a good distance away from my subjects because I tend to talk loud. So if I'm a little further away, it works better for me. If you are someone who is a little bit more intimate with your subjects, you may want something a little bit whiter that can bring you a bit closer to your, your subjects. If you are someone who loves to sit back and watch the scene, that's a zoom lens. But you also, maybe someone who doesn't like to move much, but you think a lot like me, meaning you want to be engaged, but you don't want to move that much. That's when you pick that zoom. So if all of that makes sense. When you think about it, you will know that your lens has a lot to do with your personality and your personality is going to determine what that final shot is. Hope. That helps join me in the next segment when we are going to go downtown and make magic happen.

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.


  1. Class Introduction

    Audrey will go over everything that she will discuss during this course.

  2. Understanding How Light Works

    Audrey will break down how she assesses lighting when she is creating her images. She will show you some of the things that she looks for when attempting to determine good light from not to good light.

  3. Philosophy Behind The Equipment

    Audrey will go over the equipment that she uses and will go over some of the reasons why she chooses certain pieces of equipment based on her personality.

  4. Navigating Full Sun

    During this segment Audrey will go over how she approaches photographing in Full sun using a strobe, and using only available light.

  5. Navigating Full Sun and the Forest

    Audrey will use the same full sun techniques while capturing her images. Instead of being in an urban area, she will be in a forest location.

  6. Light and the Urban Location

    Audrey will give her techniques for photographing in a busy city. She will go over how she is able to make her subjects stand out within elements of chaos.

  7. Simplifying Light and Location

    Audrey will bring viewers into the city, and show you exactly how she makes light and her location work well in the images she creates. She will show you how a very small, and busy area can have a big impact and why.

  8. Simple Editing Techniques

    Audrey will edit some of the images in Photoshop that were captured during the course. She will give a few simple techniques that she utilizes when she post-processing her images.

  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.

  10. Closing Words

    Audrey will give a few closing words about what was covered during this course.


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