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Lighting Solutions for Portrait Photography

Lesson 1 of 6

Class Introduction


Lighting Solutions for Portrait Photography

Lesson 1 of 6

Class Introduction


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

This is lighting solutions for portrait photography with jim schmelzer jim has been lecturing and running his own photography city of for more than twenty five years his been in the industry for a really long time he's worked with west, got in their development and tech he's sort of a rep for them and got in really early and had a lot of influence in that company and we're really excited to have him here at creative live jim take it away, man thank you drew welcome to everybody welcome students welcome everybody out there. Um my whole thing here today what I would like to run by you and kind of teach you is I'll take you from the beginnings and then I kind of take into some advance solutions. What I've kind of found when it comes to lighting is that you can correct somebody you can make them look really good or you can really ruin their face if they have a big nose, a double chin, big ears, whatever round face you can fix all that with lighting, so when you go to set up your lights and...

you go to look at people and enhance them, the greatest thing you will ever get in the photo industry is money, not money it's going to be somebody coming up to you and saying I love my photograph I don't think I was photogenic you've really corrected me I love my photograph now you're getting something inside you where you feel great and you feel like you're here for a purpose so if you just want to take your light and you just want a light people leave the light there and never move it and never touch it are you really ever going to correct somebody and make something enhance see shadows when you put a shadow on somebody's face you're hiding things if I have a flaw which I have tons of up my nose my forehead big ears double chin you could put that into shadow and hide it how exciting is it for us? Says photog efforts to not only use lighting to make something three dimensional because remember photography is not three dimensional it's only three dimensional if you light it that way now you can hire the best makeup artists in the world and photograph supermodels and they do all the lighting for you it's in the makeup, the shading all that stuff you don't have to do anything you could just turn the light came and just put your flash on your camera because you could use flat lighting and get away with it because all the shading is done with makeup now supermodels already did this I did this thirty years ago I was shooting supermodels I was bored out of my mind because I was not the star who was the star? The model? Everybody said, well, look at the model, they didn't say, look at my work then they said, wow, look at the creative director that stylized this I'm like, oh, I would buy me look at the makeup artist, look how great the makeup artist was. So for me, it was fun and, you know, it is funded to photograph super people, beautiful looking people, and it does look good, your portfolio, but I've been with the best fashion photographers in the world, and if they have some with the model, like their mom or their friend or whatever and they try to take a picture and they can't do it now just think if we started with really challenging things, then you went to the easy stuff like models I could shoot a model blindfolded I could hold a drink in my hand and put the camera in auto focus and go yeah, baby, baby, all the alarm what did I do? Nothing. I don't have to do anything. The model does it all for me, but let's, get back to reality. The most challenging thing and the best thing you could ever do. Being a photographer is toe learn the rudiments of lighting okay. You want to be a great musician. You better learn the notes. What are the notes? There's. Seven notes to music a b c d e f g eight. Right? Did you know that lighting has seven notes and we use these every day? Or you should be split broad short butterfly, rembrandt, broad, rembrandt and lou plating. I would take you through those, but the hardest part. Okay, let's, just say you're a doctor. You just graduated. You just got out of dr school or whatever you're going to be practicing. It's going to take you thirty years to figure out what your armor's ok, I know what it is, but lovable. Okay, you got this? I know to do the young doctors. You know what they do have already been through this. I photographed every doctor in my area. They go back in the the room where all the doctors are, and they asked the old timers, what do you do? What do you do? Okay, I'll go do it. I'm in a point in my career right now. We're already been doing this for thirty years. Every hour on the hour, every day, I can look at somebody and vote thirty seconds and know exactly where the light's gonna go, what's the angle what's that so what I want to encourage you with today is the power that you have in lighting and in photography to enhance people did you know that if you do a really good job with people, they'll follow you around for the rest of your life? Do you think I advertise on we have to advertise if you do a good job don't tell everybody if you don't do a good job or if you're not trying I had a guy tile my house style the floor didn't even look what he was doing I go there's a pattern to that I didn't look it seems like as photographers sometimes we go to take pictures, we don't even look we just go click click click click click click, click oh yeah smile don't smile the look over here okay now did you look at her best side? What if he smiled? They're missing a tooth over there with data cricket knows I mean, this is stuff I go through every day and I'm not trying to say I'm the best photographer, but I'm challenging myself to try to be who is the best photographer who's the best I'll tell you right now when I look at people's work, you are the best photographer if you make somebody look their best, you know the best photographer because you photographed a supermodel or you're famous you're famous. Could you photographed? The famous person? Know you're famous when you make somebody look good. That's my opinion. The best photographers make people look.

Class Description

Join award-winning photographer and 25-year studio owner, James Schmelzer, for Lighting Solutions for Portrait Photography. 

In this class, James will teach you how to light everyday people and not just perfect models. He will break down the specifics on where the lighting should be and why it needs to be there. He’ll explain how high, how far away, why you change the distance, how do you light groups, and what size light should you use? 

After the basics, you will learn the seven advanced lighting patterns and why you need to use them. You’ll learn how to analyze a face and decide where to place the light to minimize flaws and flatter your subject and which lens will achieve the style you are after.  


  1. Class Introduction
  2. The Distance of Light from the Subject

    Explore the different results you get when you adjust the distance between your backdrop, subject, and light source.

  3. Positioning the Lights
  4. Studying the Patterns of Light
  5. Using Reflectors & Fabrics in Light
  6. Lighting Real People & Situations



First off - the instructor's personality is not for everyone. I personally found him hilarious. He's your typical brash, cocky New Yorker AKA my kind of people. As for the class, its very instructive. He doesn't show off every single lighting style he mentions (loop, broad, short, butterfly, etc) in exquisite detail but that's because the purpose is to use whatever light makes your subject look the best. He goes through each one, but very quickly. His two main lighting examples are butterfly and rembrandt. The portraits he takes are very high school senior style, but the information he provides is incredibly useful for any other kind of lighting situation. There is a boat load of excellent information in this class; you just gotta know that what he's telling you is applicable across the board.

a Creativelive Student

Fantastic course! Loved the instructors sense of humor and direct, straight to the point approach!