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Lighting The Scene

Lesson 6 of 7

Completing Your Visual Story


Lighting The Scene

Lesson 6 of 7

Completing Your Visual Story


Lesson Info

Completing Your Visual Story

So, this is gonna be our final set up. Rhonda, it's gonna be just you and me working this last area. We've got a lot of light coming through. It's afternoon light. It's a little warmer. It's quite intense. I can see the sun itself 'cause it's low in the sky. It's coming beaming through. It's actually quite a difficult lighting condition to shoot because it's so dramatic. The darks are so dark, and the bright areas are so bright. But we're going to balance it. We're going to bounce some light into this area. Now, I said this is our final light set up. And you've seen all day, we've been shooting all kinds of different light set ups in fact. We went from a three light set up, to a five light set up, to an eight light set up. And after I shoot you in this ambient light, I'm going to do a one light set up. It's about understanding light. This entire class has been about using light to tell a story. Absolutely, the outfits, the look, the feel, tell a part of the story, but lighting is so im...

portant and so key. And every given scenario that we've been in, we've used the ambient to use one story, and then we've lit it with strobe to tell a completely different story. Same clothes, same model, different stories. It'll be quite interesting. I think we need to shoot this right now before that sun goes down even further. Alright, let's shoot this, Toby. Can I have my camera? Great. (shoes scuffing floor) Alrighty. I'm going to have you in here. Okay. Kind of playing this sort of zone. And you can kind of play off anything. That, what you're doing there is great. You got a lot of range in here. That's nice. And this is that softer, slightly more gentle sort of approach. (camera beeping) (camera shutter click) Beautiful. (camera continues to shutter click) I kind of just like the way you were too when you stand on both feet? There you go, like that. Nice, nice. Gorgeous there. (camera shutter clicks) That's really beautiful. (camera shutter clicks) Look at this. (camera shutter clicks) There's a touch too much light on her. That's there. I'll come in here myself. (metal clanging) (camera beeping and shutter click) Back the light up in here. (shoes scuffing against the floor) So many things to play off of. So many sort of bits and pieces. And even for me, I'm looking at things I can hide behind and use to help crop my shot. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Bring your one arm down, your left arm down, there you go. And look all the way past me, through. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Very nice. Turn into the shot just a tiny bit here. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Really pretty, really really nice! You really can actually sense the actual changes in the temperature of the light. This morning, it was a little bluer. And it cuts differently. And this warmer light really helps actually bronze everything up. Even though there's a lot of silver in the room. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Nice. And looking all the way through. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) (Nigel exhales through his mouth) (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Nice, beautiful work. That's nice. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Gorgeous. I'm going to bring...actually stay there for a couple more. Do we have an apple box up here? Do we have a ladder up here? Do we have a bucket? When in doubt. There, beautiful. Bring that one arm down. There, hold onto the top of that stair, here. Actually maybe just hold onto the railing next to you? Next to your head. See that? Oh, yeah, sorry. Sorry. That's okay. Nice, hold that. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Nice. Oooh, it's super pretty. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) It's really pretty. It's pretty gorgeous. I got flare coming in, the sun is hitting my lens. These are sort of no-no's in a way, but quite frankly, one of the things about photography that I love is that you learn about all the different rules, things you're meant to do, ways to shoot, but of course, once you learn them, great thing about photography is that you break all the rules. Light right into the lens. I see that...turn a little bit? See the back end of it? Yeah. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Eyes to me. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Perfect. Oh, too much. Okay, bring it around one more time. (metal clanging) This is stunning. Stand right up here. Come forward for me. That's good, like that. (bucket scrapes on floor) I'll move my makeshift apple box. (Nigel exhales) Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out. You got pockets in that too, right? Yeah, that's nice, just like that. I want to do this. Beautiful. (Nigel exhales) (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Twist your body that way. The other way, other way. This way? Yeah. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Step, yeah. Step forward. Stop, too much. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Now, step forward. There. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Looking all the way past me. Beautiful. We got it. Gorgeous. Now, we're going to light this, but with one light. So, this is our final shot. Of course, this class is being called "Lighting the Scene", and it's all about understanding light. We've shot each scenario with daylight, just the ambient, and then I've introduced strobe. And, for the final shot, I'm down to one. We started with three, went to five, went to eight, down to one head. And it's the Profesnel Spotlight which has been the key light I've used throughout, so that's going to wrap all the pictures together. Still got the brown gel on it, and what I'm doing now is I'm going to actually use the sun, which is here, so it isn't really another light, but I'm only strobing with one, so it's a blend of the two lights. And its going to continue to tell that story. Very dramatic. And the narrative will come from a large part here because of the light. Using the drama of the darkness and the light will bring it all together. Okay, Rhonda, you ready? Ready! I'm going to get you right in here. Okay. And my settings... I am at an ISO of 200, my shutter speed is 2,000. And I'm at an F-Stop of 3.5. And I'm shooting with the 16-33mm lens. Alrighty. Beautiful. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Gorgeous. Keep looking straight through this way. There you go. Actually, right here. And with your body language, almost like, remember how you were planted and you were strong? (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Gorgeous. (Nigel mumbles) (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Nice. Really great. Looking through here. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Cheat your eyes to me. Can you put your hands in your pockets for me? (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Gorgeous, really really pretty. Right in there, and go in tight over this. I'm using the reflector to bounce, just add a little bit of fill. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Gorgeous there. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Beautiful. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) What I'm picking up as I shoot... As you can see the light sort of cascading across the wall, creating all these great shadows. Because this profile is not as so strong, it's almost like the sun, of course it can't overpower the sun, but it does make this look more dramatic. The blacks become really dense, and the rest of the light is a fraction of what it is now. (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Gorgeous, very nice. Beautiful. Gorgeous there, love that, Eyes face me there. (Nigel exhales) (camera beeps and shutter clicks) Be strong. Gorgeous. We have it, we've done it. Well done! (Rhonda laughing) That's all we needed. Super simple. Super beautiful. One light, we had eight lights, went to one light. We used ambient. Fantastic. You guys did a great job, both of my models. Both Richard and Rhoda, thank you very much. That's a wrap.

Class Description


  • Light a complex, cluttered scene with different textures and surfaces
  • Dramatically alter the mood simply by altering the light
  • Use natural and strobe lighting to tell a story
  • Comfortably move between natural light and strobe within the same space
  • Develop a story using tips on light, pose and more


Harness the story-telling power of light. In this class, watch fashion photographer Nigel Barker use light to tell two entirely different stories within the same space. Learn to evaluate a scene for potential lighting advantages and pitfalls. Train your eyes to spot existing natural reflectors already within a scene. Build your artificial lighting prowess with a behind-the-scenes look at lighting set-ups from a simple single light to a dramatic eight-light ensemble.

Learn how to use light to build a story and a mood into your photographs using both natural light and strobes. In this approximately 90-minute class, watch a start-to-finish shoot in an industrial steam plant. Keeping the setting, styling, clothing, and models the same, Nigel demonstrates how to use light to go from a World War II-era industrial story to a futuristic tale with a touch of sci-fi. The only thing that changes? The light.

While this class follows a photographer primarily known in the fashion industry, the lighting tips and tricks aren't limited to a single genre of photography. Whether you are tackling environmental portrait photography or a fine-art portrait, learn how to light the scene in this CreativeLive class.


  • Intermediate photographers ready to take lighting on-location
  • Professional photographers looking for on-location lighting inspiration


Capture One


As the photographer (and a judge) on America's Next Top Model for 18 seasons, Nigel Barker knows fashion photography. Besides his TV appearances (which also include hosting The Face and Top Photographer), the New York-based photographer also led films and documentaries for Hollywood clients. Respected in the world of fashion photography, Nigel has owned his own studio since 1996 and is the author of two fashion books. Students praise his engaging, to-the-point teaching style (and his British accent doesn't hurt either).


  1. Course Introduction

    Meet the instructor and gain an overview of the class in the first lesson. See the scene that you'll learn how to light, including complexities like reflective surfaces and windows.

  2. Location Assessment

    On-site fashion photography presents a number of different challenges. Go behind the scenes as Nigel assesses the location for the fashion shoot. See what aspects photographers need to consider when exploring the location. Learn how to assess natural ambient daylight and plan the light for the location.

  3. Portrait - Side Lighting

    Learn to work with side lighting in fashion photography and environmental portraiture. Tell a story with the image, from the way that you communicate with the fashion model or portrait subject, the light, and the pose. Then, move into working with strobe lights, gels and diffusers in the second set of fashion images, moving from a soft look to a strong one. Watch how Nigel uses lighting and posing to change the mood of the images without changing the location. See the gear and lighting Nigel uses for the shoot.

  4. Lighting Environmental Elements

    In the second shooting spot inside the same warehouse, work with lighting the scene while factoring in the environmental elements. Work with a new, male fashion model. See how sometimes lighting the background elements is just as important as lighting the subject. Learn how to reassess the environment as you work. Working with a reflector and ambient light, factor in the objects in the environment that can also reflect light. Then, move from natural light to a five light set-up with multiple gels and modifiers.

  5. Dramatic Portrait

    In the third set, create a dramatic couples portrait with two fashion models using natural window light. Watch behind the scene posing and camera settings. Then, move into an eight light set-up using modifiers and gels to create color and drama in an industrial corridor.

  6. Completing Your Visual Story

    Complete the story with the final set, working with strong, directional window light and a reflector. Work with color temperature, flare, and other challenges. Then, move into a single strobe set-up with a gel for a more dramatic story blending both natural and artificial light.

  7. Image Review & Select

    Review a selection of images from the class shoot and see the final pieces of the story. See how the outfits, posing, setting and light all work together to complete the story. With light, a single setting can take on several different high fashion looks.



Nigel is a good communicator and excellent photographer. However, you won't learn too much from this class. It is a Behind The Scene footage showing Nigel at work. That's all. Nigel doesn't measure ambient and artificial light, and won't tell you the light values you need to achieve the desired effect. Recommend to those who look for motivational support; certainly do not recommend to those who look for technical knowledge. For that reason, I feel like the tutorial is a bit overpriced. Thank you

Margaret Lovell

I prefer natural light, but want to learn more about studio light. Nigel is an excellent instructor, and photographer. He can explain lighting concepts in easy to understand steps. He also gives plenty of excellent and useful tips.

Stefan Legacy

Simple class about storytelling a shoot. Nigel goes through the process and explains everything he does. Nigel is excellent at breaking everything down step by step. Another course by Nigel called "The Business of Photography" covers the same material but goes way more in depth. Personally didn't learn much from this course but was enjoyable to watch a professional work regardless.