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Lighting The Scene

Lesson 5 of 7

Dramatic Portrait


Lighting The Scene

Lesson 5 of 7

Dramatic Portrait


Lesson Info

Dramatic Portrait

So for my next shot, I'm gonna have both Richard and Rhonda together, interacting a little bit. Guys, I'm gonna have you back here. We're just using ambient light, and I kind of love what's happening here cause we have these three windows, and I, quite often, will light a set with three soft boxes going all the way across cause it creates a really nice even light all the way through. And because we have this huge corridor, it has this great depth of field that, when you look at the picture you can really, things begin to really disappear and get really really milky and kinda muddy, so. I'm gonna have you guys up front, facing each other, and kinda interacting with each other. Soft, gentle, the reverse of the sci-fi look, kinda more intimate but not too intimate. Okay, now I am shooting at an ISO of 1600, my shutter speed is 125, my f-stop is 4.5, and I am using the 24-70. You know what? It's interesting what you're doing, just stand still like that. (camera shutter clicking) Come toget...

her. And you can touch one another, if you don't mind. (camera shutter clicking) Get a little closer, a little tighter. Now how would you really hug one another? Twist your body. This way? I wanna see the face a little bit more like, Richard, bring your body around. Okay Richard, here. Step out for a second. Now, I don't normally do this, but. You're gonna watch me for a second, okay come here. So when you were in the picture, your legs were really bolt upright. You gotta just, earlier I said to kick your legs out a little bit and relax them up a little bit, just try and do that. So when you hold one another, open up to camera, the legs are a little bit more relaxed, a little bit more bent, and you always move your waist. Just always move that waist, because if you don't, and you twist, and the leg stays stiff, that's what happens. So, what I'm looking for is that kinda little moments like that, slight little gestures. You can play off one another, that kind of thing. Okay. Cause I know you're much taller than she is, so don't try and get Don't try and get low. Alrighty. Took me back there to my old modeling days. Love it, that's nice. Relax guys, breathe, breathe. Like that, you know what, I love that. Now Richard, you look at me. Eyes to me. Relax the hand. What's your other hand doing, just drop that hand, just drop it. Boom. That's nice. Bring your hand up, just hold, there you go. Maybe hold him across his stomach, there you go. That's nice. Maybe inside his shirt? There you go. You're looking at me. (camera shutter clicking) Beautiful. That's nice. And almost look straight past me, right above my head. (camera shutter clicking) Nice Rhonda, both looking at me. Shake it out a little bit, that's nice. Hold the middle tighter. Don't even look at me, bring your legs closer too. Okay. Both looking off here. I'm gonna shake you up a little bit. Relax a bit, and when she's working with you, and when you're playing with him too, you can be a little bit more like, pull him a little bit, little bit, little bit, like that. And react to her, literally for a moment, think that you're a couple. It's not a smooching moment, it's just that kind of intimacy of like, we're together. You could even be brother and sister, it's just that kind of like, here we are together and we're alone. Not, there's a whole crew of people looking at you. Nice that, yeah. That's nice, lose the smiles there. There you go, eyes to me. Boom. Beautiful. Nice that right there. Put your head on her head, like that. (camera shutter clicking) Nice. Beautiful there. Gorgeous there. That's really nice guys. Cause of the color of your nails, I wanna bring them down. Nice, both, all looking up that way. (camera shutter clicking) Beautiful there. I think that's nice, really nice guys. Put your back to her. There you go, exactly. Took a while, go all the way round. No, no, you're good, you're good, just like that, put your back to her, and then you just play over your shoulder, onto that one shoulder. Like this? Yeah, exactly, that's nice. You can look towards her almost like that. Richard, eyes here. Follow my hands, there you go. Rhonda you look at me. (camera shutter clicking) Hold that, I just wanna drop this, give me even longer neck, there you go, beautiful that. Relax the mouth, Richard open the mouth a little bit. There you go. Chin down a bit. Gorgeous that. (camera shutter clicking) Eyes to me, both of you. Nice. Okay, I wanna do one more. Richard come here, you're here, and you're gonna almost, like you're pulling him along. So you're gonna be in front. Oh. Just pulling him along, yeah, little bit like that, almost like you're leading like that. Back up a bit, back up too Richard. Just like you're walking together but you're pulling him along. (camera shutter clicking) That's nice, alright wait a second. Relax, this is beautiful. And pull. (camera shutter clicking) Gorgeous there. (camera shutter clicking) Eyes to me, both of you. (camera shutter clicking) Gorgeous, we got it, that was nice. Really really pretty. We got there in the end, it worked. Sometimes this is a little tough, especially when you're doing a shot with someone and you don't know them that well, and you're trying to be intimate, but you know it worked, that was really pretty. So, with that being said, I'm gonna light this up, you guys are gonna become sci-fi heroes, okay? So give me a moment. Wonderful. Okay, we have completely redone the light in this room. Although you will still see the ambient, which I'm just gonna be using as my modeling light, we've set up a whole bunch of strobes. In fact, we have eight heads going, and, let me talk you through them. This is the key light, and it's the Profresnel Spot, once again, with the chocolate gel, coming straight through here, creating a beautiful light around here. We have, in each nook all the way down here, we have red and blue, and then we have, I believe blue, and then red again at the end. Cause, I'm not sure if you remember when I first described this room, it's this great tunnel, it's kind of nostalgic and romantic and what have you, and you're not sure where the tunnel leads. Then I had another idea, which is my sci-fi idea. I imagined it as a sort of, a tube that an intergalactic space ship would shoot through as you might see in a movie, out into the galaxy. So that's what I tried to create. And I have a backlight at the very end, she's a beauty dish, which is also, not just is it lighting the models and giving them a little rim around the side, it is actually creating a white light all the way across the lower walls. So you're gonna really see that effect. It's kind of cool, I think we should shoot it. Richard? Rhonda? Hey guys, alright, you're gonna be right where I am. I'm literally standing in your spot. Let's get the modeling light on that for one moment. Okay, again the two of you together, less intimate this time, little bit more stoic, little bit more serious. I think with more purpose. If you were in the middle of a tube and there was a plane about to come flying down, of course that would be crazy so. I think have that look as if you're going somewhere. Heading somewhere, strong look in the eyes, piercing. Alright? Great. Eyes wide open, and again don't lean into her, stand up tall. There you go, relax the face. Look right here. Amazing, boom. Hold that. I'm gonna show you, so you get an idea of what we're looking at. Completely different to how we had it before. Yeah. Really strong, really tough, and with the whole face and everything. You can move your body, and pull, it's almost as if you're fleeing a space ship. I want you to have that, sort of, thought in mind. Have a look at that. Here we go, I'll show you. So what we have here, is that's the beauty dish in the background, creating this white light across the background. We have Profresnel lighting them up, giving them this nice, warm, bronzed glow. And then we have our, I guess our sort of side back lights, the blue gel and the red gel, creating this interesting effect and you really get this tube, and they look like they're straight outta Bladerunner, or another sci-fi movie. Very cool. Alright. Yeah. I kinda like that, I kinda like the half run thing. Kinda do that, can you see what he's doing? He's kind of like, you're both gonna move. But you're gonna have to kind of fake it a little bit okay? So don't stay too still, slightly rock a little bit. And look straight through me and past me. There, nice. And actually both eyes just off to this direction. Nice. (camera shutter clicking) Eyes to me. That's nice. Little bit further apart now. Yeah just like that. Maybe even just completely bolt upright, kinda like I'm standing, like this. Two, like your legs, like this. Yeah, really strong. Tight. Boom, okay. (jacket fabric rustling) Perfect. That's nice. Hold that. (camera shutter clicking) Amazing, hold that. Eyes to me, breathe out. Really strong. We're just a bit mad. Nice. (camera shutter clicking) Nice. Nice. Back up a bit, tiny bit. Same thing kinda like that, pulling there you go. (camera shutter clicking) Nice, beautiful there guys. Even go further back, further back, like that and the same pull, relax the fist a little bit, just relax it, shake it out, as you would. (camera shutter clicking) Look to her. Almost there. Okay right behind her, and grab on to her shoulder. Relax your legs, bend your legs a little bit. Almost like you're coming around her a little bit. There you go. (camera shutter clicking) Beautiful there. That's nice. Richard, eyes here. Rhonda, you look right into the lens. Beautiful there. Nice. Grab her. Strong, stronger, tight. Not too cuddly, more like, there you go. Don't go down though, don't go down to her height, stay tall. Maybe your face there, that's good there, strong. Nice, like that, hold that. Relax, drop everything. Yeah, just like that, just like that. Don't move. (camera shutter clicking) Nice. (camera shutter clicking) We got it. Great, I loved it, I didn't even need to speak, I can't even speak, I'm losing my words. That was amazing, I loved it, I was in the moment, you guys were in the moment. That looked amazing, that looked really good. Fantastic. Great.

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.