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Lighting The Scene

Lesson 4 of 7

Lighting Environmental Elements


Lighting The Scene

Lesson 4 of 7

Lighting Environmental Elements


Lesson Info

Lighting Environmental Elements

This is our second location. Look around, survey the sort of scene. It's pretty cool, we've got all kinds of chains, and things hanging from the ceiling. It's gritty, it's dark. I like that kind of story of the working men. The chains are in here, you can play off these. They already sort of have a story. In an old building like this, the story's already there for you. Because you know that people worked these chains, they were pulling on them, they were moving things with them, and so bring that into the way you pose and hang out with them. You don't have to do too much. Some of the shots can just be just standing there like, ah, tired. What I'm gonna also have you do is I'm gonna have you drop every once and awhile and sort of give me 20 pushups, because I want that kind of tired look. So that you don't have to just sort of fake it? Just make it like that, just make it 30 pushups. 30 pushups, oh, okay. Start now, and I'll tell you when to stop when I finish lighting it, there you...

go, great idea Richard. Alright, Toby, let's bring in the reflectors please. While Richard's doing his thing. Come on Richard, is that all you can do? There you go, that's what I was talking about. Come on, another. Ugh, okay, there you go. I'm not sure that was 30. It wasn't 30. Alright, let's get in here. And where's my camera? Just be careful not to block that light coming from behind you. Okay. (Nigel exhales) Right in there. Straight to me. (camera clicking) Beautiful. Nice, really really nice. Eyes past me, almost look at that light bulb over there. Don't forget to breathe. Shake it all out a little bit. Get right inside the chains again, right in there, hold there. Nice there, beautiful. Beautiful there. Drop down and give me another 20. (Richard grunts) I'm not punishing him, I promise you. I do this on purpose because it really does, there's no way that he can get that vein to pop out of his head if I say, I want you to look tired. I can't get him to really sweat. We could spray him, it'll look like water. This is the real deal. Okay, up you go. Straight into it, like that, I love that face. Don't even look at me, look tired now, right. Look out that window over there. Nice. Pull on that chain, step away from it, there you go, like that. Don't really pull, just the fake pull, in case the whole thing comes down on you. Alright. Strong, strong, beautiful. Right there. Nice, wait a second. Nice, hold that. Relax. Just hold onto that one chain. The big one. Slightly pull it towards you, just like that. Now, face down, looking down there. Gorgeous there. I'm picking up all these great textures now, my settings, my light settings, I'm at ISO 3200, 'cause it is so dark in here, but it also creates a nice grain. My shutter speed is a fiftieth of a second. So I have to be quite careful. He's moving, I've gotta really be steady. To do that, I lock my arms against my chest. Really acts as like a human tripod. And actually I try to shoot (exhales) when I breathe out. So you'll often hear me going, (inhales and exhales rapidly) that's because I'm actually steadying myself and using my breath to do that. And I'm at F4.5. So it's quite shallow, but it's really beautiful too, 'cause it creates, there's little bits of light back here hitting the bits of metal and the oil and the grease and what have you, and you can't quite work out what they are. It's a little bit more mysterious. And that also plays to the story, the mystery, the nostalgia, of a factory like this. Okay. I'll get you just a little bit further back, there you go, just in there. Just slide in those toes. There you go, beautiful. Nice, hold that. Breathe out. Looking out towards the light there. Beautiful. Now, I'm using all these chains in my foreground to help tell the story. Relax, breathe, push it out, give me another 20. You'll be nice and fit, you won't have to go to the gym after this. No, no gym. No one said modeling was easy. Alright, up you get. Grab hold of this one chain, pull back. There you go, like that. Out the window now. Face 'round to me, there. Okay, so drop and give me 20 again, Richard. Being a really good sport, really getting into this. Okay, that's great, up you get. Now, we've already discussed this, you're comfortable taking your shirt off. Yes sir. Wonderful, would you mind taking it off? So, actually, you know what, I love just what you were doing there, put it back on again. Step in here, this little bit. As a photographer, you're always watching everything that's happening. It's sometimes the small things. It was actually him taking off his shirt, now do it again and look to me as you're doing it. Go, go, go, go. And again, go back again. Step this way a bit more, into the chains, there you go. Beautiful. I'm changing my F-stop, I'm opening up to 4, F4, I was at 4.5. Wait a second. Perfect. Now grab that chain. Relax the mouth. Breathe. Relax your whole body. With your hand, just drop it into your belt. Maybe just, actually into your pant. Like that, exactly. Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out. Grab the top of the chain. Yeah, just let your whole body, everything collapse. Yeah, just relax. Stand a little bit taller, there you go. Just like that. Breathe out. (exhales) Now make it tighter. And then arm down, on the chain. Pull the chain too you more, step into the chain too, eyes to me, look around. Hold it right there. Coming 'round here. Tips are in frame. This is nice, here. Beautiful, here. Looking out, straight through here, looking that way. Beautiful in there. So, what I'm getting right now is that one small window that's in there, it's actually raking across his body really beautifully. There's a little bit of fill, although these are huge windows, there's all this machinery kind of blocking it off of him, but I'm actually getting his main light, is that small window over there. And there's all kinds of fill. The ambient in here is very interesting, 'cause the light bulbs, incandescent light bulbs. And the whole area, the whole place is this cream, almost, green and cream paint in here. Which gives it a kind of a color. And a look, and a feel. And in where he's at is quite dark, so you really get very interesting kinda ambient light. Shake it out, give me 20 more. Showing off, now. Look at that. That's what I do every night, by the way, if you're wondering. Thank you, perfect. Eyes, up, just your eyes up. Eyes to me. Beautiful there. Gorgeous. Now for the last few, go back to the back wall. Toby, follow him. Turn, twist, the other way, there you go. Looking at that. Twist the other way, the way you were before, more. More, more. There. (exhales) That's nice. And almost as if you were, twist with your, yeah, or like you're gonna touch it, you can touch it, I think. Okay, drop your other hand. Yeah, don't pull it out, you break it, you buy it. Nice, there, relax the face. Eyes down, all the way over this direction, even further. There you go. Relax the body, breathe out, don't tense. Drop, relax, relax everything. You are going to... Let's have a look. You can walk to me. A little slowly, begin to walk. Hold it there. Just like that, hold it, don't move. Toby, you got it? Stay there, stay there. (exhales heavily) Eyes to me. Beautiful. We've got this, we're gonna change this light up and create something quite different. We've got this scene, thank you very much Richard. Give me a minute. Absolutely. Wonderful, okay Toby. Let's light this up. We've just lit this set, it's gonna be quite dramatically different than it was before, I've actually got five lights, five heads set up in this particular instance. The key light is my ProFresnel over here. I've got a brown gel on that. And that's really giving the bulk of the light into the room. So, behind me, I have the hair light that has a grid on it, a grid spot. Which is raking down the back of me. I've got two back lights which are lighting up the background, and they have red gels on them. And I have a reflector, and the reflector's doing a little bit of a bounce to get an angle that really doesn't light up the whole of the foreground, it's just very very slight. And last but not least, I have my eye catch light, right in front. Maybe wondering what this light is, in fact the model might think it's the main light, because it's right there in the front, but of course it's just to give a little touch to the eyes, so it's really low, the power's really low, it's really not affecting the picture hardly at all. Just giving that little glimmer in the eyes which helps bring the picture to life. Alright, Richard, I'm gonna have you on set. Alright, buddy. So we've got this elaborate light set up. I'm not putting the model lights on, so you're just gonna have to remember where they are. The reason why I don't have the modeling lights on, is 'cause it actually drains the power quite quickly in this particular instance. So I'm gonna have you here. We have a little black tape mark there for you a little bit. Really strike, now, not gonna have a lot of latitude to move all over the place in here. Checking your hair light. So, really all the action's in this spot, and that's one of the problems, when you do light a scene with strobe, and you've got grid lights, you've got grids on the lights, it does prevent you from having a lot of movement. But, hey, that's the sacrifice you make, but here's our spot, this is where we're gonna be, and we're gonna do all our action in this area. Cool, let's get my camera up. Thank you Toby. Now, I'm at ISO 400, shutter speed is 1/60 and F-stop is 5. Okay, let's have a look here, see what that is. Strong, strong, strong. Have some general lights, have a look at the light right now. Actually, looks amazing, looks great, okay. Of course you know what I want you to do, right? Oh no, before you do that, yeah, you got it. You think you can get off that easily? Really try and tire yourself out. Don't stop until you feel like you can hardly get up. There. (exhales quickly) Beautiful. Nice there. Looking out that way a little bit. Nice, the other way, there you go. Right arm down, yeah. (exhales) Eyes to me. Nice there. Watch your step. Okay, I don't do this very often, but I'm kind of showing off. How good do you look? Wow, it looks like I worked all day. Do you hear that? Wow. That's what I like. I wanted to show you that, because it is kind of wow, and you should feel wow, but you have to wipe the smile off your face now, 'cause you've got to get back into character for me. But it looks really good, looks really good, wanna have a look? Do you see that? Beautiful. We like wow. Okay, let's do this. (exhales) Beautiful there. Drop the arm. Eyes up just to me, just your eyes. Okay, give me another 20, quickly. Boom, two, three, four, five. Okay now, get up. There you go, boom. Stand up. Stand up straight. Breathe. Take your shirt off, if you wouldn't mind? Kick it towards me. Thank you, right there. Beautiful, right there. Alright guys, slightly turn your body, slightly twist your body. There you go, just like that. That's really nice. Toby, will you just have a look and see if that hair light's on him? And he's standing there now. I think we can turn it up as well, the power on that one. Let's have a look. A little fake walk. Get that motion, there you go. Back it up, back it up. Fake walk, so you have to pretend to walk, there you go. Boom. Work on it, coming 'round here. Nice. It's nice. Eyes to me. Beautiful there. (exhales) Eyes to me. Relax your lips, drop the hands, relax the fingers. Put one hand in your back pocket. The other one. Now put both hands in your back pockets, there you go. Looking down over here. Beautiful. Gorgeous.

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.