Skip to main content

Lighting The Scene

Lesson 2 of 7

Location Assessment


Lighting The Scene

Lesson 2 of 7

Location Assessment


Lesson Info

Location Assessment

I mean, come on, right? How amazing is this location? I know we just literally walked in, and as soon as I arrived, I saw these incredible windows, beautiful light streaming in, sort of shafts of light, and then you see all this incredible sort of mechanical bits and pieces everywhere, with you know, the metallic paint. It really reflects beautifully, it tells its own story. I mean, I even love things like the light bulbs hanging down one at a time, and you know, these amazing stairs. I mean, the ceiling here, it literally is, and I'd have to guess, but it looks almost like it's sort of eight or nine stories high. I mean, that is something that you rarely to never get. And of course, it really just sets your mind wondering, what are the stories that actually happened here? Would I introduce those stories to my pictures? But also, not just is the actual story that this place actually has of its own, but as a fashion photographer who's also thinking up things, conjuring up ideas, I imagi...

ne almost like a Blade Runner type scenario happening here in this environment because it's so gritty. It's almost sort of old-school meets sci-fi, and that's what I love about it. You really feel the light hitting me. Now this is all the natural daylight. And of course, naturally, the natural ambient daylight in the room is amazing, it's beautiful, but it's almost a little more romantic. It's a little bit for me, more old-school. It feels like it has a sort of nostalgic feel to it, and you can just sort of see yourself in this light, and you can keep it like that. You can obviously shoot with this light and that's what I'm gonna do. In every scenario, I'm gonna show you sort of what the ambient light is telling me and making me feel, and the story that it's telling. And then of course, I have my first assistant here, Toby, with me, and together, we're gonna light up the scene, and tell my own story. Just look at this room. The light is really dramatic. It's actually quite dark, although there are these gigantic windows everywhere. I'm looking around at all these fantastic things to play with and what have you, and okay, it seems simple, but look at the size of this huge iron chain. I just see this, and it reminds me of sort of a bygone era, but it also, you can feel like you're almost like you're a Titan pulling on it. Things like this help tell stories so well, because your imagination runs riot with what can be done in this environment. The dark walls, all the pipes, the glistening oil, the grease, the tar, the dirt. The story's here, I mean actually look back here. I'm not sure if you can see, it's so dark in here. But there's this really gooey oil on everything. You can imagine a guy working in here, rubbing the oil on his forehead and really being tired, and this being that kind of great, dramatic, nostalgic type of shot. At the same time, you could also sort of imagine almost like a superhero being built out of this kind of equipment that's in here. All kinds of stories come to life, and for me, I'm like, okay, I could use the light coming through this window. I can try and pick up some of the light there. I can bounce this light, I can bring in these light bulbs. That's my ambient light, but I can also tell my own story, and we'll see what we can do with a strobe to really pick up the elements that I'm most interested in. Really brilliant, I want to walk to the next spot. Really cool, just another stunning location. My goodness, I mean, look at this tunnel. You rarely get spaces that are like this, so I mean, when I see a space, I immediately start to think about the story here, and yes, you know, you can see all the tools and the dials and the light bulbs, and you know, the history of the room, but I also imagine it almost as if it's a flight tunnel on a galactic spaceship, for example. So there is a completely different story that maybe I can tell. I can create my sci-fi story as well as this old-school, nostalgic story. I really love it. I'm just in love with all the details. So many things to play off. The paint, the ladder, the lights, the light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. I'm looking at this spot here, and of course I see all these great details and things for the model to play off. And you can imagine people putting coal in here, or oil, or whatever it was to get this generator going. But then I also see the way the light plays through, and I see this ladder coming down and yes, I've got the window here, but I also have the ability to shoot through the ladder and you know, use elements of the building to help tell another story, is am I voyeuristically looking at the person working there? And how will the light play on them, or do I add my own light, and tell a completely different story? I think it's time to get shooting. I've got too many ideas, time to focus.

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.