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Masters of Photography

Lesson 10 of 54

Foreground studio set up


Masters of Photography

Lesson 10 of 54

Foreground studio set up


Lesson Info

Foreground studio set up

(dramatic music) I'm here in front of what's called the posing table. And a posing table is on a small stand here. And it's a very simple thing. You can make, you can alter the height. So it could be used for a child or an adult. It can be elevated to cause their shoulders to go higher. You can use it to work with hands. Or sometimes even if you're cropping this tight and you don't see the table. Preferably you don't want to see too much of the table. And once again it's your choice what you put on the table. We've got black here. But you could for example if you wanted this, you could put a gray piece of fabric on here, a white piece of fabric on it. Or it could be a rug, it's your choice about creatively what you want to do with the surface here. And how much you show. I wouldn't show too much of the table. It should be about the girl or the guy that you're photographing. So this table you could make really for a very small amount of money. It's a good little tool to have in your s...

tudio. Because if you say well I could do that with a table. Yes but your table's only one height. This can be high, it can be low. So you can use it for different things. And sometimes I've used this table where you don't see it at all. And it's something comfortable for people to rest their hands on when you're working. Because basically my focus here is portraiture and fashion. Beauty. Fashion with a beauty slant on it. The positioning of this because of the cut out here. This will also turn so. So it's a very flexible little piece of equipment that you can really put togeher for $20, $30, it's nothing. So moving on to the light. We're going to use a bounce light on the front. And a crucial thing for deciding the bounce is the distance from the subject to the bounce. How far is now, the further back it goes, the softer it becomes. I've actually done this shot where I'd simply just bounce it off of a white wall at the back there. And you can actually get a beautiful, soft, natural, almost daylight look to your shot. So the crucial thing is here is distance. So we're going to start a mid-distance here. But you can do anything. If you want to make the light more dramatic, then bring the whole system closer, much closer. And at some point if the bounce system comes too close, you might as well if you wanted that contrast, then you might as well switch the main, the key light around and do the key light direct. But with that you have to be more careful. The light becomes quite strong and quite aggressive. Remembering distance is a crucial thing in all lighting. How far is that light from your subject? And a very good thing sometime photographers forget to do is you should come in and sit in the table before your subject arrives. And you see the positioning of the light from the subject's perspective. Don't do it from behind the camera. Do it from the subject's perspective. So you look back and you see what the subject, and that's a very important thing to do. Because you look back and then you see. It's always very nice when you're on a camera and you look and you just see the subject. Get back there and see what the subject sees. See how distracting all of the things that are going on in a studio. Hairdressers, makeup artists, the assistants. All of these things going on. Is that distracting for the subject there? So how do you make that a little more private? How do you make it simple and so on. I quite like a private set. So consider what they're seeing. And then you can go to camera and then you see what you're going to be seeing. So just keep all of these things in mind. Until they become a natural part of your putting together a setup. So for the front, as for the back I'm going to use a bounce. But here the positioning of this light is far more crucial. The positioning of the light in the bounce. The light essentially ceases to be the light. The bounce board becomes the light. The light's transmitted on to the bounce board. The crucial thing is the distance from the subject to the bounce board. The further back, the softer it becomes. You don't want to have your light block light from your bounce board. Because the bounce board becomes the light. So if I'm looking at this right now. Ed if you can just a little bit move this, the key light to my left a little bit. That's it. And a little bit down. Bring it down in height. And dip it back to the ceiling. Now at this point I'm looking at a four foot by four feet board. It's completely lit. It's lit top to bottom. If I bring this light higher, then it's going to block some of that light that's coming in. So it's fairly snappy the light. It's not soft soft. So I'm putting a little bit of contrast in it. And I'm trying to split this difference on our model Clara between being a beauty shot and a portrait. The final decision of where this goes. The distance from the light to the board and the board to the subject. The final decision has to be made when she's in front of the camera. Not with me sitting here. But the good thing about me sitting here is I can see what she's going to be getting in her face here. A lot of time photographer is just looking from the front. That's important too. But you should come in here and see what they're seeing. The same ways you look at your canvas. And you then look back towards camera. You see what the canvas sees. Come in here you see what the subject seeing. So at this point as I look back. I'm really only aware of the white on this board. I don't see anything else. There's no white bouncing off of a side wall. There's no light coming from anywhere else here. Except what I put in. So I'm determining the light. Not just an arbitrary wall that happens to be there. That's what is kind of crucial here. When you're setting this up. So one thing I'll go when I set up the camera here. And one thing I can see already, I'll need to get some protection for flare off of this light for my camera. So that's the next thing that I would request from assistant. When you're building a set like this and you see me working, over the years I've gotten really used to working with assistant. And assistants, good assistant, to a working professional, someone who is doing a lot of work shooting every day. A good assistant is absolutely, a good assistant are invaluable. They make your life much much easier. And an assistant that you develop an understanding with can make you move much quicker. And take away some of the pressure of certain technical aspects. Not the creative but the technical aspects. They can make your life easier. A good assistant is invaluable. And you know you should surround yourself with good people. And if you have a friend that's a photographer, then maybe you can do a job where you assist him and vice versa. Then he can assist you. So it's that you pay back each other as it were. At this point in my career, I'm working of course with assistant. Now in the beginning you might end up doing this on your own. Which is more laborious, more difficult, whatever. But I think that developing a good relationship with an assistant is a crucial thing. You should be working like a surgeon. Where you just put out your hand and he's anticipating your needs. Now that's a certain level. Not everybody can afford two, three assistants. So sometimes you have to work up to that. I've got to a point in my career right now where I've gotten used to working with assistants. So there are good things and bad things about that. But assistants now enable me to be much more efficient. And much more effective. And I can shift some of the technical burden onto the assistants. Not all of it. 'Cause in the end it your responsibility. In setting this up, you should be aware of what the assistants are doing for you, that they're following your instructions. And you let them you know keep going and putting the set together. But you should be aware of all of these things. You glance, you should be, the more you do it, the better you get. It's that simple.

Class Description


  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs
  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs


Learn how Albert creates his amazing photographs on location and in the studio using simple explanations.

Albert reveals his shoot secrets on how he photographs Presidents, Hollywood stars, music’s greatest artists, landscapes, nudes, chimpanzees and still life. We follow him on location in Morocco, Paris and in his studio in New York. You will find out where he suggests you look to get inspiration, how to approach a portrait session, see how to light like Albert.

We show you exactly how Albert works on these images after the shoot, it’s all about Albert giving you his ideas and advice and helping you see and create better images for yourself.

It’s not about what camera to use, it’s about how to see and develop ideas, concepts and narrative to make stunning photographs.

As Albert says..."You have to stay switched on"


  1. Meet your Master

    Albert welcomes you to his course.

  2. Learn from the journey

    You will learn how to use your passion and dedication to get to where you want in photography. Albert explains to us how his own journey developed from early days in Scotland to creating the biggest photography studio in LA, and then establishing his studio in New York.

  3. Using inspirations

    Albert teaches you how to use inspiration from your past and present to form you work. Learn his tips on the relationship between technique and creativity, and how to create work that shows your own personality.

  4. Photography is stopping time

    Learn from Albert how he discovered his passion for photography and how to apply his "stopping time" ethos to your own work.

  5. Albert's library of ideas

    Join Albert in his own library where he shows you which books and artists he suggests you look at and study for inspiration and motivation. He also reveals his tip for buying inexpensive photography references.

  6. Tips on preparing for a portrait shoot

    Albert teaches you how to work with your subjects to get a great portrait shot. Learn his tips for putting people at ease when they are in front of your camera.

  7. Setting up the studio

    Learn to control the shooting environment. Learn how Albert begins to set up a studio session. Albert shows you how he begins to approach a portrait session in the studio.

  8. Understanding studio collaboration

    Albert teaches you about his different types of work ranging from test shoots to editorial shoots and advertising shoots. He explains his thoughts and techniques to help you understand how to make each a success.

  9. The importance of casting and hair & make-up

    Albert teaches you the importance of communication between yourself and a team. Albert also explains his tips on working with hair and make up to create a look.

  10. Foreground studio set up

    You will learn how Albert moves out from behind the camera while setting up for a shoot. He shows you how to look at your light from a variety of perspectives.

  11. Studio session with a model - set up 1

    Learn how to work with your subject. A unique insight, Watch and learn Albert working in the studio, explaining his thoughts and showing us exactly how he shoots.

  12. Studio session with a model - set up 2

    Learn how Albert creates his iconic beauty shots. See and listen to Albert as he explains his thought processes when creating this type of shot.

  13. Studio session with a model - set up 3

    Albert teaches you another of his lighting techniques. Watch and learn as Albert explains exactly how he creates a beautiful portrait.

  14. Picking the best shot

    Albert discusses and shows you his techniques for selecting the best shot from a shoot.

  15. Working with photoshop

    In this lesson you will learn how Albert uses post production to further refine his images.

  16. Creating a portrait of Alfred Hitchcock

    Discover the idea and thought process behind Albert's iconic image of Alfred Hitchcock and what it was like to photograph one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.

  17. The gigantic question... Colour or black and white?

    Which should you use? Albert explains his own ideas to you on how and why you might use one or the other.

  18. One day with Kate Moss

    Albert explains his ideas and how he created his iconic images during a day photographing Kate Moss.

  19. Learn to have your ideas ready

    Albert encourages you to have faith in your own creative instincts and how to always think creativity to persuade a client toward agreeing to your photographic ideas.

  20. Using Polariods

    Discover ways to go back and create projects and new images from your older work. Albert shows us the technique he used to create his iconic Running Man image.

  21. Creating beautiful photographs of hands

    Learn to appreciate the expressive nature of photographing hands. Albert explains some his most defining hand shots.

  22. Controlling natural light

    Discover Albert's tips on how to make the most of natural light and how Albert controls it in his images.

  23. Shooting a monkey with a gun

    Albert teaches you to always be on the look-out for new projects, and to recognise the power of conceptual thinking. Learn how monkey and a gun came to be created.

  24. Choosing your format

    In this lesson you will learn about formats. Albert describes different examples from various formats he has used as guidance, discover tips on how to use each type of format and his camera of choice.

  25. Composition and lens

    Get tips and suggestions on which lens to use and when. Albert gives you his thoughts on using the compositional elements available to you in order to produce a better photograph.

  26. Shooting landscapes. The Isle of Skye

    Albert teaches us how for him, its essential to raise landscape photography above the "picture postcard" shot and give the images more meaning. Albert explains the approach to his Scottish landscape series of images, one of his most unique, personal projects.

  27. Planning and ideas for a landscape shoot

    Albert details for you how he carefully prepared for his Isle of Skye project: taking care to be as organised as possible, whilst also remaining open to taking advantage of the unexpected.

  28. Creating still life images

    From shooting bed pans in L.A., to photographing Tutankhamen’s possessions, Elvis Presley’s iconic gold ensemble, and Neil Armstrong's space suit. Albert teaches you to persevere in the face of difficulty, and to always inject your still lifes with meaning.

  29. Photographing the Lost Diary

    Albert shows you how one simple idea can blossom into the creation of true art. An entire advertising campaign was based on his magical concept: that of an intergalactic anthropologist’s photographic diary, depicting tribes on earth 30,000 years ago. Discover how he brought this unique vision to life.

  30. Shooting album covers

    This lesson we go behind the scenes of a shoot with musician Sade. Albert reveals how he produced her beautiful Love Deluxe album cover, and how important it is to make your subject feel comfortable on set.

  31. The Strip Search Project

    Albert tells you how he prepared and created this immense project. He suggests ways for you to create projects and images that document your own corner of the world in images.

  32. Shooting Las Vegas landscapes

    Albert tells you how he prepared for the Las Vegas project, how he approached and shot his landscapes there. He passes on to you how the difficulties he faced helped him, and will help you, to develop as a photographer.

  33. Photographing Breaunna

    Albert tells you how to always be alert to chance encounters. He tells you how he met and was inspired by Breaunna. He explains how some of his most recognisable Strip Search photographs of her were created .

  34. Balancing daylight, God bless America

    Find out why Albert stopped to shoot a bill board. His serendipitous discovery reaffirms his main piece of advice: always remain “switched on”.

  35. Creating the Maroc Project

    Learn how Albert put together his exquisite Maroc book. You will be inspired to create your own projects and to look for potential in every aspect of a project, giving added meaning to your photographs.

  36. Creating the Maroc shoot

    Albert describes his own, personal methods and ethos in creating the Maroc project. Find out what equipment he used, how he documented his journey, and what he shot to create this iconic book.

  37. Photographing sand dunes

    How did Albert capture the breathtaking, rippling sand dunes of Laayoune, Morocco? Find out as Albert encourages you to be innovative; to always strive to add something new and different to scenes photographed by others before you.

  38. Photographing Moroccan children

    Preparation is not the death of spontaneity. Albert explains some his most breathtaking, impromptu shots of children in Morocco, Albert shows you how he suggests you intertwine careful planning and impulsivity to ensure you never miss your shot.

  39. Advice on making portraits

    Learn from Albert that the way you communicate with those you’re photographing is always visible in a shot. In this lesson Albert suggests tips to capture your perception of a subject into a single picture.

  40. How to be alert to finding photographs

    Learn to take advantage of chance situations and moments. Listen to Albert reveal how some of his most famous photographs were created by remaining flexible and alert to what you are seeing around you.

  41. Making a portrait of Mike Tyson

    Albert delves into the inspiration behind his famous Mike Tyson photograph, reaffirming that preparation before a shoot is often key to transforming your vision into a reality.

  42. Creating intense colour in a photograph

    Albert creates intense colour in an image. Listen to Albert as he takes you through his preparation process, and the techniques he used to construct one of his most well known images, Red Devil.

  43. Portraits of rap stars and a Golden Boy

    Discover the relationship between a subject and the camera itself. Legendary Rap stars and Albert’s Golden Boy photograph feature in this lesson. Albert discusses facial geography.

  44. Photographing Jack Nicholson

    A Jack Nicholson photoshoot for Rolling Stone. Albert explains how the legendary snowy shot came to be, and gives you an insight into how he photographed the iconic actor and filmmaker.

  45. Creating a portrait of David Cronenberg

    Be inspired to get creative. Ingenuity and inventiveness take centerstage in this lesson as Albert describes how he produced his unique photograph of David Cronenberg for Rolling Stone — the old-fashioned way.

  46. How to light only using two $10 bulbs

    This is a incredible lesson where Albert demonstrates to you that expensive lighting equipment is by no means a necessity! Discover how to use two $10 bulbs to create a dramatic, high contrast shot. Simply genius.

  47. Studio fashion set up 4

    See the fashion photography master in action as we watch each step of this shoot. Watch and hear how Albert manages the body language of the model and the simple set up and lighting to create a fashion shot.

  48. Studio session with a model. The geography of a face

    See how Albert creates art with the profile of a face. Learn how to work the geography of a face with Albert's simple lighting techniques.

  49. Look inside the picture

    Albert gives suggestions on how to progress and review your photography. Find out his tips on how to look "inside" the picture.

  50. Creating memorability in an image

    Learn Alberts tips on the skill of quick thinking and analysing your surroundings. Albert uses an example where he used his surroundings to create a unique and surreal shot for Italian Vogue.

  51. Combining nudes and landscapes

    In this lesson we reveal one of Albert's very latest projects. Learn as Albert teaches you how he created a stunning series of images by combining nudes with different landscape textures.

  52. A perfect print

    Albert explains where the passion began for printing his own work and how it has developed. Listen to his overview on how critical it is to print an image on the right type of paper in order to create the perfect print.

  53. The business side of things

    Learn how Albert runs each aspect of his business. We travel with Albert to one of his exhibitions in Italy where he explains the why and how of the prints on show.

  54. Conclusion and farewell

    Albert summarises some fundamental learning points he has acquired over his 40 year career. He leaves you with some poignant tips and bids his farewell, "onwards and upwards".


Richard A. Heckler

"Unless you're Mozart"...this course is an invaluable asset. I'm a pro, humanitarian/documentary photographer, & wilderness...and I've learned much from the 40+ sessions here. This is truly a Master best thing to being with Albert. And although I could watch studio sessions forever, this course offered a very balanced curriculum of technical information, artistic encouragement and guidance, and a open, generous window into the thinking of a gifted artist and photographer, sifted from decades of first class experience. Kudos to all involved. Excellent!

a Creativelive Student

I purchased my first CreativeLive class in 2011 and have continued to purchase many classes over the years. I have learned so much from the many great instructors. This one is not a technical class that will tell you to set your camera at f4, 1/60, ISO 400 and you can get this shot. If you are looking for that, there are many other options. If you have a solid working knowledge of photography, this class is so much more. The way it was filmed is like you are there with him in conversation or in the room with him watching him shoot. To see and understand the how and why he does what he does. Not to take anything away from other classes that have helped to give me a strong understanding of photography, this is my favorite CreativeLive class so far.