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Masters of Photography

Lesson 7 of 54

Setting up the studio

Albert Watson

Masters of Photography

Albert Watson

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Lesson Info

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.


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Meet your Master Duration:01:26
2 Learn from the journey Duration:15:24
3 Using inspirations Duration:08:43
4 Photography is stopping time Duration:09:27
5 Albert's library of ideas Duration:08:30
7 Setting up the studio Duration:04:56
10 Foreground studio set up Duration:08:46
14 Picking the best shot Duration:03:36
15 Working with photoshop Duration:13:14
18 One day with Kate Moss Duration:05:06
19 Learn to have your ideas ready Duration:06:14
20 Using Polariods Duration:06:29
22 Controlling natural light Duration:05:38
23 Shooting a monkey with a gun Duration:06:27
24 Choosing your format Duration:07:13
25 Composition and lens Duration:04:47
28 Creating still life images Duration:13:48
29 Photographing the Lost Diary Duration:10:53
30 Shooting album covers Duration:03:09
31 The Strip Search Project Duration:10:28
32 Shooting Las Vegas landscapes Duration:08:24
33 Photographing Breaunna Duration:07:21
35 Creating the Maroc Project Duration:10:21
36 Creating the Maroc shoot Duration:08:11
37 Photographing sand dunes Duration:04:09
39 Advice on making portraits Duration:10:12
44 Photographing Jack Nicholson Duration:04:21
47 Studio fashion set up 4 Duration:10:48
49 Look inside the picture Duration:02:57
51 Combining nudes and landscapes Duration:04:52
52 A perfect print Duration:07:51
53 The business side of things Duration:06:51
54 Conclusion and farewell Duration:03:55

Lesson Info

Setting up the studio

(sultry music) So, here we are at Dutton Studios, in New York City and this is a fairly typical set that I'm on right now and there's a white cyc here, the studio's painted white. We have big windows that are over there. And there are quite a few decisions that you have to make when you arrive in the morning, and I'm gonna show you what really a typical day is for me, if I'm doing portraiture, or beauty, so welcome to the class. (sultry music) So in front of you, you have myself on a white set. Now, my preference is, the ideal studio, is a black box. Now, nobody's going to paint their whole studio black, because it would be miserable. But one thing you can do in the studio that we're in, I will create a black box. Now the reason that we need a black box is, that any light I put into the shot is determined by me, not by the fact that somebody painted the wall over there white, where the strobe goes off, hits that wall over there and comes in. Now, you might choose that, you might choo...

se that white wall to use if you want. But initially, we should create a black box here. And that means that any light you put in, you're controlling, not just the fact that somebody painted the floor white. So now we'll create a black box to work in. (sultry music) Okay, so here we are in the front. You that we're in a black box here. And back here, I've allowed some of the light that's bouncing into these backboards to hit the floor. So the light back here is more general, and spilling into a lot of different directions, but it's not spilling onto the subject at this point. I opted this time for a very simple bounce light. Now there's two things about a bounce light, as far as when you're shooting anything. Whether you're shooting a background, because you consider this as part of your shot, so therefore you've gotta consider what the light is on this, but if you use a bounce system, It's a softer light, because you're bouncing the light, you would understand that, but the important thing is the distance from the light to the subject. Now in this case here, the subject's the canvas, until we move to the front. So I've opted on a bounce at the front and in the back. So I could use a direct light on this, but I'm always considering what this is, what the light is on this canvas. Sometimes people just stick a light on it, and that's it. They don't spend any time lighting the canvas. But if you spend some time with the lights, and with the canvas, and you give it a five minute consideration, and you check what the lights are doing. One thing you should do, you come back to your canvas, and you see what your canvas is seeing. So if I look back towards you, to the camera here, and I look back towards, I'm seeing two large, white boards here, and I'm bouncing light into these white boards. Now when you consider a bounce system, one thing that you have to think about is that these boards are mirrors. So the way you want to set it up is, theoretically you wanna look at that bounce board, and imagine that it's a mirror, and therefore what you would wanna see in that mirror would be the light. So the angle of the light should be at a certain angle that you maximize. Don't put your lights in front of the bounce board because then you're just cutting a lot of the light. So you wanna allow the boards to breathe, not block them with the back of the light. So they're gonna show you the setup here. But at that point, you're creating a soft light here. Now you'll notice that back here, I've allowed no black here. So I've allowed the light to bounce here, and come in here, and these edges of these white boards protect the light from getting to the subject in the front. I'm always free later to allow some of this light to escape to the front, but then it's my choice. And that's what the black set allows you to do. It enables you to control and place the light, so that you're placing the light in a way that it's your choice. Not randomly hitting a white wall somewhere. So this is a soft bounce system for the canvas, and then we'll apply the same philosophy to the front, only of course the direction is far more crucial. You're not lighting a flat wall, you're lighting a subject that has mountains and valleys in their face. So that's what's really important. (sultry music)

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"


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.