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Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

Lesson 20 of 52

Gear Essentials vs. DIY Solutions


Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

Lesson 20 of 52

Gear Essentials vs. DIY Solutions


Lesson Info

Gear Essentials vs. DIY Solutions

Gear essentials and DIY. Again, I want to tie this back to, as I'm showing you this big lighting and cameras and stuff, I do want to reiterate like gear is not, it shouldn't hold you back. So what are some essentials? When it comes to lighting as we said earlier, what do you need? You need a camera that you're comfortable with, and you need a light source. What are those light sources? Well, they can be small flashes. They can be strobes, which are larger. A flash would be like a Canon flash or something, which you can do a lot of stuff with that. Strobes, which are a little bigger. They tend to be a little more expensive, but you have a bit more control with them. Hotlights, which are basically, I mean these are hotlights, the lights that are constant or continuous. They're used a lot of times in movies or film, but you can use those for still photography as well. Depending on the lights, you may have to use a tripod or a high ISO or something, but hotlights are awesome. That's actual...

ly something I haven't done a lot with, but it's on my list. I really do want to explore that one of these days. It just gives you a different look. There's a really cool benefit of being able to see. I know you can do modeling lamps with strobes, but hotlights are different, and they have a different look, so experimenting with those would not be a bad idea. You can just use lights from Home Depot. Light is light. I mean it's gonna give you different quality, but it is light, and you can certainly create something with that. You could use flashlights, refrigerator light. Window light is beautiful. I am a huge fan of window light, and as I've shown in my iPhone portrait series, it's all window light. But you know like Dutch painters, and some of the old masters, their paintings were basically like window light. That's what a soft box or modifier is. It's essentially trying to mimic window light, but sometimes the sun and the window does it better than we can do with all of our fancy tools. So DIY, what are some things that you can do in terms of kinda shaping that light if you don't have like strobes and things like that. And going back again, what do you need? Whatever it takes to get the job done. You can bounce. Let's say you pick one of those light sources, a flashlight, or a strobe, or a hotlight, whatever you decide, you can bounce lights off of different surfaces. You could a light off of this silver table, and that's gonna give you a certain look. You could bounce a light off of a white ceiling, and that's gonna spread really large. You can shoot, you can set up a white sheet, you know, on a clothes line, or set it up if you have a C standard, whatever it is, clamp it to something, and you can shoot light through that sheet. Don't get limited by thinking you have to buy something. Light, as we see in our daily lives, it bounces and reflects off all kinds of surfaces. I always love it in the summertime when like a big white moving truck will drive by our house, and you just get this beautiful burst of light through the window because the sun was bouncing off the side of this white metallic truck. I'm captivated by all these different kind of light sources, and sometimes I'll think about that, it's like, "Oh, that's interesting." I'll try to use something like that in my own work, and it'll give you a different look than just trying to use the same modifiers over and over again. Cut a hole in cardboard and shoot light through that, and it will give you different falloffs and shapes. Just experiment as much as you can. Commercial projects I was directing last week, they had this whole lighting crew, and it was fun to see kinda some of the different things they did. We were working in a bar, and there was pretty low ceilings, and so we were limited in terms of height and stuff like that, and they were like stapling pieces of white cardboard all over the ceiling and bending them, and they were shooting lights from across the room, and just bouncing it off white cardboard. The reason they did that is because it gives the look we needed, and there was also not physically room to put a soft box up there because it would've been in frame. So again, think about just like John was talking about light bounces off of light or reflective surfaces. Something black is gonna tend to kill the light. You can still bounce light off something black at a hight intensity, but white's gonna reflect, silver's gonna reflect even more intensely. So, once you've kinda understand the principles of how light reflect with surfaces and things like that, the sky is the limit. You can do all kinds of stuff on your own, even if you don't have fancy gear. Any questions on gear DIY? And I guess you've pretty much answered this question, which was if you don't have strobes or some of the work that you produce, could you do that with speed lights? Not specifically-- Yeah. Some of the work you produce, but can you go forward, and you know, keep doing things with just speed lights? I totally could, yeah. I think the thing that's funny though is just the way that I'm set up and the way my workflow is, it would actually probably be more work for me to do it that way at this point than the way that I have, just because I have that stuff, and we're set up in a certain way, but absolutely. I mean there have been times where I've been on jobs or traveling or something and I wanted to create something, and I didn't have my gear with me, and we have literally like ... There's been times someone had like a mosquito screen or something. It was like they had a curtain for a window and there's a sliding door there, and then there was just like this see through diffusion mesh material, and we just used that and wrapped it up in a couple layers, and just shot a little tiny flash through it, and it created this really nice diffused light that look like a big soft box, and there's times where we have bounced a light source off of a wall. You know you can have a tiny light source. If you bounce it off this large wall, and you hold it far back enough, it's gonna be a really large light source all of a sudden. So, I do that sometimes, and I'm totally open to it, but yeah, it's not something I just say and would never do. Going back again to my iPhone portraits, there's been times where I've been hired to recreate that for ad campaigns. So we've kicked around sometimes again. Ideally if we want that exact look, I'd use window light, but often times for those kinds of situations, they want consistency, or we're shooting at night, and there is no window light, so we'll set up lights, and intentionally kind of try to DIY them to get a more natural feel because strobe felt too polished. So we took a big piece of foam coral and cut a hole in it, and then we put another big white sheet of foam coral a few feet back from it, and we just bounced light off of it, and we hung a white sheet in there to kinda diffuse it more, and we're essentially trying to recreate window light. We were trying to dim down on our lighting in a certain sense. So sometimes we'll do that intentionally. It just goes back to what's your intended outcome, and how you achieve that.

Class Description

Connect to your photos
Don’t capture another picture that says nothing of your own style. Grow your confidence in creating or styling a portrait that pops and, more importantly, resonates. Recognize that you’re tired of feeling disconnected to your photography.

Tap into your artistic vision
Establishing your creative voice and finding the inspiration and support to stay with it are essential skills for a career in photography. Commit to mastering the technical elements so you can save time in production, focus on creating images with emotion, and start making the pictures that express your creative vision and ultimately resemble what you want to get paid to take.

Learn from the authority: John Keatley
John’s photos have filled the pages of Rolling Stone, Wired, and the New York Times Magazine. He’s covered celebrities from Anthony Hopkins to Macklemore and even had the rare opportunity to photograph Annie Leibovitz. He’s also passionate about education and supporting artists to find their personal style.

In this one-of-a-kind class, John breaks down how to conceptualize, produce, style, light and fine-tune your ideas. He leads you through the creation of an environmental portrait series, showing you how to make a vision come to life with any budget.

What you get out of this exclusive shoot:

  • Find inspiration and execute your vision
  • Research and create desired environments for set design or location scouting
  • Cast for portrait and direct subjects on set
  • Build a team of support around your project
  • Lighting and styles to make the background and subject work together
  • Creative ways to build your vision, regardless of budgetary limitations

Commit to your creativity
Are you ready to push the boundaries and find your unique voice? Get the hands-on tools to flex your creativity, collaborate for results, and carry out your vision.


a Creativelive Student

What an amazing show. I'm so happy that I could be a part of it. It was so great to see John at work and in his element. I learned so much from watching his process from beginning to ending. So many questions have been answered. I feel more confident, to get myself out there and create and make work that comes out from my imagination. I will definitely be keeping a journal/notebook with me at all times. I would also like to suggest that we have another course for John Cornicello, home studio. I'm curious to see what John is working on in his studio.

Doppio Studio

It's amazing to watch and understand how this great creative professional work. There's a lot to learn about with his production process. For me, that lives in Brazil, is a major opportunity to enjoy this class.

Vitamin Dee

Wow! There's just so much great information in this class. If you've ever wondered what it takes to produce an environmental portrait, this is the class for you! John did a superb job of taking us step-by-step through his process. From model casting to set building, lighting setups to culling; it's all here. He even wraps up the class with next steps and how to put it all together. He gives the knowledge so you can take it to a place you can create your own magic!