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Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

Lesson 22 of 52

Lighting for Your Environment

John Keatley

Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

John Keatley

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Lesson Info

22. Lighting for Your Environment


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:20:10
2 Creative Photography Path Duration:22:57
3 Importance of Personal Work Duration:15:25
4 Concepts and Inspiration Duration:12:04
5 Choosing Your Environment Duration:05:03
6 Research and Mood Boards Duration:06:58
7 Finding Your Style Duration:09:34
8 Establishing a Team Duration:10:44
9 Jobs on Set Duration:28:38
10 Production Hurdles Duration:13:45
11 Working with an Art Director Duration:07:01
12 Pooling Resources Duration:03:43
13 Casting Duration:17:26
14 Wardrobe Duration:11:24
16 Gear Duration:09:59
17 Lighting Duration:29:10
19 Creating Environment Duration:07:59
21 Lighting for Your Subject Duration:04:10
22 Lighting for Your Environment Duration:05:17
23 Q&A Duration:08:36
24 Directing Your Subject Duration:34:03
25 Tips for Directing Talent Duration:09:58
26 Pre-Lighting and Test Shoots Duration:05:08
30 Set Tour and Lighting Set Up Duration:05:41
34 Photo Critique Duration:26:06
36 Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 1 Duration:42:19
37 Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 2 Duration:28:34
38 Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 3 Duration:24:34
39 Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 4 Duration:04:10
47 Next Steps: Create New Work Duration:05:44
48 Next Steps: Share Your Work Duration:12:03
52 Final Image Reveal - Final Q&A Duration:34:52

Lesson Info

Lighting for Your Environment

So now, we've talked about lighting. Lighting your subject and in a general sense, and we will see a lot of this too when we do the photo shoots. But, I wanna talk a little bit about lighting your environment, because we are gonna be, all these shoots are gonna be environmental. How do we handle the environment, either in conjunction with the subject, or separate from the subject. This is a shoot that I did, again I mentioned for another tutorial I did a few years ago. This was a set that I was referencing when John Lavin came out. I just did this, I had some help from a couple friends, but we didn't have John Lavin. We didn't have a set builder or anything like that. Again, as you can see, I've used this paneling many times in some of my personal images. I think we have, I think it's three panels this time, so probably 60 bucks for background. And we just clamped them on to poles and things and whatever was available in the studio. We got the file cabinet for free on Craigslist. We go...

t the desk for free on Craigslist. We got the lamp from a Goodwill store. The phone we bought from an antique store and on, and on, and on. I think we probably paid, all told, 100 dollars for this whole set. It just took a lot of time, and coordinating, and researching, and online, and stuff like that. But, talking about lighting for your environment. For this shot I knew I wanted some depth, and a lot of my light is very similar. Again, I'm not trying to reinvent some new lighting pattern every time. As long as the image feels dynamic and the desired idea comes across. I'm not gonna try to do something new just for the sake of doing something new. But I knew I did want some depth on the shot of her face, I wanted her to feel like depth is really important to me, I'm always looking for that in terms of contrast, and the light, and things like that. I wanted the light to come across her face. The first thing we did is we set up a key light. I think there's probably a fill light happening in here as well, 'cause the shadows are totally black. But, I was really not feeling this first shot on the left, it just felt really flat. And one thing I realized, after lighting this, is there's actually a corner, as you can see over here, there's actually a corner in here. But this back wall feels completely flat. It just feels really stale, like there's no depth at all to the room. The whole point of building this room with a corner was to give you a sense of depth. Basically, what was happening is this key light is coming right down into here, it's hitting these walls evenly. It's giving the same amount of power to this wall and this wall, so that's why you get this very even look. Now, as far as she's concerned, I'm happy. I like that light pattern on her face. But, I don't like the environment. Now you have to start making some concessions. Your key light on your subject is affecting your background in a negative way. So, what do we do? Do we change the light? Do we change the direction of the light? In this particular case, thankfully, there's really no reason for me that I need the key light to come from this side. I'm perfectly happy if it comes from the other side. So, all we did from here to here was just take the key light from here and move it over here, and then we swapped the fill also. What that does is the key light's now facing this way and it's basically bypassing this wall. Without the fill light, this wall becomes dark, and then I can control it independently with the fill light. I can also control the light with her with another fill light. So, now the other example of showing you this particular image too, is I set up really large lights and I used fewer of them. Rather than really technical lighting, and getting in and lighting her hair, and doing all this crazy stuff on the walls. I wanted to explore this space. She's an actress, and she is someone, she's a friend of mine, and she can create these really amazing characters. I wanted to be able to let her improv basically. And if I'm being super precious and technical with the lighting, I'm really limiting her in what she can do. Like, "Hey, that's great Sarah." And yes, that is a girl actually wearing a fake mustache. But, you know, I don't wanna be like, "Hey, that's great Sarah, but you can't do that 'cause the light's missing you," kind of thing. I just want let her loose and see what happens. So, as you can see here, she can stretch, she can stand up, move around. Even come to the front of the desk, which we did in some, and the light really doesn't change. It still has the same effect and quality. Those are kind of things that you need to consider. You have to kind of, then the light on your subject's very important, but the light in your environment's also very important too. So, how do we find a way to balance the two? Where, sometimes you do have to make compromises, but those are the kind of things that can come up. That's an example of how we problem solved here. The other thing too as I mentioned, was this final image is all brown, but we didn't get super picky about it. I got a free file cabinet. I could've spent another week trying to find a brown cabinet, maybe it would've cost money, it would've taken more time. But I knew that's something in post we can change, so what's the benefit here? Do I want to spend more time and get it perfect? Or, do I want to spend less time and less money possibly, and just doing it in post? Again, thinking through that whole process and what the tools are available to you.

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!