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Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

Lesson 6 of 52

Research and Mood Boards

John Keatley

Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

John Keatley

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Lesson Info

6. Research and Mood Boards


  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

Research and Mood Boards

Alright, so I kind of mentioned this, but research pre-production, that's the next thing. You've got an idea, we jumped the gun a little bit, but you've got an idea, you kind of know where you want it to be. Now it's time to start pre-production or pre-pro as people will call it. I remember the first time I did an ad campaign and someone asked me like, when are you available for a pre-pro and I was like oh anytime really and I was like whoa what is pre-pro, what did I just commit to? It's just pre-production. It's just all this stuff that happens and goes on, all the little decisions and meetings that take place before the shoot. So where do you start? Again, this is the kind of thing that might feel like, oh, what am I missing, you know, it's gotta be this big, crazy, magical thing. It's just getting on a computer and doing Google image search. And just finding, again like if you wanna do a female sailor shoot, see what exists, see what's out there. Like, is there a reference, is ther...

e something that's already been done. What's the history of this idea or concept or whatever you can find. And like start Googling ships or antique ships or powder blue ships or Navy ships, whatever. Just start filling your mind with ideas and things. And some of it will be helpful and some of it won't, but the more you can kind of collect and look at, the better. And again, if there are specific things that you know, start with that. Like, if you know, okay this has to be an all-blue shoot, then focus in on the things that you know and kind of build around that. Leading into mood boards and also back to your research. Put in the time. I'm not a detail oriented person. My wife is the organized person in our relationship and in our business. Things would just fall apart if it wasn't for her because I'd be all over the place. But, put in the time to, whether you have to do it multiple times and get up and take breaks, do the research. Sometimes it feels like homework. I did not love school or homework, but a lot of creative people I know struggle with that. But put in the time to find the ideas. Not only for yourself, but later on in the process, as we'll talk about, you're gonna have to communicate these ideas with others. Even if it's just, again, one person or a big team. The more you understand and the more tangible elements and images and things you have to pass up to others, the better off you'll be. A great way to do that is by creating mood boards. And this is something actually only in the last year, I've started to do and I'm still kind of learning the value of this myself. This is a mood board that I put together for this class. These are all of my images. Typically, a mood board that I put together would maybe only have a couple of my images in it. Usually it's, again, as I mentioned, referencing other pictures by other artists that you really like. Maybe there's elements in those pictures that you want to reference or maybe it's the color that you love or something like that. But mood boards are super important for a number of reasons. Again, I guess just before I start telling you, anyone wanna kind of tell me some themes that you see in this particular group of images? All the darker tones, people aren't exactly jovial, monochromatic, textures between the paneling on the walls to the landscape of the hills to to the wood paneling to the fur on Mac Lamar's coat. Yeah, perfect. I could talk a whole day about mood boards, but one thing that's really cool, and again, this one I kind of forced together to prove a point, but aside from even kind of communicating ideas with others, what I would encourage you guys to even practice on your own is to use Pinterest or save images from searches, find images, try to have like some sort of idea or theme. Maybe it's like okay portraits or maybe it's studio portraits or maybe it's fashion. Whatever it is, come up with something and save a group of images that you love. Don't worry about like, that you think client's won't like it, just save something that you love and put it together and then study it. And you will be really surprised by the themes that you discover that you weren't even aware of. And it's happened to me recently, as I've started doing more of this. This is not intentional, like it's only in hindsight that I've understood that clearly I'm drawn to dark brown. Like, it's a color ... It's funny because I don't really like, I don't wear brown, I don't really have like, it's not a color that I connect with, but in my photography, it's like a really prominent theme. And I wasn't even aware of it, until I kind of started analyzing. And then as I looked at images that I had been saving on Pinterest, which is a tool that I love for collecting ideas and images and things to reference, I started kind of putting these things together and realizing like wow there's a lot of blue and brown in the images that I'm drawn to. And then you also start noticing wow, like I am collecting almost all vintage clothing. So it's a great tool for learning about yourself and what you're interested in. And it's also a great tool for developing themes and ideas as you present these things to clients or team members or even to yourself as you're starting to create a mood board. Another thing too, is like imagine we said okay, we're gonna create a vintage portrait and these are pictures that I pulled together and let's say maybe I thought okay, I think I want it to be brown and it'll be vintage, but let's just kind of see where it goes. If you pull this all together, one thing, probably, that I wasn't really thinking about that kind of jumps out at me, and I wasn't even aware of it when I made this for this exercise, but you've got the two characters with those bright color pops. And I've noticed that in my other work also. And so, all of a sudden, as you become aware of that, you can start to make better decisions around that. Again, it's something that, clearly, I've been drawn to but it's been more on accident. Now, I can actually start communicating that to people and expressing that in my ideas. So that's something I only would have really noticed if I pulled these images together and started studying them. So, as you create mood boards, look for emerging patterns. I wish I could show you some of the mood boards we used for these shoots for Creative Live, but there was a lot of really cool things like that, that showed up. There was one particular mood board, where we were talking about sets specifically, I pulled sets together. Images of actual sets or rooms that I found online that were interesting and I wanted to reference. And one thing I actually did was I completely blurred all the images out, so like the detail wasn't clear, but you could focus more on the color at that point, when the detail was gone. And all of the colors were completely different, but they were the same, exact like muted pastel tones. And it was like, oh interesting. I started thinking about color differently then and realized okay, I think muted color is actually something that's really important. And that was helpful as I communicated it to the team about wardrobe and color and all that kind of stuff.

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!