Photo & Video > Portrait > Portrait Photography: Creating And Styling Your Environment > Shoot: Building Environment & Lighting Adjustments

Shoot: Building Environment & Lighting Adjustments

 

Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

 

Lesson Info

Shoot: Building Environment & Lighting Adjustments

We left a few unfinished details so we can kinda work through that on camera, and you guys can kinda see the final pieces coming together. And I think our model, Trasie, is here and ready to roll, so let's bring you in, if we can. So I'm gonna have you have a seat right there. And I know we haven't had a chance to talk yet about, but basically, the idea is just imagine that this is kind of like a shipping yard. It's at night, and so, you're gonna be holding this radio, and you can just kind of imagine you have to do your nightly calls. You're wrappin' up for the night and you're just kinda doing check-in. So we're gonna get kind of like a very weary, kind of tired but confident look, kind of, out here. You're gonna be leaning back, kind of. We'll find the right angles. Once we get you in position, it'll probably be a lot of holding still and slight movements and stuff, but we'll finesse all that as we get going. And let me know if you have any questions. Thanks, John, that's better. Ye...

ah, as long as it's not covering it up. Is that clipboard our department, or is that? Oh, it is, okay. So I'm gonna have you lean your head back a little bit more. There we go. So, we're just basically testing light right now, (camera clicks) and testing the set, and all that kinda stuff. All right, so, Ken, I think we gotta push that chair over, well. It's hugging the box right now. It's hugging the box? Okay, hold on, I think I need to move a little bit. So I'm gonna have you lean back a little bit more as best you can, and then let's get her, let's see. Lean towards me just a little bit at your waist, if you could. Yeah, just slide your back. There we go, yeah. And then tilt your head, there we go, chin down a little bit and look right at the camera. (camera clicks) Okay. Sorry. So, let's see. Where's that reference, is it still up? Okay, cool. Bring your chin down a little bit more. (camera clicks) (man speaking quietly) Not yet, I don't think we're quite ready for it. Okay, I think, Ken, I think we're gonna have to go up on the key. I want to kinda create, like, Rembrandt light pattern on her face. Right now, the shadow's not quite long enough. Is that two-by-three firing?? It is, but it's like a very, here, I'll turn it off. Yeah, turn off the beauty and then we'll see where it's at. The beauty or the-- Turn off the beauty just so I can see the power of where the softbox is. All right, softbox. You want to dump it? Okay, are you gonna dump? (man mumbling) All right, ready? Firing. (camera clicks) All right. Oh, you know what? I think that's coming from the flare light. Hold on, I'm not necessarily opposed to it. We just have to understand what each light source is doing, but I didn't think it was gettin' her that much color. So the two I have on right now is the fill and the two-by-three, if you wanna see what looks like. Oh, the flare is not on? No, the flare is off right now. Oh, but it was on? Okay, okay. (camera clicks) All right, let's take a look. Okay, so I think the softbox needs to come up maybe 2/3 of a stop. (camera clicks) And... Bring it up another half. (camera clicks) All right, let's put the beauty back on. John, what about the radio? Is it playing too much of a part? Well, we'll have to move it right now, but when we get the lights set, then we'll have to mess with that, yeah. So we got beauty and softbox? And fill. Oh, the fill's back on? (camera clicks) All right. I don't think the fill's on. (man mumbles) Okay, the fill's on, but it's just not doing anything. (camera clicks) Is it firing? I haven't seen it fire one. I'm gonna fire one up. (camera clicks) No. (man mumbles) Okay. All right, Trasie, drop your chin down a little bit, and then slightly, yeah, there we go, just like that. Perfect, that looks great. (camera clicks) Hold it right there. All right, so, that beauty's gotta come up in height, couple feet, probably. And then, when you're working with gridded lights, a great trick to do is basically, it looks weird if you don't know what's going on, but basically, you always wanna kinda get your head right behind your subject, and then you can look into the grid and you can basically see exactly where it's pointing. So for this case, it's pointing, we got it right at her. (camera clicks) So we're just trying to control the shadow right now. Before, we had the nose shadow kind of going sideways a little bit, so I'm trying to get that shadow going down a little bit more. You can go up a little higher with it. You might need to move that softbox back. This is with fill? This one is. Okay. (man mumbles) Let's walk the fill in a little bit, or we could leave it back and just turn it up, if that's easier. All right. Do you want to just go up a third? On the fill? Yeah. The fill's gonna have to come up quite a bit more. What's our power at right now on the fill? 3.2. I wouldn't look at this screen at all. I don't think that's... This is still calibrated, right? Yes. Okay, yeah. (man mumbles) Yup. Can I fire? Yeah. All right, firing. (camera clicks) The fill went up, (mumbles) nothing else changed. (man mumbling) Wait, you didn't change it? (man mumbling) The fill's gotta go up. Okay, now it's up. Here, I'll... So, yeah, you gotta come up a little bit, and then I'd feather off just, yeah, stop, come back. Right there, perfect. All right, let's boost that softbox up too to kinda match it. And go up even higher, there you go. All right, firing. (camera clicks) It's better, but, there's still a little of it. Walk the key around a little bit more. Maybe it's wrapping too much. Hey, JC, could you spot that grid form? It's right about here. Oh, it doesn't do it, sorry. We still have the softbox over there, so we gotta... Ready? Yup. Firing. (camera clicks) Okay, come on now. (man mumbles) It's okay, all right. We had the softbox firing. That's why nothing was changing. Bring the beauty back a little bit. Keep going, keep going. All right, let me just rough one in real quick. (camera clicks) All right, there we go, now we're talking. So, let's spot it on her. Looks good. And then, now, let's bring that softbox and just wrap it around the outer edge towards the camera. What's our range? Are we all the way out of the top on the fill? No, we're at five-seven. On the fill? Or, sorry, the back fill. Is on the four to six. Okay, rather than walk it in, let's just, 'cause our set is so deep, we need to keep range. So let's just put the power up another stop, I would say. (camera clicks) All right. There we go, that's a little better. The fill needs to come down in height. Do we have any? Yes. (mumbles) Two inches, I think. Oh. Give me all you got. And then, do we have a C-stand for the flare light? The wheels are gonna be in-frame. All right. Can I see a beanie on her while we're also-- You wanted the green one? I don't know, I think it's gonna be too loud. I think we need to do a dark one. The navy or the green one? Either-or, we could try either. Do you want the gloves too? Except the gloves are green and-- I know, we'll have to shift the colors in post. I'd like to see the gloves, I think they're kinda cool. Oh, we have maroon too. So... Monochromatic? I also think we're gonna need to put this on sticks, so let's, yeah. I'm gonna fire real quick. (camera clicks) I'm sorry, I'm super confused. Those are firing? Yeah, these are (mumbles), they should be. Pop it. (beeping) Trasie, look this way for me again, would you? There we go. (camera clicks) All right. (whistling) (mumbling) (laughing) I think we're gonna need to walk both the beauty and the softbox in another foot, foot-and-a-half. (man mumbles) No, towards, like, walk it, yeah, kind of swing it around her a little, we need a little more wrap. Stop right there, try that. John, (mumbles) lighting challenges and what you're trying to get to? Yeah, sure, so, I don't like the lighting, basically. (laughing) Talk us through it. Basically, we're trying to establish a light with our key light on her. As you can see now, actually, I really do like this light. I'm looking for a solid triangle on camera left, her right side, and I'm looking for a pretty bright, even light on her left side, camera right side. So, before, what we were getting was just kind of elongated shadow from her nose, and again, there's no rules, but for me, I find shadows from the nose really distracting. So I try to either keep them very clean, or I try to do what's called Rembrandt lighting, where you have this triangle, 'cause the nose shadow is so long, that it connects into the shadow on the cheek. So, I'm trying to basically get it here. We may still need to move it a little bit, if she's leaning back again, but this is starting to look pretty nice. And then, pretty much, really, I think we just got a little overexcited. Typically, that's why I think it's best to just start with the key and build from there. We kinda had, like, a bunch of lights firing at once, and so it starts to get confusing. Like, what light's actually doing what, which is kind of exactly why I was trying to teach that yesterday, and then not doing it today. But that's why you always wanna build, 'cause then you know exactly what's coming from where, and you can control it better. Otherwise, you're doing kind of what you saw for the last five minutes. And then the fill behind me is just trying to bring up those value, the shadows, that are feeling really heavy. The reason I wanna try to get the back fill down a little lower is because it was creating its own shadow under her chin. And so, now, I think it's starting to wrap. It's okay to have shadow down there, but I don't want a hard line, so we were just trying to get to a place where it wasn't creating a new shadow that kind of became distracting, or hinted at multiple different lighting sources coming in. So, let's try this and see how we're doing. Your sticks are there if you want 'em-- Okay, cool, thanks. Yeah, let's get that mounted up. All right. You want me to do a little dirt powder? Yes, please. Is there any way to get that maybe on a different stand or something, but just try to lower the back fill? Here. Here. John, let's switch to the small baby. Yes. Can you bring it over here for me? Thanks. And then-- Up a little higher? Yeah, I think we're gonna need it, like, whoa! And then, John, talk to us about, while you don't fall over, talk to us about moving on to the tripod too. So I'm gonna use a tripod because this set, yeah, let's bring it up a little bit. I'm gonna move. This set is, we're really tight on the edges, so, we're kinda falling off both sides, and there's gonna probably need to be a little bit of post-work done, and I wanna just have consistent frames that make it easier to do that, whatever image we land on. Also, because we're so tight, I don't want to have to spend excessive time recomposing every time I move the camera. So, I think in this case, because I know I'm gonna keep her, for the most part, in the same place, I don't want to have to deal with that. So this will allow us to, hopefully, shoot more, and not be worrying constantly about angles and things like that. How's that height for you? I think that's gonna be pretty good, but I will see. Let's see, this one, I need to, ooh, shoot! There we go. Try that. We may need to come up a little bit. And then, J-Pop is just adding some dirt, so we're kind of trying to play off of the style that we set in the first shot from this series, so. I don't know that we're gonna do any scarring. Not everybody gets in a knife fight. There we go. All right, let's see. All right, firing. Crossing. (camera clicks) All right, so Trasie, I'm gonna have you, yeah, keep your head, yeah, there we go. Actually, shoulders back a little bit more this way. There we go, and then turn your head a little more towards me. Tilt your head a little bit, right there. Chin down. (camera clicks) Good, good, good. All right. Let's see. Can you lean towards me at your waist a little bit more? So kinda slide down the back of that chair a little bit. There we go. Oh, you know what? Yeah, we do need to raise up. (man mumbles) Yeah, thanks. We're losing that light on the wall so I need to come up, like, probably four, five inches to start? Exactly, just like that. Just on that one? Not all of them, not four, just... And then, we have the hazer ready if we wanna fly in. Just trying to brush your center in for (mumbles). What do you think about the beanie versus no beanie? I kinda like this beanie. I like the beanie. Yeah, I do too. I like the texture of this beanie, I think, better than the other ones, so if the color's off, we'll just have to shift it. I like maroon. Try that. Cool. Here we go. That was a nice counterpoint, John. You see, it's random seeing this, the seat of the chair-- Right, oh, that's true. That's a good point. Okay. Maybe the gloves will have to change then. I am gonna move that radio back a little bit so we can see it a little less-- Yeah, hold on, let me just make sure. This is, what is going on? Where's the mark? Pretty much the mark's from yesterday, huh? Yeah. (mumbles) Oh, I see. I pulled in, that's why. I'm just missing her legs now. All right. I picked, like, the two most finicky setups to start with. (laughs) There we go, come on. All right. (camera clicks) I feel like we may need to, we may need to raise her chair up a little bit. If you do, the bottom of the chair plays more than you probably want it to. Right. You know, I think it becomes more about the seat she's on, and that doesn't help your story. I know, she just feels a little lower than... Maybe it'll be okay. I think I've got the test shots in my head too much. So, all right. I think I'm feeling really good about this framing. I feel like... So you just want her left leg raised, just 'cause-- Yeah, I think the left leg needs to be higher than the-- That helps change some things. I actually think your left leg should be out more. Yeah, there we go. And I think your right knee should come towards us, so kind of-- The right leg? Yeah, that knee should, there we go. Yeah, so there's, like, some separation between the two. There we go. Good, good, good. (camera clicks) Let's try that. Her arm will probably be doing something with the radio too, right? Yeah, try to lean back a little bit, and then I wanna see you with your, yeah, right hand. Hold it up, not in front of your mouth, but just, like, a little bit in front of your chest, kind of like you were just talking and you just set it down for a second. And then look right over here. Right there. Lips apart, like you're about to say something. There we go. (camera clicks) Look right here. (camera clicks) There we go. Okay, that's good. All right. Can you bring that in a little closer to me? Your flare light is also off. Right, right, right. You know what? Let's do something. Let's actually lower the beauty dish and the softbox. I think that'll give us more flexibility, 'cause trying to get this Rembrandt lighting is just gonna hold us back. So, yeah, try right there. I can lower it and walk it in. What's that? I can lower it in and walk it in. No, I just think it's too finicky of a. JC, can you check the grid? So, basically, we're just lowering the lights now, and the desired effect, hopefully, is that the shadow under her nose is gonna shrink a little bit. But everything else, for the most part, should stay the same. It looks good. All right, here we go, firing. (camera clicks) And the reason we say firing is so that people don't go blind if they're staring at the light when you're shooting it off. All right, I feel pretty good about that. J-Pop, I feel like we need maybe a little, just have, like, a little bit of shine on camera right. This is feeling really nice to me, though. Oh, foggy doggy. I can do the flare now. All right, here we go, so we got the-- And I'm just diminishing this a little bit. Okay, cool. On the same plane, which is just, like, making it a little bit more. Okay. I want to do something about the way this intersects with that, and just minimize this a little. Yeah. All right, so now we're adding in the haze. And we are also gonna turn on the light pointed right at the camera. JC, can you make sure that that's not gonna hit her? I see the glow from here. (mumbles) So it comes through the fog by turning it towards the camera. Yeah, I think you wanna be back there a little bit more. And now, point the head. Yeah, keep going, keep going. (mumbling) Right about there. (mumbles) I think that might be okay. Let's see how it does. Fog's gonna do it by itself. (laughs) All right, firing. (camera clicks) Little hot. All right, we gotta let that haze dissipate slightly. I'm not sure about the clipboard. What do you think? I like it 'cause I think, otherwise, it's just too planar. It's nice to have a breakup of something. What else do we have? Maybe it's just that it's blue paper, you know? Take the paper out, let me, but I think the shape is not, I'll do it, I'll do it, John. (man mumbles) I mean, I think it is nice. Try it without, let's see, but I think this should have another little detail going on. I went down one stop. (camera clicks) All right, I like this light a lot. And we are getting a little orange, but it's kind of nice. It adds a little bit of color on her. I don't think it's flaring as much as coloring the diffuser, diffusion. Coloring the-- The haze. Yeah, yeah, I should-- It's a nice effect. Yeah, we're not actually going for flare, you're right. I think you're right, John. We probably do need the blue paper in there, yeah. Seeing is believing. All right, this is startin' to feel pretty good. (camera clicks) Can you check focus on her for me? John, do you feel like we need anything kind of done in that area? [Set Designer John] Let me see it again on the big-big, 'cause I sort of like that it's spare, but I can certainly throw in something and we can try it. Just a little more rope coming in from the other side or something. Or what about just an edge? It might be too much, but I was thinking the barrel, or I don't know. Yeah, let me try it and let's see. (mumbles) To clear that barrel? Her focus is perfect. Her focus is perfect? Yes. Okay, cool. Yeah, the clipboard is blurry, but I think that's good. Nice. Yeah, I mean, this is lookin' pretty good. All we needed was fog. I know, seriously. All right. Trasie, you're so good, you don't have to do anything. I'm crossing your set here. Here's one I did, John, is that we could throw in just the edge of this thing. Let me see. A cleat down there. Bring it in a little bit. It's still out of frame. Keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going. Okay. Yeah, let me see that. That's interesting. All right, firing. (camera clicks) (man mumbles) [Set Designer John] I mean, it does something. Yeah. [Set Designer John] You know, the concern is that it starts feeling like the Sea Galley, you know? Right, right, right. We can bring in the edge of the barrel. It may start feeling a little prop-y. Well, for me, I think that's good. It's like it's a balance of three, as opposed to just two things. It felt like-- Fair enough, yup. It makes its own sense there, I think, right? That's good. Okay. Do you have the reference image anymore? No, we're doing better than the reference image at this point, I think. I think the only thing, if anything, it's probably pretty good. We may want to just, like, I don't know if we wanna raise the radio like an inch or two maybe? Just to see a little more dial. Yeah, yeah, I agree. Let me find a way to do that. The haze is, like, perfect right now though. I'm gonna fire off another one. (camera clicks) Trasie, turn and look kind of over to this direction. Yeah, there we go. I'm gonna fire one off, okay (mumbles)? (camera clicks) I like that, just to see more business there. Yeah, that's cool. If anything, you could, I don't know, I feel like it could come this way, and up, just, like, the slightest pinch, you know? So that at least one dial is in, and then maybe the second one's cut off. [Set Designer John] So comin' in this way a little bit more? Yeah. If we tilt it more, it may start feeling off-balance. We may need to raise the whole thing more. [Set Designer John] Okay, let's see what this is like and then we'll do that if we need to. Okay. Well, let's see. (camera clicks) So, okay, yeah. We're lookin' pretty good. [Set Designer John] Do you want me to go higher, 'cause I could just make some slices of this stuff-- I don't think it needs it, what do you think? [Set Designer John] I think it's okay, and it doesn't feel tipped. Yeah, I agree. Okay. (man mumbles) Let's see. John, I'm using the edge of that as my level of the wall. Is that... Let me get a level, 'cause I think it's close, but I bet it's not. I don't know if it's just right dead-on. Let me see. All right, so I think we're lookin' pretty good here. [Set Designer John] Crossing. Stay right there, one more test. Trasie, chin down a little bit. (camera clicks) Let's get into kind of like a, you know, grandpa sittin' in his chair, kind of, you know, like, comfort. [Set Designer John] John, it leans back a little. I don't think that's a little bit. But that's not anything I can compensate for. I think that's fine, right? So, John, sorry, just to reiterate, now it feels like you're getting where you want to be, lighting-wise and style-wise. Now, are you just fine-tuning at this point? Pretty much, yeah, at this point, I'm just being super picky because I can, but I mean, it's just all those little details. I like to overthink and make sure, 'cause once I start shooting, I'm not gonna look at any of that stuff anymore 'cause I've got the camera on tripod. So I want to think about it once, and then I just want to focus on the subject and be taking pictures and working with them. So if you start that too soon, then you get back to your computer when the shoot's done and everyone's gone home, and you're like, "Oh, man, I wish I had paid more attention," or whatever, and it's too late at that point. Another really cool thing in this situation about shooting on a tripod is we can do things like take a plate without the clipboard and take a plate without the tie-off, and then put it on. We can put all kinds of crazy stuff in there, and we can basically, like, pick and choose, like Mr. Potato Head-style in post and build that digitally, even, because nothing's moved. The angles are all there kinda thing, so it gives you a little more flexibility for someone like me who gets overwhelmed by options and wants to have all the options at my disposal. Awesome, thank you. All right, yeah, of course. That's what we're here for. Trasie, that's pretty good. (camera clicks) Okay, we're not live, that's why I keep, are we live on this one? Yeah, that should be what you just took. Okay, wait, turn your head extreme for me for a second and let me see. (camera clicks) [Set Designer John] John, let me ask you about that. Okay. The top crate, I mean, do you want to soften that a little bit, or does it feel like, I don't want it to feel too prop-y, you know? But if that top-- I mean, it is kind of on the same line as the radio. You could pull it back, is that what you mean? I didn't, that is something, but I just meant, yeah, but let me try that. That may solve it. I just meant is it too much of a shelf that needs a vase. It's not screaming at me, but it could-- Okay. It doesn't need something. Yeah, let me see. (camera clicks) Oh, you're thinking it needs something? It may, to soften it, or just to-- Oh, I'm sorry, I see what you're saying. [Set Designer John] Changes that hard line. Well, basically, here's where we're at from the move. [Set Designer John] But that sort of helped solve the problem, I think. Now it's not a big blank space that feels like it needs something, okay. Yeah, I prefer this also, I think. Okay.

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

What our students are saying:
“The amount of information John gives is mind blowing. To see the process from beginning to end, the road map to creativity...you cannot help but to be on the right road to success. He gives you steps to take and shows you how it's done.”
- Lorenzo Hill

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.

Lessons

1Class Introduction
2Creative Photography Path
3Importance of Personal Work
4Concepts and Inspiration
5Choosing Your Environment
6Research and Mood Boards
7Finding Your Style
8Establishing a Team
9Jobs on Set
10Production Hurdles
11Working with an Art Director
12Pooling Resources
13Casting
14Wardrobe
15Set Design and Props: Interview with John Lavin
16Gear
17Lighting
18Technical vs. Flexible Lighting
19Creating Environment
20Gear Essentials vs. DIY Solutions
21Lighting for Your Subject
22Lighting for Your Environment
23Q&A
24Directing Your Subject
25Tips for Directing Talent
26Pre-Lighting and Test Shoots
27Shoot: Stylized Portrait - Close Up Part 1
28Shoot: Stylized Portrait - Close Up Part 2
29Shoot: Stylized Portrait - Close Up Part 3
30Set Tour and Lighting Set Up
31Shoot: Building Environment & Lighting Adjustments
32Shoot: Building Environment Part 1
33Shoot: Building Environment Part 2
34Photo Critique
35Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Set Tour
36Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 1
37Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 2
38Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 3
39Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 4
40Shoot: Scuba in the Hull Part 1
41Shoot: Scuba in the Hull Part 2
42Shoot: Scuba in the Hull Part 3
43Image Selection: Stylized Portrait
44Image Selection: Building Environment
45Image Selection: Row Boat in Fog
46Image Selection: Scuba in the Hull
47Next Steps: Create New Work
48Next Steps: Share Your Work
49Next Steps: Marketing and Branding Consistency
50Final Image Reveal - Concept and Casting
51Final Image Reveal - Retouching: Communication and Direction
52Final Image Reveal - Final Q&A