Portraits at Night


Lesson Info


When you want to make fantastic night portraits, it's really important that you do your homework first. You gotta get out there and scout. Cuz if something unexpected happens because you didn't check it out first, it's your fault. So I'm going to give you some tips on how to avoid that. Number one, go and visit the place you want to shoot at the same time you're going to be shooting, not just the daytime. Go there at the same time of night where you're going to be shooting, cuz then you're going to know how many people are around, how many street lights are on, are there cops. That kind of stuff. If you're not trying to attract attention of course. Everybody does it above the table you know. Number two, you should pre-visualize. While you're there take photographs of the scene that you want to do and if you have somebody with you have them stand in, so that you can evaluate it better, when you get back. Maybe bring a little gear with you, right? And number three, monitor to see how man...

y people come through during that time. It may or may not be important to what you do, but getting interrupted can break your flow and your creativity so, if you know that that's good and also you can keep an eye out for safety. Very important thing. This is an example when I went out scouting with my wife. This was the first shot when we went out and I'm like, I love these converging angles, I like the sky. I like the fact that it's a construction site. And here is the final image. Started with that ended with that. I'm really happy. The previzualising and the scouting helped. And I was nervous that it was a construction site. Honestly I was. But hanging out there for 20, 30 minutes, while I was scouting, helped ease my mind about it. Here is another one. I really loved how this looked. This is in Long Island City, Gantry park in New York City. I like that. I saw the kids hanging out there and I said, whoa I can put somebody out on that pier. Look at that. And what we did was we watched for a while and when we got there, people were there similarly to the scouting picture. And we had someone go around with a radio and say excuse me, can we borrow this space for 15 minutes, cuz we want to make something. So that's what we did. And those people were like oh sure, and then they asked ask questions about the project and they watched and they took Instagram pictures. It was great. Another one shooting underneath an iconic sign. I had my wife lay down. She wore the mask. I'm like, that's fantastic. And this is how it turned out. So scouting can turn into wonderful things. What makes a good location for me? I'm going to tell you my recipe for a good location. Big Sky. I really like big sky. Why? Because this is night photography. Let's not kid ourselves. We should be shooting what's most important in the night, the sky, right? Number two, water. I'm just enchanted with water. It's so good because it moves. What happens when you do a long exposure with water? It gets softer and softer, The longer you make your exposure. Put those two together, I'm in heaven. I could just stop right there. I don't need anything else. But other things that move, trees, grass, look for things that might move with the wind or with time. Cuz they can give evidence that you're making a long exposure. Four, cars. Cars is great. And five. Gabe and I are both big fans of this. Entropy, the decay of the works of man. If you shoot near those things, where they're just falling apart, it activates something emotional in us, like no we're not permanent. Time has an effect. When you marry those two things together and you're making a long exposure portrait it's sort of involuntarily brings up things inside of people, and they're like. I'm mortal. It's fun to play with that. And number six, if you don't like any of these things, totally okay. If it interest you, and it has some of these characteristics. Fantastic. Use it as an element. Shoot it. Most important. Stay classy. Be smart, be respectful. You just need to obtain permits and permissions, if you don't you're going to cause some people trouble and it's not just you it's the people with you, if you get them in trouble too you're a jerk. So don't do that. Number two, your model and crew's safety always comes first. You're last. They're first. You gotta to watch out for them. It was your idea. They're out there because of you. You take care of them. Number three, whatever you carry in carry it out. Don't leave a mess. That's part of being respectful. Red flags. If you get the hair standing up on the back of your neck, you might want to look around. Just weird feelings, you get hunches for a reason, right? No trespassing signs. Pretty clear sign you shouldn't be there, right? Don't do it. Dangerous wildlife. Like bears or people. I guess bears could be dangerous too. You just need to keep your on a swivel. Make sure it doesn't happen. And if you have no cell service, it's kind of important that you bring more people, bring radios do something. You're in a place where you can't ask for help and you gotta to think about the implications of that. Would you like to be an expert on looking at locations? Yes you do. Check out Chris Nicholson's presentation on scouting and finding good locations. He will blow your mind. I'm still learning from him. To wrap up, it's really important that you check out where you're going ahead of time, follow these steps and you're going to stay on course when you get there and you're ready to make your magic.

Class Description

Learn to capture amazing environmental portraits at night and incorporate a starry landscape or beautiful urban environment with your subjects. Get started in night portraiture by knowing what gear to choose, what to look for in locations and how to use your friends as subjects. Incorporate lights into your night photos and bring life to a long exposure. In this class you’ll learn: How to take self portraits at night without losing any of your background or subject How to choose a light source and add life to long exposures What to get right in camera and how to develop your images further in lightroom How to safely use pyrotechnics to take your portraits to another level  



I learned some techniques in Matt's class, which were helpful, but believe this was for the advanced photographer and i was a little confused at times. i would've liked to know the "how to" with the lights, showing how to program them with more detail. I am just learning how to set my camera for different lighting situations. But a very interesting course and glad i went through it.


Great class! Liked it so much that I booked a trip to Colorado to work with Matt and Lance on one of their National Parks at Night classes. Highly recommend.

Peter Mackenzie

I don't understand the negative reviews. This class feels less hands-on than the other classes in the series, but the information is useful and makes sense. You also need to understand that all classes out of the night photography series will cover the basics in one way or another, so there is some repetition. Whichever class out of the night photography series you view last will feel like it has more repetition, especially if you have some skills before taking those classes. Just skip the intro and move on to the tricks Matt has to share.