Pushing Your Creativity


Portraits at Night


Lesson Info

Pushing Your Creativity

Taking a picture of somebody at night is just taking a picture of somebody at night. When I head out, I always look to add both fun and creativity to these shoots, 'cause, otherwise, why do it? Here's some things that I've learned along the way, that I'm gonna share with you, so that you can bring them to your shoots. And perhaps you do things that surprise me. I'm looking forward to that. The most important thing that you can do is get out of your comfort zone. If you feel like you can do it, and you got this, and you've done it a dozen times, you might want to stretch a little bit. Reach a little further. Get uncomfortable. Those butterflies are very important. And, most importantly, comfort doesn't equal art. Comfort is more associated with commerce. If you are a commercial photographer, I'm not judging you. I'm so glad that you're making money. That's fantastic. But you can bring bigger and better things to your clients by doing some uncomfortable things to make pictures that they ...

don't normally get to buy. So, heed my words, getting a little uncomfortable can reap rewards, because you're gonna make pictures that nobody else is offering. Get those butterflies. They mean you're growing. When you get a little bit nervous, it means that you're out of that comfort area. Make yourself uncomfortable. "Okay, that's great, Matt. "Thanks. "How do we do this?" Well, let's go back to my favorite question, "What if?" What if has been the source, the fountain of almost every cool, creative thing that I've done. That question kicked off a whole series of events, where I tried something that I didn't do before, and I ended up saying, "Huh. I'm gonna do that thing more. "And what if I do this?" Let's talk about some examples. This is Rockaway Beach right after Hurricane Sandy. About two weeks after. Terrible event. Absolutely atrocious. A lot of people got their homes ruined. But we went out there and we said, "All right, we're gonna do this night paper shoot." Which I'll tell ya more about later. But we wanted to have a little bit of fun in the space where the boardwalk got torn off. These stone structures, these cement structures held up the boardwalk for 80 blocks in that direction, and 80 blocks in that direction. And I said Clara, "Can you bring some sort of fun outfit? "I know it's November. "I know it's really cold. "But let's try and do something fun." I said, "What if I used my Profoto Acute B, "with a Magnum and a Grid, "what if I had you walk around? "And I'm just gonna sort of follow you around, "and go pop, pop, pop." Multiple exposure in one. It's something I don't do often. I like to have people in one place. But she said, "I like that." And I manage to get, this is her body, I got her face this big, and then got her face little in here. Next what if. I taught at Bannerman, on this island in the middle of the Hudson, for about six years now. What if I challenged myself to make a portrait of that family castle residence on the hill, that I've never made before? So, I said, "All right. I'm gonna take some art, "and I'm gonna put it in my Pixelstick, "and I'm gonna add elements that just don't exist there. "I'm gonna hand create this art. "And I'm gonna make this portrait better." Here's some examples of the things that I do. I sort of make my own brushes, or my own art. And then I walk through with a Pixelstick, and it dramatically changes the portrait of the building. What if I'm waiting to take a picture of an arch out in the Valley of Fire in Nevada, and there's a whole bunch of other photographers? What if I choose amuse myself instead of getting angry that there's people in front of the thing I want to take pictures of. Okay, I'll make portraits of them using the lights on the back of their cameras and their flashlights. So, I created an environmental portrait of my peers while they were doing their craft. What if I make my own light shapers? I took some Bristol which is some really tough white paper, nice, hard edge, and I made myself this fan-shape Speedlight modifier, that I call the toothy grin, 'cause it has all these like fingers of paper at the end of it, and the Speedlight goes through, and it's fan-shaped. And I use that to make this portrait. It's just beautiful, and soft, and golden. And I didn't know that I could do that. I just made it out of paper. So, that led me to thinking, "What else can I do with paper?" I'm gonna make a giant paper snoot I was using Profoto D1s then, starting my night paper project. I said, "I don't have the light shapers I want, "but I got the flashes. "I want a very narrow piece of light, "but I want a little bit of ambient around it." What did I make with that? I made this portrait. This portrait has two of those super snoots made out of paper on either side, casting those beautiful crisp shadows, and the edge lighting. And it unlocked the ability for me to do my very first night paper shoot. What if I get a little irreverent, and I have this angle smoking? And I wave some Christmas lights behind it. Otherwise, it's just a statue, right? What if I hijacked some public art. I have a model stand in. They're doing a projection. Wow, look at that, I totally changed what was happening in that public art space by adding my own art to it. What if we find a piano buried in the sand underneath the Brooklyn Bridge? Let's go take some pictures there. What if I have an opportunity to shoot the Headless Horsemen in Sleep Hollow Cemetery? I don't like compositing, but he'll run through five times. All right, so I'm gonna do five different things with him, and I composited it into this picture. Although, I don't like compositing. What if I got over it? Do you see how powerful that question is? What if is the most important question you can ask yourself. And you should experiment with every light source possible. So, what if you experimented with every light source possible? Give it a shot. This is the next phase of leveling up. We're doing night portraits. Yes, we are. And how do you make more life appear in your night portraits? Well, let's start with something fun. Let's make a highlighter combined with a UV light. But it's like secret writing. It happens with the UV light only. You can't see it until then. So I'm gonna make a little art on Caitlyn. With your permission, may I? Yes, you may. Always ask permission. And now we're going to make some art. Let's check our progress. Pretty cool, huh? Maybe I should just keep it on. I love it. Don't look in the light. Sorry. Some electric eye shadow. There's one side. And the other side. All right, let's go shoot. Now we're outside. I've set a scene up. My camera's ready. I've prefocused. You should've learned all these things in Gabriel Biderman's class. So, my focus is set on manual. My ISO is 100. f/8 is my aperture. I also placed a Profoto B1 Battery Monolight up in the window. It's got a Magnum reflector and a grid on it. And that's gonna simulate window light coming out through there. We've got all this beautiful window light coming out of this lodge here. It's beautiful. And our model Caitlyn, who's recently been drawn on with highlighter, is waiting patiently in the mist. So, let's not let her get so cold. Let's take a picture. First time I'm gonna do, is make an exposure just for the flash. So, we're gonna set that to like a second. And I'm gonna test, and make sure the flash is good. Single exposure of a flash. Looks very, very good. I'm gonna bring it up just a little bit. Good. And we'll make one more. Three, two, one. Okay, review. Flash looks beautiful. And this is great. You can't see anything of the highlighter there, right? 'Cause that's straight, full spectrum light. Now, I'm going to increase my exposure to 30 seconds, which I have previously worked out with a high ISO test. And I know that it's gonna work out. I also have my intervalometer set to a 10-second delay. So, that means I can get into position. And I'm going to hit this right now. 10 seconds counting. And walk over, and get ready to light paint. All right, face over to me, Caitlyn. Close your eyes. And because I'm moving, I'm not going to be part of the exposure. Now we have the wonderful exposure of Caitlyn with her face facing this way with the flash, and then this really moody one, another darker side of her facing away on the other side. Wow, I love it. It's beautiful. Let's do one more. Caitlyn, it's gonna be a 10-second countdown, starting now. Love it. Strong pose. All right, face to me. Eyes closed. All right, move your arms the opposite way. Keep your face there. Excellent. You can relax. And now she looks a little bit like Shiva. Oh, that's beautiful. Great. Okay, let's get a robe for Caitlyn, so she can warm up. The next thing I'm gonna do, is I'm gonna level this up one more time. We're gonna keep the UV, but I'm gonna put the Pixelstick together. And now I'm gonna weave in and out there, in addition to doing this. I'm gonna give myself a little extra time. I'm gonna set the exposure to one minute. Give me a second to adjust my intervalometer here. Okay, Caitlyn. I love that pose you did last time. Let's do something similar. Excellent. Countdown begins now. Eight, seven, six, five, four, three. Face to me. Eyes closed. And now relax. Fantastic. I love it. There's one last thing I'd like to do. Let's pop some smoke. So, we're going to go red smoke, UV, plus flash. So, we have combined those three, and we have the Tungsten lights from the inside. So, really mixing up colors a lot here. And this is when things get crazy, and you gotta know when to control them. Now, we're doing that right here. ISO 100, f/8, one minute. Now, I only doubled the exposure last. But I did that, and the light that came through didn't burn out, which is pretty extraordinary. This light that's coming through this time is gonna do something even different. It's going to now push through all the smoke. And we're gonna get a completely different effect. So, I'm gonna use the Pixelstick again. I'm gonna first UV on Caitlyn, and then I'm gonna Pixelstick behind, while the smoke is happening. So, we're ready on smoke? Ready. Excellent. Ready, Caitlyn? Sure. Fantastic. I love that pose. Right arm down just a little bit more. Up tiny bit. Good. 10 count starts now. 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, pop smoke. Face to me, eyes closed. Move your arm down. This one. Great. And I always walk out of frame, to have that leaving edge leaving the frame. Pretty extraordinary. All right, we have one more opportunity. Uh, Caitlyn, I'm sorry, let's do robe one more time while there's still a little smoke. Sorry about that. We're gonna take advantage of that lingering smoke. 10 count starts now. 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four. Perfect. Face to me. Eyes closed. Right arm down. All right, you can relax. Just hold that pose. Oh, wow. Does everybody see this? We have a winner. Well, we saw a lot of fun stuff happen tonight. Leveling up your night portraiture can include a lot of things. Light rating, ultraviolet light, smoke, kinetics. Just play with time and motion. And say yes everything, except the dangerous stuff. I'll see you on your next level up.

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.