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Layer Four: Additional Light

Lesson 8 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

8. Layer Four: Additional Light


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out


What is Lighting in Layers?


Build a Lighting Foundation


Layer One: Main Light


Layer Two: Fill Light


Layer Three: Accent Light


Layer Four: Additional Light


Lesson Info

Layer Four: Additional Light

And the fourth layer is any additional lights you're using, so, whether, you know, you're lighting in a big room, and let's say you're in a lobby of a dance studio, or in the dance studio itself, and it's all going dark but you want it nice and bright. Sometimes you need to place lights in other parts of the room to light up the room, because the ambient light can't keep up with your strobe. So, there's all these other uses for other lights. I try and avoid them as best I can, but sometimes you just want it to look a certain way, and the only way to achieve that is to bring additional lighting. So, if you're lighting a backdrop, for instance, if you're shooting somebody on white, and, you know, you saw some of the white backgrounds I showed you, those people were almost leaning on the background. So your main light is also lighting your background. The further that person gets away from the backdrop, the less of that one light from your set up is hitting it, so it will start to fall of...

f and turn gray, and that's actually how I make white backgrounds gray or black, you just move the person further away. But sometimes you need to add additional lights because I want to do a full body of this person five feet away from the white background, but I still need that white background to be white. So you need to, you know, add additional lights to make it white. And we'll make a white background white later on, because there's a certain technique I use, and certain metering, to make sure that it's how I want it to look, so we'll talk about that when we're shooting this afternoon. Another thing I'll do is add other lights that have colored gels for effects. Awhile back, I should have brought of this, but I didn't. I shot a sports poster for Creighton University in Omaha with a bunch of the basketball, it was for the basketball team, and their colors are white and blue. The idea of the poster was that it was the four seniors standing in front of the skyline, it was all photoshopped together, so this was not real, but the skyline had a blue tint to it because that was the school colors. I wanted that to kind of show, act like it was glowing on the players, it was comped together in Photoshop, so they were not in front of the skyline, but I wanted it to appear that that skyline was projecting light onto the players as an accent light, so I put blue gels on the lights behind the players, so it kinda had that effect. It was really subtle, but it was one of those things where that was where I needed other lights with these colored gels to kind of achieve an effect that we thought of beforehand. I was like, how can we take this to the next level or do something different. So again, that was the fourth layer in our setup, and those are always done for a purpose, I'm not just throwing lights in there randomly, because as soon as you start doing that, confusion will ensue. So, I always want to make it, you know, there for a reason. And again, your options with that stuff are endless. There's so many different things that you can do when you're using lighting. I mean, you've all looked at magazines, one of the things I love doing, and this is when I started and I still do this today is I subscribe to a lot of magazines, I still go to Barnes and Noble all the time and browse the magazine racks, I know which day certain magazines come out because I want to see them. So I have this list of magazines that I always look through, and one thing I'm doing is checking out which photographer shot what, and Victoria and I play this game where we try an guess who, it's super nerdy, but we try and guess which photographer, you know, shot the cover of this. And more often than not, we know, so, I don't even know if I want to tell people that, but it's one of those things where you know by lighting style, because I've done this so many times. But then, what I ask myself is, okay I really love this photo, why do I like it. You know, especially if I'm going to use that as inspiration for another shoot. What part of this photo do I like? Is it the lighting, is it the location, is it the styling, is it the expression, is it the composition, any of those aspects. And when it is the lighting, I'm thinking, why do I like the lighting? Well, let's break it down, let's look at, catch lights and shadows and figure out where the light's coming from. Let's look at, like I said before, the gradient of the shadows. Is this a hard light, is it a soft light. All of those type of things are what I look at when I'm breaking down why I like an image, because then when I'm shooting later on, I might have this library, I do have this library of images in my head that I'm referencing, where I was like, oh yeah, this shot of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this field, it had this light, and that's kinda what I'm feeling right now, and if I remember right that was, you know, blah blah blah, the soft light from this angle. So I'm not recreating that exact image, but that feel of that image is what I liked, and that's what I'm going for. So, when I'm sitting at Barnes and Noble, writing down notes and taking mental notes, that's what I'm thinking at when I'm looking at images. And that even goes with the processing, too, and the workflow. It's like, this has a lot of added grain, or this person, with sharpness, and all those type of things. They're all the stuff I'm looking at and taking in and taking these mental notes of to reference later. So, using inspiration, but not just thinking, oh that's a good photo, but why does that speak to you. And, I do the same thing when breaking down seniors, we're going to get into that, I have the seniors bring images they like, and they can't explain it because they're not photographers, so I'll show you how I use those images to my advantage to figure out what they like and why, and we'll get into that when we talk about pre-session consults. So, I always like to end a lot of these segments on quotes from some of my favorite photographers, and one of them is William Eggleston. It says, "you become technically proficient "whether you want to or not, the more you take pictures." And basically what that says to me is you need to get out there and experiment, because you're not going to understand these concepts or build that foundation without actually doing it, kind of like going through your whole life in school and childhood and all that. You didn't learn the things you learned by just doing it once, you had to practice. Anybody who's played sports or done dance or plays an instrument, the more you do it, the more experience you get, and the better you get at it. So, for me, I didn't learn all this stuff just by reading it in a book or doing it once, I took all the things that I've learned, put them into practice, and I do shoots, those personal shoots I showed you earlier in the Keynote, those were shoots I did for me, not only to get this creative vision that's in my head on to paper, but also to get more experience with my lighting equipment in situations that aren't client based. You don't want to take a client out, who's paying you for their photos, and bring your lights for the first time. That's a recipe for anxiety and a disaster. So, I try and practice all those things on my time, not only to create my visions, but also to get more experience. And you know, bad things, not bad things but, things happen on those shoots that put you in situations where you have to act on the fly and make changes, and when that happens on your personal shoot and there's not this pressure of performing for a paying client, if something like that happens when you do have a paying client, you think, oh yeah, this happens on that fun shoot with the saw mill guy and here's how we handled it, and you can kinda act gracefully, and that experience helps you. So, you just become more technically proficient. Great, well we will go to some questions from online. Dan, Diana McKinney asked with regard back to when you were talking about the B1's and B2's, which of these, if you were just starting, and couldn't afford to do one, which would you maybe invest in in the beginning and again, what are the differences between having one or the other. And this should be said, too. I started with lighting in 2005, that's when I first bought lights. I didn't even know that ProPhoto was a think back then. I definitely, it's more expensive, it is, you get what you're paying for with the quality. So I don't know if her question's asking which of these two lights she should get, or which lights in general. But if it's about these two, it really doesn't matter. I started with the B2's first, and that's just because the use I wanted, I liked how lightweight the heads were. Like I said, the head on a B2 only weighs one and a half pounds, so, my thinking was I'm going to be carrying this out for a senior shoot, I don't have an assistant for a lot of these senior shoots, I don't want something that's really heavy up on the stand, I want something that's lighter, so I went with the B2's. As far as the power, we've already talked about that, there's only a one stop difference, so that's not really much of an issue. I don't think it matters much, although I will say, I think for your money you can get more out of the B2 kit, getting that you get two strobe heads, versus the B1 you only get one, for about the same price. But, like I said to start this, I didn't automatically start with ProPhoto lights either, because I know everybody's budget doesn't have, you know, $2,500 sitting around for your first lighting kit, and I wouldn't expect to do that because not everybody is going to fall in love with lighting the way I did, not everybody's going to stick with it. And your needs might, you know, maybe you can get away with just using something like a speed light. It doesn't really matter the light you use as long as you know how to use it. So, I'd say, you know, I started off using Alien Bees and other of those products that are much less expensive, and the results were great. And I have friends who create really awesome work using those lights, because that's what they started, and they've just stuck with it. So, there's not, again, there's not an answer to that as far as exactly what to buy, but just kind of knowing your needs and your budget and kind of making things fit there. And don't overspend on a bunch of that stuff right away until you know you like it, and you know what you need, so don't go out and buy everything. So Dan, when you were doing the studio shots, demonstrating the different lighting ratios, I noticed that your fill light was actually right behind the camera. Yes. Do you usually do that, because I've always done 45 on both sides. Okay, so, that's a great question, and I'm going to address it. We are going to do that when we're shooting, but I'll address it right now as well. I do put the fill light a lot of times above the camera, and I like to refer to that as on axis fill, so it's on the same axis on my camera, because if I'm standing right here and you're photographing me, and my main light is over here. What you're saying is you probably put your fill light over here? The reason I don't do that is a couple reasons, one, if you're doing something that's more like a one to one light ratio, or even two to one, sometimes you'll start introducing nose shadows, both directions, and it gets a little confusing or unflattering. Also, I don't love sometimes when I see those catch lights coming from both sides of the eyes, so you have two catch lights. It's more of a personal preference. The other thing is, the whole reason I'm using the fill is to fill shadows from the perspective of where I'm seeing it on my camera. So, if you're photographing me from here again, and your main light's coming from this side, the shadow's falling over here, I don't necessarily feel the need to fill the shadow from her vantage point, but you as the photographer, your camera's seeing here, so if I'm filling from that general direction, that fill is going to happen here. It's just easier for me to visualize it, and I'm not introducing a bunch of confusing shadows that I don't want to deal with later. Again, it definitely depends on the situation, but a lot of the times, I actually learned that from a photographer named Peter Yang, he's an awesome celebrity photographer. I took a workshop from him several years ago, and one of the things he taught us was that he always puts it on axis, and I had never thought of it that way either. Obviously, I've been a huge fan of his photos, and seeing him teach it and follow that, that was one thing that I took from that workshop, and I thought, this is what I'm going to do from now on, because it just made a lot more sense. And again, when I'm adding an extra light for fill, I'm not trying to create any more complications, so me putting that light above my camera just kind of let me have another layer of control. So, we'll talk about adding fill when we actually do it. And I'll do a sample of when I do move it over there, and you can see the difference. Thank you. Yep.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Lighting Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lighting Terms Guide

Ratings and Reviews

pete hopkins

awesome teacher and awesome technique. after soooo many webinars, it's really great to see someone break it down to the bare bones of lighting with exceptional quality results. i can listen to Dan all day. no pretense, no over the top emotional pleas, no drama! did i say awesome!!!! Plus, I'm a huge fan of the B! and B2 systems. Freedom is key. Now I can shoot anywhere, anytime. Thanks Dan.


This is by far the best class on senior photography I have found on creativelive. Dan explains the technical aspects in an easy to understand format. He does a great job going through studio shots, outdoor shots, editing and marketing. He's given me some great ideas and inspired me to be more creative. I am going to rewatch the lighting set up for the "hero shot". It's super cool!

Tristanne Endrina

Dan was great. His class was very comprehensive but easy to follow. The slides he used weren't flashy. Instead, they were simple and he went at a good pace. I left feeling like I could really pull off the lighting techniques he taught. I'm excited to put what I learned into my photography. :) Thanks, Dan.

Student Work