Skip to main content

Live Shoot: Basics of Direction

Lesson 24 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

24. Live Shoot: Basics of Direction


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

Live Shoot: Basics of Direction

Alright so what I'm gonna do next is, I'm actually gonna move back a little bit and we're gonna keep the same hard light but I'm gonna leave it on the stand and I'm gonna get more of like the 3/4 length. So we're still gonna shoot with the 50, we're not gonna need to use two TL any more because we're not gonna be moving the light as much. She's gonna stay in the same spot, you can stay right there. We're gonna use this same hard reflector, but what I'm gonna do is I want more, I want less falloff, so I want it to be more evenly lit. So we're gonna move it back a little bit and then what we're gonna have to play with is where we want the shadow to fall. So the more we go this way the less shadow we're gonna cast. The more we go this way the more shadow that's gonna hit the wall. So we're gonna go up with it. This will take a little bit of tweaking here. (grunts) Yes? [Female Instrutor] Cam while you're doing that, can you, this is a question from Dave, tell us again about the choice o...

f lens for the 50 millimeter because of he's saying well sometimes that's known as unflattering for portraits. Yeah so that's the thing, it is known as unflattering a little bit but that's in the realm of thinking traditionally. Mm hmm. You saw the pictures, they weren't unflattering so it's just a matter of how you use it. If we were to be shooting, you know maybe at a more wide open, like 1.4 aperture and from a higher angle where someone's forehead looked bigger because we're shooting down. I was actually shooting a little bit up on her because she's taller than me. And so that changed, it didn't make, it didn't have that same effect of that distortion. So I like using the 50 in that way. If we were to use a 35 we would see more of that and that's what we showed earlier when I, when we were with Cooper and I shot looking down on him on a 35 and he almost looked like he was, you know five foot tall when he was about six two and then I shot from down low where it made him look like a giant. So that's why I choose the 50, it's kind of neutral and it still gives that look that's kind of in your face. You know you're right there with them. Where if I use a 7200 it almost separates you too far. For two reasons: one the focal length makes you literally have to be back further and two the compression that that lens gives, it just kind of compresses the subject with the background, especially something like this. And it doesn't have that like intimate feel that you're right there and they're in your face. How you know, that does. So what we're gonna do right now... is I'm gonna set this up. I'm gonna make sure that it's aimed I'm not so worried about feathering this light it's harsh light I'm goin' for that. I don't care if there's a hot spot. I'm just gonna make sure it's aimed. So you're good. It's, I want it to be aimed a little bit more down because I want to light her from head to hands. So we're gonna angle it down just slightly. Goin back up. Is that aimed at you, or a little bit low? Uh I think it's at me. Yeah right there. Okay. And now you can see the distance between that light and her head is like five feet. Really like if you go diagonally, the distance between her head and hands is like three feet. So the falloff isn't gonna be that big of a deal. Her hands are still gonna be lit whereas if this light was right here and we wanted to see her hands they would definitely go dark. So we should be good, we are going to turn TTL off and we are gonna meter. So we're still gonna go for five six. The other thing I like about using a B2 on a stand versus a B1, obviously I can control. I don't, maybe it's not obvious because I didn't tell you. The power of the light can be controlled from here. So I can turn it up or down. The one thing I like about the B2 is that if I'm up here metering, I can just change the control of the light from the pack too. But you also have this cord to deal with, so pick your battles. It's just kind of what you want to deal with. Alright so we're goin for five six, you can just stand right there. We're at four which means we need to go up 2/3 of a stop. Almost there. Too much. We're so close. Five six. Okay so what I wanna do is shoot from a low angle. I'm gonna have you turn a little bit sideways, facing this way. Weight on that back foot. So kind of feet spread just a little bit, little bit of attitude, you know like this a little bit. And then shoulders toward me and lookin over this shoulder almost towards you know the stuff on the ground there. Okay now chin, move this hair back over your shoulder. I wanted to you know, accentuate this side of her jawline and everything so I'm movin her hair back. And then I also want to open up so we can see her collar and everything like that. So you're gonna turn your head this way. You can sweep that hair back again and then just keep your head facing that way. But then eyes to me. Her eyes are gonna go a little dark right now, but I don't really care. Actually do one where you're looking almost up that way, yeah. So we'll get some catch lights now. Chin even more this way. Right there, yep. Alright and now we can play with a little more negative space too. I know we talked about how I've been shooting generally up close. I'll leave more white here but there is gonna be a vignette from the light because she's so close to the background and we're only using one light. So the background's gonna be a little inconsistent. It won't be pure white by any means. Lookin way off that way, chin up and, yep. So I'm gonna have you, so you can see where the shadow is. I don't love that plus the background's a little crinkly. So what we're gonna do is I'm gonna move you further. We're just gonna let the background go gray. So come on out here. Because the reason why we can see all those rolls in the background is we're creating shadow by lighting straight down on it. So anywhere where that was rolled, the underside's showing a shadow. So if we get this out this way, two things are gonna happen. You're not gonna see all this and you're not gonna see this. It's gonna be more clean. And what I'm gonna do, since we're doin that is I'm gonna move this down further away. Angle it up slightly... and so we can get a little more catch lights. Does that still look like it's aimed at you? Uh yeah. Okay, perfect. So now if you know how shadows work, the shadow's gonna be cast the exact opposite side of the light. So the light's hitting her from here which means her shadow is gonna end up somewhere over here, which is great. Because we will not see it. Okay so turn your body even more open to me. Yeah just like that. Now lookin off this way, yep that's perfect. Almost like, almost like you're lookin towards the middle of that light stand, yep. One, two, three. (camera clicks) I didn't meter, so once I moved her, but it looks like we kept about the same distance. So I like this a lot more. I'm gonna have you really shift your weight back on to that foot. Yeah there you go, lookin over the shoulder and then arms even more open. You can even hold your jacket how you were. Yeah head over the shoulder hard. Yep, one, two, three. (camera clicks) Eyes right here. (camera clicks) I keep lookin at the back of my camera. It's a little bit underexposed, so we'll turn up the power a tiny bit. We'll go up a third of a stop. Looking even harder over your shoulder, that way. One, two, three. (camera clicks) Okay so now what I want you to do is, I'm gonna have you stand straight-on to me. Kind of like a wide base. Yep so she's standing about the same spot. The lighting should all be about the same. And I'm gonna have you just looking straight-on to me. So we're gonna have a dramatic, you know, amount of shadow on her face. This side of her face, our left, her right, is gonna be well-lit but it should fall off into pretty good shadow on that side. Yeah this is a great stance. One, two, three. (camera clicks) And I'm puttin her right in the middle of the frame. Yeah, there we go. So it's kind of like this power stance. Fits the mood, fits the clothing. Little more lookin right here, chin up just a tiny bit. One, two, three. (camera clicks) I had her chin up just so we get a little more light in the eyes. And now don't even look at me, look straight over me almost like towards the top of that umbrella. Yep one, two, three. (camera clicks) And we're gonna do one horizontal. One, two, three. (camera clicks) We'll get a little bit of the edge of the background there, but. It's still cropped for vertical but that's supposed to be a horizontal. (audience chuckles) One more like that. One, two, three. (camera clicks) Okay the last thing I wanna do with this outfit, yeah that's pretty cool. The last thing I wanna do with this outfit is I wanna do a little bit more movement and capturing that with a long lens. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna switch up to a softer light source but still not real soft. And we're gonna use a little bit of fill from a B flat. So what I'm gonna have you do is I'm gonna have you start almost facing away from me and twist hard and it's gonna be like from here up and I'm gonna capture you like at just the right moment where looking over your shoulder because we already know that that's the side where it looks really good. So let's see I'm gonna have, we're gonna try this two ways. Start almost facing towards that wall and then twist so you end up hard. So you end up looking over this shoulder, yeah that's perfect. Okay so we're gonna light her from this side still. And I'm gonna switch to, you can relax for a second. It's gonna take me like three minutes to set up. I'm gonna switch to a silver umbrella. That's kinda small because I still want it to be somewhat specular. We're gonna put everything at the same angles we've already talked about 30 times today. You can actually come all the way up to about here because I don't wanna, I wanna have that background go gray. And we're still goin with the same angles and all that. We'll take a test shot after we meter. And I might bring in a white fill board just to do it. So we're still goin for five six. And it stayed the same somehow. I don't know how that worked, but well let me take another one, I don't believe that. Yeah I knew, it just didn't click. So I, the reason why I knew that is because we went from straight on, on you know, bare-bulb flash to uh, to an umbrella that was bounced into so there's no way without me changing the power of the light that it would've stayed. So we need to go up significantly to get back to five six. Six three, down. A little bit, boom. Almost there, promise. Boom, five six. Alright so let me shoot a test shot. You're gonna, I don't even need you to do that whole spin thing yet. But just end up looking that direction so I can see. So shoulders towards me. Head over your shoulders, yep. One test, one. That's what I like. Now what we're gonna do... is I'm gonna bring the highlights down just a tiny bit. And then I'm gonna switch to a long lens. There was a comment from some of the viewers at home about my lens sitting on the edge. They also didn't realize that there's a lip on here like I did and they were, the guy said something about, along the lines of my wife can't watch anymore she's afraid the lenses are just gonna hit the ground. (audience chuckles) Wouldn't be the first time. So I'm gonna scoot pretty far back. And we're gonna do one more test shot. Oh yeah that's awesome. Please remind me never, okay. So I'm gonna shoot with a long lens. I'm only gonna get, I'm gonna do somewhere, I'm back at 70. So we do get this full crop of like you know belt to head. Which is one test shot one, two, three. But then I'm also gonna zoom in really far. So there you can just see the compression's different when we have her like that. So when we're like that I just wanna make sure I get the bottom of that belt. One, two, three. Or the, yeah the belt part that's hanging down. Oh it's still on cropped that's why. Yeah. There we go. Okay, much better. Alright one, two, three. Okay now what I'm gonna have you do is I'm gonna zoom in, I really want you to look over that shoulder hard so your hair's movin. But I'm up gonna be zoomed all the way in to 200, so we're gonna get all this movement. And in my head I'm thinking this is gonna end up being either like a really weird color toned gritty like grainy picture or a grainy black and white. Like that's where I'm going so that's why I want this high contrast light, this movement. Not any eye connection with the camera just lookin over that shoulder. So we're gonna have to do this a few times because focus is gonna be tough. Especially with, we're just gonna go manual. Okay so whenever you're ready, you can make your move. Ready, go. So we're gonna miss it a few times. But I wanna get it even more when her hair is in the face, yeah. And I'm gonna get even closer so look, look where you're gonna end up looking real quick. And I'm gonna pre-focus cause I'm gonna shoot manual focus. Which is a recipe for disaster all right there we go. So ready go. Yep, couple more times. Ready, go. Okay, and go. One more time just like and by one more time, probably ten more times. Look that way once I need to refocus. Okay, ready go. (camera clicks) Okay, keep going. Okay. Let's see. We'll just scroll through them all. That's cool. Except for I don't, I'm gonna have you look higher. Or just look in general. (laughs) Yeah so just eyes higher but look that way once just as a test. Yeah that's the spot, right there. Okay and ready whenever you're ready, go. (camera clicks) Hold on a look that way again, I'm gonna get even closer. Okay ready go, whenever you're ready. Go. Okay and go. Okay, awesome. Okay so we pretty well got somethin to work with. This would be, ouch, this would be where I would probably keep going just a little bit further with the shoot but you know, just to move on, actually I am gonna do a couple more because. (audience laughs over instructor) Can't stop won't stop, alright. Look that way one more time. Okay now just continue to, to do that. If you hear this crying it's my lens. Look, so I let's, let's pan this out perfectly. Look over that shoulder. Eyes a little more towards me but not at me. So just your eyes though, yeah right there, right there. So I'm seeing too much white in her eyes so that means she's looking too far that way. I want her to look more this way. Yeah right there. Alright so whenever you're ready start doing your spin. Keep going even look harder over that shoulder but eyes to the same spot, yeah there you go that's good. Keep goin I'm just gonna keep shootin. Keep going. And one more. Yeah, yep last one. Just same straight face and go. Awesome okay there has to be somethin in there. So... Yeah I'm just looking for one that we can edit later and we have a lot so we'll be good. So I'm gonna do next is I'm gonna have you change. And we can take some questions while I get to the next set up. The next outfit is gonna be this, that long T-shirt with the leather pants So it's gonna be, this is like her hardest look. This one's gonna be a little softer. And we won't set that there. (laughter) So we don't give anybody in the Internet a heart attack here. Alright any other questions while we switch it up about that? So when you switch to the silver umbrella. Uh, huh. It gave a very similar look to what you were doing with the handheld. Is the only reason because you move to the longer lens or was there another thought process for that? So, this I wanted that was giving a really almost precise spread to the light because this reflector is only seven inches around and the light is set back in it. So it wasn't letting the light go as far as I wanted. And it was just a little too hot spot, you know a little too specular. This is silver but this is really silver. So this is a little bit softer it offers because the light was coming directly onto this, it had that hotspot. This is reflected it spreads the light out more and it was giving me more leeway for her to move and still have a sweet spot for the light. So it just offered me a little more range of motion to get her in good light. It was a little more forgiving too. So just to clarify I know you've said it a couple times, but the question is are using auto focus or just focusing once before you start the set? So I know you talked about focusing on the one eye, but are you Yeah. like re, as she moves are you resetting every time? I'm refocusing, yeah. So my camera is on continuous Mm hmm. so it's following where she's moving. When I was having her spin, the moment before I had her spin I had her look that way, especially with that lens. From shooting at 200 millimeters in basically kind of a dark room. It couldn't keep up so I was manually focusing. [Female Instructor] Okay. To get in the general area and then I switched to auto focus at the end. So just to kind of mix it up. I know that there's imperfections like when her hair was moving in front, it was trying to track all the different things that were moving. So it's a little bit tricky and that's, I don't do that with the 200 that often but I had a specific look in my head with that gritty, grainy black and white that I pictured. With between the lighting, her outfit and the fact that I knew she could pull it off. That's why I wanted to use that long lens. So it was kinda just putting it all together. And were you able to pre-visualize that sorta thing before you met her in person? Or is that all happening No. Yeah. in real time? That came when she walked in the door wearing the leather coat. Yeah. Yeah, I saw her hair, I saw her jacket and I dunno it was those two things where I was like I you know, because I didn't really, I knew that I wanted to do a hard-light setup and a soft-light setup but as far as the actual shot I didn't know, you know. I mean the one that I tried over here, I didn't know I was gonna do that, it also didn't really work. So certain things just don't work out as well but I wanna try them and then figure out why didn't it work. So you know I knew that didn't work because we could see her shadow in the background. So it's like okay didn't think about that part let's move her away and see if that works and that's kind of what we got. So you know it's kind of troubleshooting on the fly.

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