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Live Shoot: Hard Light

Lesson 20 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

20. Live Shoot: Hard 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

Live Shoot: Hard Light

So one of the things that Cooper brought, he's a lifeguard, and he also plays water polo. So we're gonna kinda go all out with this. We're gonna do kind of a hero shot of him and his life guarding gear. And then we'll throw in the ball. So you know, we'll mess with lenses, do something that's a little more sculpted light on this gray background. And if you wanna go change. We'll talk about the light while you're changing. So knowing that, I'm gonna go with kind of harder light just because I think he's gonna be just in his life guarding shorts, and carrying a ball. So to me that doesn't scream a nice soft pretty light. It says you know we want something with more edge. So we're actually gonna go to the smaller silver umbrella just so we have a little more specular light. So we'll go with this one. And we're gonna take that pretty far from it, from a side angle, so he'll be turned towards you guys more. So, I'm gonna have him stand, and I'm gonna have the background go dark. So we'll mo...

ve it out here so the light will still be close to him, he'll be far from the background. And I am gonna have him, so this is just me just kind of thinking through this. I am gonna have him, I'm gonna be at a low angle cause I kind of want that heroic shot. So I wanna light him pretty evenly from head to about here. So I'm gonna need to move my light a little further away. But I'm not gonna angle it cause I don't want anymore light on the background. So we'll go up with it, and then we'll have to re-meter once he gets out here. And then since we moved it up, we have to aim it back down. And he's taller than me. So here we are. So it'll be something like this where the light's coming from the side, I'm gonna be low over there, we'll have him holding the ball or whatever, water people polo, people don't have that in Nebraska. No water sports. Water polo, life guards. We do have life guards. But, not water polo. And then what I'm gonna do here is we want a lot of accent light so I'm actually gonna turn this back up to full power cause we want something closer to that one to one. And since he's standing, we're gonna raise it up. And I'm gonna get a little away from the background. So we should be good. In fact, I can meter without him being in here. So we'll go with that same, that same look of five point six. And I don't really care what the backlight is we'll meter it anyways. But, he'll be about here. Six three so we're a little too bright. Go down. Five six. This light back here, is at six three so it's actually brighter that's cool, it'll be look good. So we're gonna have him stand about even with this leg here. And that's not precise a lot of times I would tape it but it'll be good for this. And then I'm gonna shoot from a low angle with a 50. So I'm actually gonna go really low. And we are gonna see the top of the background so I gotta kind of watch that cause we're further away. But I'm probably gonna go looking up at him and have him almost glance over me so we kind of get that hero, life guard slash water polo player shot. And everything is set up so basically now we can just wait for him we know all the technical part is ready. He's ready. Come on out. So you can come right over here. And we're gonna light him from both sides. One like this which is gonna be more shadow. And then we'll light him more like this. So you can kind of see the difference. So you can stand right here, and I'm just gonna have you hold that ball on this hip, turn towards the light, come forward so you're about right here, keep coming forward, right there, yep. Turn your back. There you go. So again, I'm gonna re-meter just because he's... So we want five six, we got five oh so, cause he moved a little bit further away. There we go. Alright turn your body this way more. Yeah there you go. Same thing, yep just like that. And then back hand can just be down that's fine. So look over me almost like you're looking towards that bag back there. Yeah that's perfect. So I'm gonna go as low as possible until his head's about to hit where the seamless is. One, two, three. Oops. One, two, three. There we go. So you can see how, this light it's pretty simple setup this specular light how I moved far enough away from him to light him pretty evenly from head to the ball. And then, you can see how that rim, the edge light is really accenting him that way. Now I'm gonna have you turn completely this way. Same, yep. He's standing at about the same spot. Now you're gonna be looking looking almost back towards the doorway where you came in. So keep looking out that way, keep going, yep there we go. Switch the ball to your other hand. And we're gonna, actually switch it back I kinda like that cause then we'll see the accent light more on the ball. There we go. Looking out that way. Same idea from my stand point one, two, three. Oops one more. One, chin down a little bit. One, two, three. There we go. Okay, so we get rid of this one. So you can see, the difference just in the way that his body filmed shadow and how the accent light worked. You know, so this one's more shadow on him but you get the real definition from the accent light versus this where, it's the accent light you can see it more on his face. Rather here it's like you know, kind of more of a muscle thing. So, just depends what you like, what you're going for. I do kind of like the ball in the back hand too. Let's do one more this way. With the ball in the back hand. Yeah, and then looking off, looking out that way again there you go. And just kinda let this arm hang free yeah. So up straight, yep, one, two, three. There we go. Yeah so just, you know, there's no right or wrong and I'm not so worried about catch lights when we're doing a shot that's like this then it's more focused on the mood. You know if we were trying to have him make eye contact, turn even more this way. Yeah there we go. Actually keep going. Keep going, keep going. Yeah there you go. Looking back, so nope shoulders this way, and then head towards me. Yeah there you go. And chin up a little bit, right there. So now I'm probably gonna catch lights, this is a guess. The accent light's gonna hit his back and this ball, but I'm still short lighting him from this side. So here we go. One, you can turn towards me a little bit more with your shoulders right there. One, two, three. Alright, so here we go. There you go. So I know there's a little more light in his eyes we're still seeing how that accent light is working. We see the ball, we get the whole point of the shot and it still has the same general mood. Alright, so that's pretty good with that. Let's go back to the keynote real quick. So we've gone over accent light. Our ratios. We did the umbrella using the white reflector as fill. The v-flat, on-axis fill. We've talked about our lighting ratios. So now that brings us to accent light placement. So we did one, let's do one where we actually cause in camera flare. So you can stay right where you're at. Turn this way again not quite so much. Feet too yeah that's perfect. What I'm gonna now, is in camera flare is caused when the lens can see the light and it's similar to when you're shooting outside in the sun you know the sun gets in your lens it causes that flare. And then sometimes you gotta block it. Well sometimes you want that to happen on purpose. What we're going to do is, keep this turned up pretty high and we want to get it just to a point where it's in the frame. So we're gonna watch to see where this accent light. We don't have a grid on it so there's gonna be a lot of spill plus we changed from a white beauty dish to a silver reflector. So now we're at a point where there's going to be quite a bit in the frame. And I'm gonna move it, I don't wanna have to Photoshop this stuff out so a lot of things if you had this on an arm or you could boom it out, it would be ideal. But I'm gonna try and put this on here. We have it turned up all the way, so it's gonna be really dramatic. We'll move down here. I'm gonna frame it up. Thank you. So turn this way. Yep, eyes looking right towards me and just hold that ball up yeah there you go. Alright so the shot, the light is in the frame and so is the light stand which is unfortunate but you'll be able to see how much flare this is causing and this is strictly a test. One, two, three. Okay so it's a little too much cause it is turned up all the way. But you can kind of see how we're causing that flare. And you know if we did something like, let's turn it down. We'll stop in a half. We'll do that one more time. And then what I'm gonna do is I'm just going to crop it slightly. So turn even more this way. Right there yep. One, I'm giving myself some, so notice here how far his arm's going out. I wanna crop to get the light actually out of the shot, but I still want the effect so I need the backlight to be in the frame when I shoot, but I wanna be able to crop it out afterwards. So I'm giving myself a little space. So one, two, three. Here we go. So we have that flare, but now if I wanna crop it later, that's not the crop. Here it is. You know we can do something like that where you no longer see the actual light and you're still getting the effect. It's all to taste you know, this is something where this is the extreme version of an accent light, versus the more subtle version that we already did. But sometimes when you're messing around with lights or experimenting you wanna try those things just to see what fits your own personality and what your own taste is because, you know, you don't know until you try that. Alright so accent light placement. So that's putting in the frame. The other things you can do is, I tend to keep it about a higher angle just to accent things like that. Let's say that he, instead of bringing the volleyball, he brought in he was wearing jeans and a jacket and brought in a guitar and was holding it down low. We might want to accent the guitar, or something else. So, accent light strictly to accent whatever you want. In this case we wanted to accent you know, the upper part of his body with the ball. Where, if it's something else, you know an accent light if you had him on a motorcycle maybe you wanna accent part of the motorcycle. Who knows it's just kind of real specific to the shoot but it, as far as lighting and layers you know you have your main light, and this would be you know further down the road, in your layers so the accent light. Alright power settings we talked about that as far as having the light be subtle or in this case pretty dramatic. So that's basically it as far as you know, building your lighting setups. We covered everything from the soft light, to the foundation of you know moving your light around to get that one to one ratio versus something really dramatic. We showed you know how to get that lighting ratio and how to use fill with the reflector versus a second light on access. And then now the accent light. So those are the main things that I think about with any lighting setup. Anything beyond that is really shoot specific. So you know you can't really have that scenario until it actually happens when you're having to light a specific room or vehicle or anything like that. But these are the main steps that I go through with every setup in my head before we get to the shoot.

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