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Outdoor Camera Settings Examples

Lesson 12 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

Outdoor Camera Settings Examples

Lesson 12 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

12. Outdoor Camera Settings Examples


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

Outdoor Camera Settings Examples

All right, so now we have some more times I've actually used this with seniors. This is an example of me handholding the ring flash and you can do the same thing with a bare camera strobe. This girl was hilarious whether she meant to be or not. And she was a senior in Omaha and what we were doing was we were clearly outside, we're in this alleyway that was overgrown with weeds and grass and trees and whatever. And she was also big and she's like a baton twirler. That's what she got a scholarship for to TCU. So, she's really good at moving around and spinning so we were joking around that she was gonna walk and then spin as we're walking through this alley. So, I metered for the sky. I want it to be a little subtle blue and the grass on the right because I want it to be green. But there was a fence to our left so we're in this mixed light situation. And I really wanted her to pop off the screen. It almost looks like she's Photoshopped in there. So I handheld the ring flash and what we d...

id is once I figured out my camera settings I left them, but the other thing I had to do is the whole time we were doing this I'm walking backwards shooting. So, that introduces a whole another element, it's what if she gets closer, the light's gonna get brighter. Well we figured out, I'm using a 35 millimeter lens here that's why it looks the way it does. I figured out, all right, I'm gonna be about four feet from you and we're gonna walk at the same speed. So we had to do a practice round and in that way I know her distance to me is always the same and I don't have to worry about the light power. So as she's walking I can then just shoot. So I told her, I was like all right, you need to spin and do all these stuff and I probably shot a hundred images of this, and this was just like a natural look that she gave. You know, her laughing and the hair was just right and to me the exposure was how I wanted, the background looked good. It was one of those things where it's just a moment caught that caught her personality and there's probably 99 shots of this shoot that were like bad. But again, you have to shoot a lot when you're having people do all these stuff because it's the one moment that actually worked out where hair, smile, placement, lighting, it all came together. And I do that with a lot of seniors too of having them move around and you can gauge their personality. Not everybody wants to do it, not everybody's comfortable doing it so that's something we'll talk about later when you're doing a pre-image consult and you can kinda gauge your senior's personality. All right, this was not a senior, this was from an ad shoot but this is just an example I have of using the sun another way. Like I said before, I'll either use my strobes as a main light, as a fill light or I'll use the sun as a backlight. This is the example of that. You can see, this is a Ferrari, I didn't wanna mess it up. It's nobody I knows but this was for an ad. She's obviously sitting in the passenger's seat and the sun is coming from the back left of this image. So that's what's lighting up the back of her head, that's what's lighting up the front dash and the back of the head rest of the car and even right here. This is all the sun so I knew we had that sun coming in but I want to create something that was more dramatic and kind of showed off the rich nature of the car in color. So you can see here, this is the non-Photoshopped version. That is my light. It was a 60-inch Octabank or you could use the soft light or whatever. It was just a big light source that our two assistants were holding over the hood of this car. And basically what I want to do was create an image that look like it had two light sources but one of them was the sun because we're out in the middle of the day. So this was just the balancing act of me taking a shot of this frame and figuring out how bright do I want things like this headrest and the top of that and even the top of the door up here, that edge, how bright do I want that to be? So my camera settings to start, let's say we're at ISO 100, a two hundredth of a second and then I'm just upping my aperture until that, the rim of that door up on the top of the frame isn't blown out because I want to preserve that detail. Once we hit that, that's when we introduce our light and start metering for the light that's hitting this side of her face because that's what my strobe's doing. So again, the same idea all the time. It's just instead of the sun coming from the same angle as our light, it's the opposite, so we're using the sun as the accent light here. And I'll do that a lot and that you'll see a lot of photographers who use the sun as an accent light because that's a great way to make those surreal images because you're adding light the opposite of what your eye thinks it should be coming from. You know, some photographers love doing that, others do the opposite where they try and figure out where is the sun coming from. And someone like Annie Leibovitz for example she loves the look of having the sun come from one angle and having her light come from that exact same angle and just polish up the sunlight so it looks natural but it's almost like too good to be true. So, she's using strobes to really clean up the natural angle of the sun. And I love doing that too. It's just kind of depends what you're trying to do with the image that day. This is another example of using the sun as an accent light. And this is also a good show of how fall-off works. This is Louis, he's sitting on the track. In my head when we got to the track I'm all about like I said before compositional lines and perspective and all those type of things. So I saw the track lines, I saw that he's in blue, the track is red. He has a little bit of gold in his uniform and there's this gold and blue arrows on the track for the guides. And I thought, all right, I'm gonna put him top right of the frame. I then went and found a garbage can and flipped it upside down and that's what I'm standing on to get the higher perspective, it's not always advised. And then what I did is we kind of figured out where the sun was coming from because obviously on the track there's four corners so we could use any of these four but I knew the corner where the sun was coming in just right to give him that accent light for where I wanted him in the frame. We found that spot, I sat him there in a lane and then I had him do what, I said, "Okay, so what would you do before you run?" Because I'm not much of a track guy and I want it to look natural. And he's like, "Well, I probably just sit here and stretch." So we did some standing ones and sitting ones and this was one compositionally like my eyes kind of, I'm picky so I didn't want his knee to cross this line. So it was all these things that I'm thinking of that bring it all into harmony. He's sitting there stretching, we have that whole composition figured out. I framed it up, now I introduce my light. I already had my settings but what you can see here is the sun is actually way up in that corner and it's coming and hitting him. And as we talked about before with fall-off, the farther your light is away, the less fall-off. My strobe is over here and it's hitting him and one of the things that people think when they see this is there's two shadows. And there is two shadows but look at how much dense and how hard that shadow is versus this one that's drawn out and already faded. That's a good example of fall-off because my light coming from here is clearly just as bright as the light hitting here but because my light is only 10 feet away versus the sun which is a long ways away, the fall-off from that to that shadow happens so fast versus that. So it's just something to think about. There was an image like this back when I worked with a newspaper that we did of a guy standing, was a farmer because Iowa state and standing in the field and we lit him from the opposite side of the sun. And I remember in the comment section of the online part of the newspaper people saying, "This isn't journalism, "this is Photoshop, there's two shadows." And at first I was mad about it because they were saying I was Photoshopping which I wasn't but it was the fact that everyday people don't necessarily understand how fall-off works and how competing shadows work when you start introducing light. In a way I was happy because I was like I just kind of tricked them a little bit by using lighting to create something that I wanted to do. This is an example of again using the sun as your accent light. And anytime you're using the sun as your accent light, it's essentially three lights. You have your main light, I'll even go back one. You have your main light which is our big soft box here and you can see that's mostly lighting that side of her head. It's almost like an edge light in a way. Then you have your accent light which is coming from back there but you still have fill because there's still ambient light from the sun and that's why you still have detail right in here. So, it's almost like a three-light setup in a way in that you're thinking of direct sun, the reflected sun and your main light. So, it can get a little confusing which is why I generally only use one light outdoors because you're already dealing with enough other factors, so I just wanna take control and use my main light. And again, that's why I'm trying to think, do I wanna use this strobe as a main light, as a fill light or as an accent light when I'm outside? This is another setup with a senior, this is from last summer. And again, this is a setup where we're using lighting outdoors after sunset and this wasn't meant to happen this way. This is what happens when you have a senior session and at the end she says, "Oh yeah, I forgot we were gonna do those pictures "at the soccer field." And the soccer field's 20 minutes away and I'm looking at my watch like it's time to eat dinner, but duty calls. So we went to the soccer field but the problem was by the time we got there the sun was down. So, in my head I'm thinking, all right, there's no ambient light to work with really. I mean you can see the sky. I mean, those are just subtle lights inside the press box and that's how bright they were showing up. But luckily we get to the field and at first she was mad because band had just finished practicing and left this giant scaffolding on the field. Well to me that was like the grand prize because now I can climb up and create an image that uses all the lines and everything I like that I normally wouldn't be able to do. So, what we did here is and this shows the importance of controlling your light. My light is that Magnum Reflector which I brought thinking it was gonna be sunny. I didn't know the soccer field was forever away. So we get all the way out there but I have the grid, so, where my light is here is just outside the frame. And the importance of that grid is because if I didn't have that, we'd have light spilling everywhere. These lines would be blown out so by putting a grid and feathering it upwards the start of my light is right here and all the other stuff's going that way. So, the thought behind this image is I'm at the soccer field, I'm up on the scaffolding. I used a 50 millimeter lens and I'm playing with leading lines again. I'm thinking diagonals, I wanted the sky and I wanted this. So she's framed right here, so this line's just above her head. All that technical stuff I'm thinking about when I'm setting it up. Then the next thing I'm thinking about is where's the light gonna come from? Well, since I want it to light her face and she wanted to be kicking a ball, we're gonna put it over on the left side where I showed you. Again then I introduced the grid. I do think I had to use, it was so dark out I had to use a diffusion sock on the grid just to cut because the Magnum Reflector's so bright. I couldn't get the light to a low enough power to not blow her out so I had to actually use a diffusion sock on there just to bring it down even more and I just keep that in my bag. It's like just a cheap piece of material. So, then what we did is a lot of people always wonder, well, how do you know that she's gonna be in that little tiny spot. I took a piece of, I always keep neon green duct tape in my bag too so I took a piece of neon green duct tape and we put it. So I just had her stand there. We lit it and then I put neon green duct tape underneath the ball. So then what she could do is run up and kick the ball and the other tricky part is this would be a situation where you might wanna lower your shutter speed to let in more ambient but not when there's someone kicking a soccer ball. You need all the shutter speed you can get, so, knowing that I'm at a two hundredth of a second which is a miracle that she's even sharp really, at a two hundredth of a second kicking a soccer ball, we put that ball and that green piece of tape so I knew she would always be in the sweet spot of the light. I could just shoot and she could just run back and forth and just keep kicking the ball until we got a shot that looked how she, I just had her look at it to tell me how she wanted to look. So that's kind of, you know, all those elements that came forth of putting it together compositionally then figuring out the light and then being able to repeat it by something as simple as green tape which I use way more often than you'd think as far as moving shots with light. And then just doing it over and over until you get the result. And a lot of times what I tell people is even once you do something over and over and you get that one, do a couple more. Because a lot of times it's once you hit that sweet spot that something else can happen beyond that that you didn't even expect so you get something even better than you planned. And also, don't let yourself stop short. I'm pretty passive, I don't really like to push people that much and one of the things that I used to do with a lot of photo shoots is I get sense that someone was getting, they're like, "Oh my gosh, we have to do this again?" And I'd be like, "Well, I think we got it, "we can be good." And then I get back to the studio and upload the card and I'm like, no, we didn't do it. You know, like let's say they were annoyed that we had to do it two more times. Well, they wouldn't be annoyed when they saw the final result. They'll probably be more annoyed when they see that we didn't get it. So, I always make sure that even if I'm getting a little push back that we make sure that the image has been achieved before I move along because there's nothing worse than having the whole shoot go down the drain because you didn't push quite hard enough. So, Dan Winters, if you maybe haven't heard of him he's probably like one of my favorite photographers. He is as technically solid as they come, has a really cool aesthetic and he also is full of good quotes. And this one is, "Photographs should not need to be explained. "The photographic image should stand on its own." And that's one of those things as much explanation as we're doing with lighting and all that, for the casual viewer or even other photographers, I want them to look at the image and it be strong enough on its own whether it's compositionally, emotionally, the lighting, all of that stuff that I think about in the image, I want to be able to stand on its own and I think again going back to the quote at the end of the last segment of just experimenting over and over and becoming technically proficient through repetition. Those are kind of things that build upon itself too and you guys should definitely check out his work. It's totally different, it's all editorial work but as far as lighting goes that's someone where like, I wish I could see him teaching here and I'd be sitting with you guys. So, yeah, just a great photographer.

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