Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors


Lesson Info

Outdoor Lighting Camera Settings

Alright, so outdoor lighting camera settings. And one of the things I need to stress when I'm talking about this is there are options like high-speed sync, and that type of stuff, some of the strobes can do, especially speedlights, not everybody's strobes can do that. So I want to talk about the settings when you're not using high-speed sync. Kinda your base, so we can create that foundation of knowing how the lights and camera work together, when you don't have that technology. So I always start my camera settings at ISO 100, and know that your shutter speed has a max sync with your lights, depending on what brand of camera you're using. Usually, a 200th of a second is the max on certain, I know Canon and Nikon are a little bit different, with 200 and 250th. I always err on the side of not seeing the shutter curtain come across there, which basically means that you'll get a black, part of your image will just go black because your camera can't keep up with the lights. So, what I'm try...

ing to do is start at ISO 100, at a 200th of a second, and the only variable I'm messing with is my aperture. So back when I showed you that image of the guy with the New York City skyline, before he was ever in the shot, I thought alright, we're in the middle of the day, we have plenty of light, I'm gonna go ISO 100, and I'm gonna go at a 200th of a second. Now looking at the Empire State Building in the background, and knowing that the only thing I'm changing is the aperture, how bright, how dark do you want that background? Because even though I love my pro photo lights, they're not gonna light all the way across the East River. So I needed to know, how much ambient light do I want to let in, and that's what I can control. So you can always change it later, but one of the things I'm trying to do is set up that background shot where I have something that I like on the camera that is the whole scene. And then I know when I place that subject in there, my camera settings are now stuck. Because if you put your senior in the scene, and they're too dark, you don't want to just start messing with your camera settings because then you're gonna mess up the things that are a mile down the road in the background. Once you have your camera settings, leave them. Do not touch the camera settings anymore, the only variable you're gonna touch after that is the power of your light. So introduce your subject to the scene, and then introduce your lighting. Again these are things you think about beforehand, what are the modifiers I want, what's the angle I want the light and all that stuff. Once you introduce that subject, again, I can't stress it enough, do not change your camera settings because you will only start to mess stuff up and get confused. The only variable once you've introduced the light is either the power of the light or the distance. Because again the distance is also controlling how much light's hitting the subject. So let's say that I had taken that shot of the guy in New York City at ISO 100, a 200th of a second, at F, that was probably like F14 or something, because it was really bright that day. My camera's now stuck at that, so when I say meter afterwards, what I'm doing, it's almost the reverse of in the studio. I am now setting up my light meter to ISO 100, with 200th of a second, and my strobe's set up, and I'm going and holding this up to the guy's forehead, test firing it, and I already know my camera told me F14, so I want this to tell me that my light's at F14. So we fire it once, F11. Oh, we need to go up. You know, so go up two thirds of a stop. Now we're at F14. So don't touch anything else, because everything is gonna work out. And the other thing a lot of people do that really screw up the shot is they start chimping and looking at the screen too much. And when you're in bright sunlight and you look at the screen on the back of your camera, it looks really dark. When you're sitting in a dark room and you look at the back of your camera, it looks really bright. So that's why I'm always relying on the meter to tell me, you know, I know I liked what the background looked like, and my meter says that the light's right, so trust it, because what you're trying to see out in the wild might trick your eyes, and then when you get back into the studio and you're editing, you think, oh yeah, that is way too bright or way too dark, I should have gone with the meter. So I'm always using that to match the settings that I originally planned. So, again, only change the light power or the distance. And sometimes, a lot of times when I'm using, overpowering the sun like at F14, and you're using something like a B2, I can't turn it up any more. I might be at 10 on the power level, which is the highest it goes. That tells me, alright, I need to move the light closer. Because the only way you're gonna get more power out of it is to move it closer, and sometimes that means you have to use extra Photoshop, or change your framing, or change your idea altogether, but again, once you have those camera settings, then you're gonna leave them. There you go. So I will say the only time that you will ever touch those is if you're in a situation where it's going from bright to cloudy, or it's the end of the day and it's getting darker. I'll slowly open up my shutter speed. So that's why I start at a 200th, because that's the max sync speed. So then I know, let's say the sun's going down and it's starting to get darker, and I'm losing that ambient light. If you, because your shutter and your flash is flashing so quick, a shutter speed of going from a 200th of a second to a 160th of a second, that's not gonna affect anything with the strobe. But it is gonna let in more ambient light. So as you're lowering that shutter speed, your flash is still doing the same thing, your aperture's still the same, but you're letting in more ambient, does that make sense? So that's the only time I'll ever tweak something. But 99% of the time, my camera settings stay where I set them. And again the alternative is high-speed sync. For anybody not familiar, high-speed sync is a feature on a lot of, well not a lot but a decent amount of strobes now, where you don't have that max sync speed. It lets you sync at speeds up to 2,000th of a second. So what that allows you to do is open up your aperture and not have to shoot at, you know, F14, if you still want a shallow depth of field, with a shot with strobes out in open sun, you can go at a 2,000th of a second, at ISO 100, and then you might be able to shoot at two eight, or, you know, even more wide open. So you can achieve that shallow depth of field, and your strobe will still sync at the high shutter speed. The other thing you can do is a lot of these, whether it's the B2s, the B1s, or speedlights or anything like that, is you can use TTL to kinda be your guide. I'll do that once in a while, especially if I'm in a hurry, or it's a situation where I just want a baseline. TTL is a smart technology that's helping you figure out your settings. And I'll set up my strobe, and I'll set my air remote, which is the trigger on my camera, to TTL. I'll take one quick photo with my settings, and then that'll put the light about where I want it, and then I turn it back to manual and tweak it to my own taste or to then meter. Because TTL, it does a good job of reading, but I'm usually kind of picky and I don't exactly like what it's doing, so I just use it as a baseline. But a lot of people who use TTL get great results. And it's a tool that is definitely helpful. I'll use TTL, I'll show you later, I do this on-camera flash type shoot, and there's a lot of movement back and forth, it's in the studio, so I'll use TTL for that because if you're standing three feet from somebody, and then they move to four feet, I don't want to be messing with, and you're trying to get personality and all that, I don't necessarily want to be changing the light or aperture constantly, so I'll use TTL because it can help me. But I'll show you how we use that in studio. Alright, so this is kind of a visual explanation of what I'm talking about. So this is an image, well it's three images. The far left one is before I had any interaction with my subject, it's before I had any light, obviously. I had framed this image up, shot basically thinking in my head, I want this to be a dark area, but I do want to have a little bit of that sky and ambient light way in the background, and, you know, the green grass way back there, the trees, I knew how I wanted that to look, but I also knew, my light is not gonna hit that. It's 100 yards behind her. So I shot the photo, totally ignoring the subject, only thinking of the background. Then in my head, we'll just say that this was at ISO at a 200th of a second at F five six. I don't remember what it was, but it doesn't even matter. So, then what I did is, I put my light, you can actually see where my light was. There's the B2 pack, just hanging out. My light was just outside the frame, it's aimed at her, and I know that my aperture's at five six, so I just go hold my meter in front of her forehead, take a test flash, and basically adjust the light power until it tells me five six. Because again, as soon as you start messing with your other camera settings, you're gonna mess up how the background looks. And you can see here, the camera settings are the exact same, the only difference with the shot on the right is it went through a full Photoshop workflow. So again, and we'll talk about camera settings later as far as shooting knowing what post-processing you're gonna do. So, that's the idea there, the left shot, that's how it looked with no light, way too dark. And there is introducing the light, and knowing to keep your camera settings the exact same so your background stays the same, and you know, there's nothing flashy about the shot, it's just, it shows you how that process works of knowing how to not touch your camera settings.

Create images beyond the “traditional” senior shoot and make your clients feel like they stepped into an editorial campaign.  Knowing the basics for lighting in-studio and outdoors, as well as how to make your clients feel involved in the creative process can make your business stand out and thrive in a crowded market.  Dan Brouillette is a successful editorial photographer, who molded his studio to reflect his commercial work.  Each senior gets to help with the creative process of finding a shoot that fits their personality and Dan uses his knowledge on lighting and posing to make every shoot look as if it belongs in a magazine.  In this course Dan will teach:

  • Pre-session tips for preparing your photoshoot
  • What lighting equipment works for successful in-studio and location shooting
  • How to light in layers to create a portrait that is dynamic
  • Tips for posing and directing your seniors that make them feel comfortable and excited for the shoot
  • How to get involved in the local high schools so that students are familiar with you and your work
  • How to edit and cull through your images for a simple and time efficient workflow

  Create stand-out photography that excites seniors to organically market your business to their friends and simultaneously grow your portfolio beyond the high school senior market.  Dan Brouillette has taken his knowledge from working with magazines like ESPN, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and Men’s Health and utilized it to build his successful high school senior photography business while shooting in a style he loves and growing his portfolio.



  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dan was an excellent instructor! In terms of educating, he had a very "down to earth" feel. No matter what question he had, he was willing to answer. Even better, if he didn't know something, he would admit it, which is a very important quality as an instructor! Seeing that this is my first time being an "in studio guest", I have been blown away. The facility and treatment by staff here is amazing. Everyone is so cheerful and willing to do what ever they can to make your time here be as relaxing AND educational as possible. God willing, this east coast boy will come back for another class.