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Shoot: Action Editorial With Athlete

Lesson 11 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

Shoot: Action Editorial With Athlete

Lesson 11 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

11. Shoot: Action Editorial With Athlete

Begin the live shoot with a test shot to adjust the studio lighting and camera settings. Here, Dan shares his camera settings, like the 1/200 shutter speed and a white balance of around 5500K, then works with the "first layer" of lighting with the key light. Add fill light using a strobe modified with a silver umbrella and an accent rim light. Then, move into action shots.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Introduction to The Environmental Portrait


Environmental Portrait Purpose


Personal Work


Find Your Process




Purpose For Action Editorial


Prepare for Shoot


Lesson Info

Shoot: Action Editorial With Athlete

We are now tethered up. Looking at Capture One, I actually just took a photo on accident of the wall using Capture One. So you can see we have that up. Our file name is CL Brock. I didn't reset the counter, that's fine. And then under the capture folder here is our camera. So if you open up the camera tab, you can see we have manual settings, one two-hundredth of a second, our Nikon D810 at ISO 100 at F 8. So I don't know what our settings are gonna be yet. We've gotta do a couple test shots. The first thing I'm gonna do when I'm shooting with ambient light is I'm not even gonna worry about the strobe. I wan to know how much ambient light I want spilling into this frame. That happens at any location. So whether you're in a dark and moody location that has fluorescent lights or whether you're out in the open in an open field, you gotta figure out how much balance you want between the ambient light and the existing light and your studio strobe. I'm gonna take a test frame and we're gonna...

take a few test frames because I'm gonna figure out how bright or dark I want these windows to be. And I have no idea right now without looking at it, what will actually happen, we'll move this just a little bit. That's good enough. Alright so I'm gonna have you take a tiny step this way. A little more that way. What I'm doing is framing up. Behind his head, I have the edge of the window and I also have this silver electrical line there. I don't want that coming out of his head so I'm paying attention to all these things now so that way we don't have to clone stamp out brick with silver stuff later 'cause that's a pain. And I'm building my frame so I see a general frame, and I always start off with kind of a safe shot and then we move into more of the action. So I'm gonna shoot tethered. Again, this is pretty dark. As we shoot, we can kind of open up so if I want to make it brighter, we can either up the ISO, lower the shutter speed, or the aperture. I don't wanna lower the shutter speed too much because he'll be moving around so we're gonna stick to about a two-hundredth of a second. We could shoot high speed sync but I'm not going to do that right now. So we'll stay at a two-hundredth or a two-fiftieth of a second and I'm gonna lower down from F 8 to 5.6 and we're gonna let in a little more window light. Generally speaking with studio, I like to keep my ISO at 100 just to maximize the file quality and also control all of the ambient light. So we're shooting there, white balance 5550 Calvin. We're shooting with the studio strobe so they're balanced there. Now, we have a baseline. So we're at ISO 100, a two-hundredth of a second, at 5.6. So we can meter. I meter every shot, not every shot throughout the entire shoot but every time I change the lighting setup because the meter doesn't lie. It tells you when the light is what it should be. So I have that setup. ISO 100 at the two-hundredth of a second. We're looking for F 5.6. The only problem is I didn't turn this light on before I put it up in the air. So let's adjust. These are why assistants help because when my brain is working in creative photo mode, I'm not necessarily thinking about things like turning on the lights so we're just gonna put it at 7.5. That's all arbitrary because it doesn't really matter. It's just a number that's gonna give us a baseline. As we adjust the light up or down, that'll be more important. I think we're just about there, and I'm feathering this light in front of him a little bit because I don't want to hit this background so much. So I'm just making sure it's aimed at him 'cause with this grid, it is a 25 degree spread so that doesn't give us a lot to work with as far as movement. We're gonna take the grid off next and let him dribble and then we'll have a little more area. So we have our meter, the light's on. We wanted 5.6, we're at 3.6, we need to go up quite a bit. Luckily I don't need to bring the light down. We can do it from right here. We should be getting pretty close. Five, so we just need to go up a third, three clicks on our transmitter. And we're at 5.6 so we're good there. So what we need to do next, put the transmitter back in the camera, shoot a test frame of Brock with one light. Again, this is the final image or is it even close, but this is gonna give us our first layer so we have our background with our ambient. Now we're gonna shoot a test frame of Brock with just one light, looking right there, perfect. Now we have a little bit of a baseline for how this is gonna look. So what we have is a really shadowy dark image, but that's generally what I want so now we can start tweaking out tethering. So right now, nothing is done. I'm gonna instantly up the shadows. We already know it's properly exposed in the space 'cause we metered so I never move my exposure. I move my shadows and you'll start to see it come to life here and I can even minimize the highlights. So within the color balance feature on Capture One, you have this dropdown menu. There's some standard colorizations it'll do. Sometimes I start there. Actually, I like this purple punch. So that's adding blue to shadows. Weird that I would like that 'cause I do that anyways. It's adding some orange to the midtones and a little red to the highlights. I'm gonna leave that as is for now because then we can start working. I'm gonna do one more test shot. And I'm gonna have you take the tiniest step back towards that wall. Right there, perfect. And then looking off in this direction. Yep, right there. So I'm having him look a little more towards the light. Alright, we got our secondary shot here. Now what we need to do is add in our fill. So we have our first layer, we're not gonna touch it. I'm gonna set the camera down and for that, because we're going with this more specular feel, I'm gonna add a more specular fill. So that would be this pro photo silver umbrella. Let me come around here so I don't hit the monitor. And generally speaking, I like to keep my fill light anywhere between the main light and my camera. I don't usually bring my fill light past the camera because then it starts to look too lit. I like to like make people it's either one source or coming from a similar direction. That all goes out the window when you start adding accent lights but that's a whole other story. So we're actually going to place the fill light just above the camera so that's called on axis fill. I'm gonna put it up fairly high so we can feather it downward to hit the floor a little bit and hit Brock. We'll put our sandbag on there for safety, and I always start with it at low power and work our way up. We're gonna start all the way down at three and slowly I'm gonna go up a stop at a time. Actually I'm gonna start at four 'cause it's pretty far away from him. We'll go up a stop at a time and this is all visual. You could meter this to get a light ratio or anything like that but I'm gonna go more by feel and what I think. So I'm going to take a test shot here, and actually I need to aim this up just a little bit more. And we'll go a little bit higher with that and we'll call it good. So we're at four, we'll take one test shot and see if we can even notice the fill and we're slowly gonna work our way up until we have a nice clean frame so keep looking where you are Brock, that's perfect. Alright, so we'll start to get a little bit brighter. So just so you guys can see, look at the floor mostly 'cause that's where you're going to see a lot of the fill, and even on the background, you can see a little more detail there. We're gonna go up one more stop. That might be too much, we'll find out. Maybe it's not enough, I don't know yet. So Brock, I'm gonna have you turn your head. I still like you looking, turn a little bit, your body towards me a little bit. Yeah just like that, that's perfect. Alright, so this is with a little more fill. There we go. I'm liking where this is going. And it looks a little darker on this monitor. I'm sure the detail's in there. One of the other things I do is I up the contrast. Alright, so I'm liking where this is going. So now we have our light set up so we can kind of play a little bit. The last light I want to introduce is our accent light. So if you look at his left shoulder, so camera right, it's kind of blending into the background a little bit. One of the things I want to do is add a little separation. I don't want this to feel like a photo studio. I want this to feel like he might be out at a park or in a warehouse where there's a basketball hoop so we might have some sort of street light or overhead lamp or a stadium light. So we're actually going to take our other B and we're gonna put it out of frame and up high and angle it downwards and that's gonna be our kicker or our accent light, rim light, hair light, whatever you want to call it. So this our third layer of our light. And we're gonna throw a seven inch reflector on that as it would be, just kind of feels like a street light, put that up in the air and let it spill into the scene. And again, I'm gonna feather it forward but I'm not too picky with this light because I want it to feel natural. You don't have full control of light when you're out shooting at a park or at a basketball court or what have you but I want it feel basically, I want the lighting to feel a little more polished version of what you would find naturally. So we're gonna throw this guy up in the air pretty high. If I could get another sandbag, it wouldn't be a horrible idea. If you guys have one. Only because I'm gonna put this up really high and I don't wanna hear about it later if something happens. And we're gonna turn this guy up. Obviously now we have some sort of context for the light settings. The grid knocks off about a stop on that one and that one was at about eight and a half so that one over there is at five, our fill light, so I'm gonna start with this. This is gonna be much brighter. That umbrella is indirect 'cause it's shooting into the umbrella and back. This is a direct light with a silver reflector so knowing that that's at five, I'm gonna start with this at about five and then we can go up from there. So we'll start with that and we'll put it up in the air. Thank you, Lacy. There we go, feel a little better about that. Alright. Brock, I'll have you turn around. Does this look like it's aimed anywhere near you or is it behind you? The light. It looks like it's aimed at me. Okay perfect, and we'll keep going up because I want it to have a good fall off. I want it to feel like it could be a street light so we'll go with that. Now you can see why I put a sandbag on there. The thing's wobbling like a mast in the wind. Alright. So with that said, we have three lights now. So this is another test frame and then we can really get into it. Actually I like how you're standing right there. So we have our accent light now, and look at that. So we have a three light setup. You kind of saw the whole process. I'm actually just gonna stick with that so now we can shoot, so what I'm gonna have you do is either switch the ball, kind of more focus on the ball and kind of what you're thinking about. Maybe like a pregame atmosphere where you're thinking about who you're playing, you're thinking about what you want to do, you're just kind of focusing on that and you're not really looking so much at me. I might say look at the camera here and there. But for the most part, I want you to kind of look around. Either look from me or any direction 'cause I don't care. He's not gonna get catch lights if he looks away from the light but that might be cool, too. It's kind of more of a masculine, like athletic feel. So yeah, you can look wherever you want, you can hold the ball down, but I'm just gonna ask you not to move too much with your feet 'cause with that grid, we are limited. Now that we've got that all covered, I'm just gonna shoot. I'm gonna shoot different focal lengths, I'm gonna shoot horizontals, verticals, wide. I'm just gonna try and not get the lights in the shot too much 'cause I don't wanna Photoshop them out. So there we go. I think we're good as far as that goes, yeah. So we have this nice wide shot. And again, if we do get the light in the shot, we might even get a little bit of flare. We'll see. I don't know if it's quite bright enough. We'll just try it anyways to see how that looks. Yeah, so we can work with that. We could even put him up in front of the windows. Do some horizontals. Really working on framing here. Do a couple where you turn completely this way but stay in the same general footprint. So turn your feet so you're almost facing towards the monitor. Keep going, and now looking over your shoulder back towards that way, yeah. So now we're just gonna get a little look. You'll see how some of that accent light will hit the ball and it'll give it a little different feel. Yeah, there we go. That's cool. And people wonder why after a photoshoot I'm like sweating. It's 'cause it's a combination of thinking and crawling around the ground. Alright, and I'm really paying attention to framing. He's doing a great job of moving. I might even have, let's see, yeah that looks awesome. I'm just gonna keep shooting and one of the things I know 'cause I checked my checklist earlier is that I wanted to shoot with the and get a different look. So now that the lighting is dialed in, I'm gonna turn off the camera. It's gonna be untethered for a second. And I'm gonna switch lenses. If you hear this lens make a weird squeaky noise, it is because it is ancient and needs to be fixed. But I don't want to fix it, I just want to buy a new one but I also don't want to buy a new one. So if you hear that, that's the old guy here complaining about focus. Yeah, these are coming in great so you can see how the tethering really helps 'cause it opens up those shadows. It's already putting a color grade on the image. We're getting some instant results. The tether cord hasn't even come unplugged yet which is a freaking miracle. We're gonna kind of take it out of context and get some closer ups with this 200. And now just to do something totally different, I've been kneeling down the whole time. I'm gonna throw on the 24 to 70 again and just try a totally different approach or an angle just to see, you know, we've kind of got the shot for sure so now it's like play around. You can feel a little more free. So I'm actually gonna get in close to him. You know, just a little different point of view. I can actually get a full body like this and let the other light bleed in. So I'm paying attention to the framing of his face. See how the pillar doesn't go through his face. He's stuck in that dark area. Really separates him from the background. So those are things I'm paying attention to. Chin down just a little bit for me, right there. Now what I'm gonna have you do is turn completely that way, hold the ball down on this hip, and you're gonna look just kind of out in there. So we're just kind of messing with, look even more this way, yeah. Alright, we'll do a few more, then we'll mix it up. Okay, I think we're good with that, we got some cool stuff. Now I want to get a little bit of action. So what we're gonna do is Brock you can relax. I'm gonna open up this grid and lower the light. We're gonna get a totally different feel and you can do some dribbling whether it's like wide dribble like you're a point guard trying to like break somebody down or whatever is so it's a little more action to it. So let me take this grid off and we'll go from there. And I guess as I'm doing this, we could take any questions 'cause I can always talk and work. But hopefully you guys are kind of seeing how this process comes together with the lighting and layers, the tethering, planning this all out ahead of time as far as going through the detail so then I can just work with him and know that the light, I don't have to come back and change the lights 'cause they're already set up. Yes. So in starting off the shoot, do you usually start with the same light, different light, I understand the mid-change based on environment, but how do you generally get started and get the wheels moving every shoot whether it's different or the same? I try and make the light. So the first thing I do with the shoot when I'm looking at the location is analyze what's the general mood I want. So I try and use different light a lot, but I also know that I have a look and aesthetic as a photographer that kind of reads as me so when people see the images, you know, you probably have favorite photographers and you know when you see it on the front of a magazine you're like oh yeah, that's this guy's work whether that's their color palette or their lighting. So I have general rules within my own brain or tendencies that I go to to keep it consistent but at the same time, that's boring to do the same thing. So usually it's subject-based and location-based. So then I can kind of go from there. When I looked at this location, the obvious shot is to just light him with the window light and I thought that's too obvious, I don't want to do that. That's easy. So nobody would learn anything so I tend to make it a little harder and do the things that aren't so obvious. So any other questions? Yeah, you keep setting us up. We do have, I know you said there's a lot of options but there's a question about if you have, this is from Michael, if you could not only have two or three modifiers, what might they be? If I could only have two or three modifiers, I'd have like a 46 inch photech soft lighter umbrella. I'd have a beauty dish, and I'd have a prophoto magnum hard light reflector with a grid. There you go. It gives me a full range of soft light to medium light to hard light and I can mix the two. And depending on placement, I can really control where they're going to end up. Awesome, thank you. Yeah, so what I'm gonna do here is I'm actually going to lower the light. We're gonna keep a similar frame just 'cause of, you know, the way the room's set up but I want to get a little more side light to him so it's a little bit more light from each side and the photo's gonna definitely look different. The location's obviously the same. But I want to get just a different look on the same idea and then that way when he's dribbling, if he moves from side to side or front or back, it will look a little different but I don't want him to go into complete darkness or into a hotspot so we're kind of setting up knowing that the lighting's gonna be a little different. I am feathering this forward. Again, I don't want to hit this too much, but now we want to get a couple action shots. So I'm actually going to lower this. And what we're going to do then is have that light his face a little more so that way when he's dribbling, if he turns one direction, we might get a soft light feel. If he turns the other direction, it might be more of a hard light. You saw that shot I did of my assistant's husband earlier. This'll kind of have that feel where it's lighting both sides of his face, it's just two different types of light quality. And with that said, we need to turn this guy down 'cause he's really bright and I'm gonna go back through the whole process real quick. I'm turning this light off. I'm turning the fill light off and we're gonna start fresh. I know the fill light's going to end up being about the same because I want a similar aesthetic. But what I really want is for Brock, I'm gonna have you dribble. So if you were standing about right in here and like let's say you're on offense here. Are you right-handed or left-handed? Left. Okay so you're left-handed. So I'm gonna have you pretend that you were just gonna drive by me this way so if you were like caught the ball and you took your first step, I wanna see what it looks like so I'll pass it to you, pretend I'm not even here after that, and you're gonna start driving with the hoop being on this wall. Yeah, so I want you to take that step, and since you're left-handed it's gonna be with your right foot. And you're gonna be right here, almost looking down towards the monitor over there so that's where the light's gonna be setup. So whether I'm photographing people gardening or people playing basketball, I wanna know what it is that looks natural and what the movement is so that way I can plan the light accordingly. So we have our main light here, we lowered it quite a bit so I know we can already turn it down just a little bit. And now we're gonna make our test frame with Brock dribbling but look, so when you're looking, when you take that dribble, it's gonna be right foot forward, ball left hitting the ground, and you're gonna be looking kinda towards the monitor. So that'll give us a little leeway to work with, and I don't have any other lights on so this is technically a one light setup for this test shot. So you can go slow for the first one 'cause I want to make sure that we get the action. So whenever you're ready, go ahead. Alright, and this is gonna move quite a bit. So you can see I took that grid off. I hate that. So we're putting the grid back on. That's why the grid is important. All of a sudden, you can see the difference in the grid. I don't wanna light up the room. It just looks like he's standing, being lit up by the headlights of a car and I don't want that. I want the wall to fall off into shadow so sometimes you gotta experiment and hopefully this grid, we'll just have to be a little more picky and another thing I might do is take a small piece of gaff tape and what I'll do is once we find a good spot, I'll place it 'cause I can see where that light's gonna shine. It's gonna be about right here so this is kind of your spot where you're gonna aim towards. That way, I know you're in the sweet spot of the light and I also know, and the further I move this light back, it's a 25 degree spread so it's a cone so it's going to keep going out. So I can move it a little further back. It gives us a little more leeway with the light. We're gonna keep shooting at 5.6. I need to re-meter. Let me get that so I need my trigger, I need my meter, here's our sweet spot, Brock's gonna be coming right at me. And we're going to keep all the other settings the same for now. 5.6 so we need to go up a third of a stop, three clicks. 5.6 so we're good. Alright, with that said, now we'll take another test frame and it's gonna apply the same settings as our tethering that it did to the last one. I'm actually, just for fun, I'm gonna make these black and white so we'll re-tether that. So Brock I'm gonna have you make that quick dribble. You can do it kind of slow because yeah that's perfect. Okay, so now we need our other lights. So what I'm gonna have you do, just letting you dribble and I'm not gonna mess with all this stuff. So we know our fill will be fine, but I want you to be able to look from both sides so I'm actually gonna move this here. I'm gonna feather upwards. I don't want to light up the floor too much. I'd rather have it light stuff nobody can see on camera. And we're gonna turn that down a little bit because it's much closer so I'm gonna have you just stand right here and we're gonna let this hit you just slightly. And what I want you to do is actually look this way this time, yeah, right in there. And this is gonna be pretty harsh light coming in. Alright, get him back in the frame. There we go. So it's just gonna be a different look. I'm actually gonna have, I'm gonna move this back slightly, and then we should be good to go. So again, it's a lot of messing around with stuff but I want to do that all beforehand so that way when he's dribbling, I don't have to be like oh hold on, I gotta move another light or I gotta do this or that. And then as far as tethering goes, I mentioned doing it in black and white but that's just for something to do so make it different. So we're gonna do kind of a high contrast, black and white look. We'll let some of that ambient bleed in. And this might be one that ends with a little bit of grain to it and those type of things, too, but I'll add those later. Okay, so whenever you're ready, you can take one step back but I just want you to, so you can plan it out, we'll do this 10 times or more just to make sure we get it. So I'm gonna do verticals. Yep, so just be dribbling with your left hand and step right into that. Now, kind of like full speed so even if you need to step back farther and you can dribble right up until you get to take one step past that piece of tape. But I'll have you dribble at like full speed so go ahead, yeah, so how about this? Dribble like those wide dribbles so kind of get down as if you were going back and forth from one, yeah. And stay right where that tape is. So try and dribble on the tape, yep, and be looking up, looking both directions, yep. And I'll just keep shooting. And I'm trying to time it out to get the ball at the edge of the dribble where it's the most aggressive looking. That's not sharp. Look in the other way. Look right into camera. Okay perfect, looking off this way again. Off that way again, way out here. Okay perfect. Now I'm just gonna have you stand there. And I'm gonna come and get a couple closer portraits so take one big step back. Turn this way with your body and now look back almost straight into that light. And we're gonna go back to color so all I need to do to get that color is go up, copy all the settings from this shot, okay I just copied those by hitting this up arrow. Go down to this shot, we're gonna set it back to zero which is this arrow right here and now we're gonna apply that same curve to this shot. So now we're back to kind of our original settings. So I'm gonna have you kind of like down like this. Yep, looking that way. And then just stay in that position but I just want you to dribble with that left hand. And looking up, yeah, there we go. So we're kind of figuring out what works for the frame. Looking right at me. A couple more like that. Looking off that way hard. Okay. So we got some options there. Obviously if you shoot a lot, you have a better chance of getting the right combination, but I'm happy with those two shots as far as our portrait, kind of our safe shot, trying to get some action, shooting some with a 78200 to get a different compression, doing testing some black and white. I don't do my black and whites in Capture One but I do like to see how the contrast looks. So then if I wanted to make them all back to color which I do, again we've already captured this setting. So I'll go back and I'll select all those black and whites. You just click one, hold shift, go click the other one. It selects everything back in between. We're gonna hit this arrow to reset them all to regular color. Actually, we might have to do it. Start from the top. And then we can apply that original curve. For some reason it's not letting me take them all off but let me just try one more thing 'cause I know the saturation's gonna stay down if I just do it manually, yep. It's gonna keep him de-saturated so I guess I don't exactly know how to do that part. But moral of the story is that if you just reset the image and then hit paste, it'll apply the settings from the other color images on there. So ooh, this looks like it could be a good one. So we'll reset that one, paste those settings, and I like kind of the tones that are coming through that window, too. That was unplanned. That's like one of those happy accidents where it's this like pastel-y watercolor look coming through the windows. So I'm pretty happy with that.

Ratings and Reviews

Julie V

I had the chance to sit in the audience for this class and absolutely loved it. Watching Dan create amazing images from start to finish in front of us was so inspiring. I've learned so much from this class. It actually gave me the confidence to start playing with lights in my studio. It was really useful to see how he sets his lights and how he can easily mix ambient light with artificial. I also love how he focuses on getting the image right in the camera to only do light edits after. I recommend this class to anyone wanting to learn more about lighting, shooting tethered and editing efficiently!

a Creativelive Student

I love this guy! I so appreciate his honesty while he is explaining his thought process, admitting that his “shoulda/coulda/woulda’s” - which I experience ALL the time. I am now going to dust off my light meter and start using it on location as I’m convinced that it works now that I’ve seen Dan’s class. I enjoyed the detailed way he sets up each light individually, checking to make sure it adds the amount and quality of light he wants. Definitely recommend this class - especially for those people who have experience using studio lights and want to see how they can be used to get specific results. Dan’s clear, simple explanations, his unabashed humility, and his sense of humor made this a truly enjoyable way to spend my time learning his methods.

a Creativelive Student

Dan is an excellent instructor! He's completely transparent with his thought processes, from technical to creative. He doesn't waste time horsing around or getting off topic, but is structured and sticks to his outline. Every minute watched is on topic, and is understandable. He's sincere and likable. The course is great for anyone interested in this genre!

Student Work