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Shoot: Natural Light in Studio

Lesson 15 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Shoot: Natural Light in Studio

Lesson 15 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

15. Shoot: Natural Light in Studio

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of this lesson is engagement photography and shooting with natural light in a studio setting.


  1. How does the instructor position the couple for the shoot?

    The instructor has the couple stand close together and slightly turned towards the light source.

  2. What is the purpose of adjusting the angle of the hand in a pose?

    Adjusting the angle of the hand can make the pose feel more natural and prevent too much attention being drawn to the right angle.

  3. What camera settings does the instructor use for the shoot?

    The instructor shoots at 1/200th of a second, 1.4 aperture, and ISO 800.

  4. How does the instructor determine the correct exposure?

    The instructor looks at the histogram to determine if there is room to add more highlights or preserve more shadows.

  5. How does the instructor achieve different lighting effects in the studio?

    The instructor uses a reflector to bend and modify the light to achieve different effects.

  6. How does the instructor focus when shooting at a wide aperture?

    The instructor focuses on the eye of the subject and uses contrast points to ensure sharp focus.

  7. Can spot metering be used in manual mode?

    Yes, spot metering can be used in manual mode to set the exposure, but it should not be used in aperture priority or shutter priority modes.

Next Lesson: Homemade Soft Box


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Shoot: Natural Light in Studio

What we'll do is, let's actually start in this corner first. What I want to do, guys, is, because we're shooting in a little tight space, I want to shoot very tight on these shots, so I'm actually gonna have you guys step forward just a little bit. Perfect, and let's have you go into a, see if you guys remember, stack. I want Danielle, you, in front of Travis, perfect. I want you guys to open up to the audience a little bit so that you guys are turned towards this side. All I'm doing now, guys, is, I'm opening up them to the light that's coming forward right now, right? If I were to shoot from this side, I'd be shooting them split lit, so I'm just opening them up towards that light. That looks really, really nice right there. Danielle, do me a favor, and look down and to the side. Travis, I want you to step out this way from her just a little bit, perfect, and look down towards her. That looks, actually, pretty fantastic. I love the hand placement stuff. What I'm gonna have you do is j...

ust bring this hand down a little bit, or either up a little bit, but right there is perfect. What I like doing is, the pose, right angles draw a lot of attention to stuff, like when you hold a purse for a shot, like if you're doing a fashion shot. Look in a fashion magazine. When they do that shot with the girl that has the purse, and she's like, it's always at a right angle 'cause it draws a lot of attention to the right angle. If we don't want a ton of that attention, we just shift the angle of the hand down or up a little bit to make it feel more natural. That looks perfect, guys. Now, what we're gonna do is, I'm gonna go Live View sheet. Okay. We're gonna go, let's do, we're at 1/200th of a second, 1.4, ISO 800, and I'm shooting on a 85-millimeter Sigma lens right now. I'm gonna go ahead and dial in a white balance. I generally like to shoot a little bit on the warm side, so I'm gonna cool it down, and then warm it up to my taste. Right around here is good. That's fantastic. Now, this is where I need to look at my histogram, guys, because in camera, this looks correctly exposed. If I took this away, and I just based off this, it looks pretty spot on, but when I bring up my histogram, I can see that I actually have room in the highlights to add more, so I might as well try and preserve more shadows, and add more highlights. I'm gonna bring my exposure down to, like, 1/120th of a second. At that point, it starts to look really bright, but when you see the shot on the computer, and when we have it, we'll have all the information, you'll see that it's actually not. Let's go ahead and click off. Perfect, now, from right there, guys, I'm gonna have, let's see, Travis, can you close the thumb on your right hand just a little bit? Perfect, and then lean down and give her a peck right on the forehead. Perfect, that soft smile's great. Perfect, okay. There's our first. Let me go to loop view on this so we can see it large. Okay, what I'm gonna do is, that's great. Why don't we do this? Usually, what I'm gonna do, guys, is, we'll keep them in one pose and make small adjustments to them, and then we switch poses. For right now, let's just have you guys go into a open pose where you hug onto his arm. Perfect. Travis, you step back a little bit. Danielle, step forward a little bit. I'm getting that light. Did you guys see how he was in the light, and she was in the shadow? I'm just adjusting their position a little bit. Danielle, hug onto his arm. Look down towards his side. Travis, look towards her. Perfect, just like that. That's fantastic. Okay, Travis, go for a peck on her forehead again. Perfect, soft smile's great. I'm gonna get in a little bit tight just for a closeup. That's perfect, guys, I love that. Look toward each other, smiling a little bit. This is where, if I need to get a candid, I'm gonna speed up my shutter. I'm gonna go to 1/280th of a second, and I'm gonna bump my ISO up to 1,600. Pull each other in tight. Perfect, just like that, great. Now, I want you, my dear, to looK down to my side a little bit. Travis, whisper something soft and sweet into her ear. I don't know what you're saying, dude, but whatever you're saying is magic. Perfect. Right there, Danielle, look up towards me. Beautiful. Perfect. You guys seeing them coming up? Okay. We actually get very, very usable shots just in this little corner of the room without doing anything, and what we've done is, if you look at the lighting, all we've done here is, we placed them so they have a backlight, actually, right? You guys notice that? There was a window here, so I'm like, well, we'll just use that as our backlight that comes in. We placed them in a way that this light is basically what's spilling off the side towards them. But if we wanted to modify that, we could, actually. We could actually change that light quite a bit. Let's do this. What if we wanted to shoot them closer into this corner, like maybe we want to get you into the wall a little bit. Okay, can you get the large reflector, the 40 by 60? What I'm gonna do is, come over this way a little bit, guys. There you go, and come forward towards me. Perfect, just like that. Then, because our light is still gonna come from this side, I'm gonna have your faces and angles still looking towards that side a little bit. All we're gonna do now is, you can do this with any modifier. Just grab a reflector, these things are cheap, and you're just gonna bend the light to the place that you want it. We're just gonna put it up right here, and bend the light right towards them. Perfect. Now, look down towards this side. Fantastic. Let's have you look up to him on this shot. Great. Let me step over this way. Okay, let's see. I'm gonna get a little low 'cause I'm gonna try and block out some of the stuff in the background. Hug into him tight, and then right there, your chin position is amazing. Just look towards me with the eyes. Don't change the chin, okay? Travis, there you go, right there, brother. Let me just make sure my camera settings, we changed the lighting a little bit, so let me change that a little bit. Perfect. I love that. Smile towards him a little bit, Danielle. There we go. Think of how rugged and handsome that beard is. That's fantastic. Pull him in from his cheek, and go for a little kiss. There you go, perfect. Love that. Oh, and while we're doing that straight shot, let me go without. Bring you chin over to the side again, and then remove the modifier. Let's just take away that. Look up to him, Danielle. Perfect. Are there any questions while we're waiting for everything to come in? We've got a question right here if you want to grab the mic. Perfect, real quick, guys, do you see, look at this. Let me go back to grid view. I'm gonna press G, by the way. We'll talk about Light Room basics, but as we're talking, we might as well glance over a few. I'm going to grid view, pressing G, and we're gonna hold down Control and select the other image. Actually, let me turn on my lights. We're gonna press compare just to bring them both up. Okay, pretty huge difference, right, in terms of the light. Do you see how, in this shot, he's basically chiseled out, whereas, in this shot, he's blending in the background? That's the goal with all of our images, is, we want to add just enough light to basically make our subjects the focus of an image without necessarily drawing so much attention to the light itself. That's generally the goal. Sometimes, you're doing crazy lighting effects, and the lighting effect itself is part of the composition, and we break that rule, but in general, what we're looking for is a subject that is brighter than the background so they don't blend into stuff. You noticed how I kept his chin off to that side when I had him make eye contact with me? I just kept his chin over to the right side so that it was basically like a Rembrandt light on his face. Do you guys see the lighting pattern right there? Do you notice how she's posed, and she's flat lit from where the light's coming from, and he's got Rembrandt light from where he's posed? Pi, can I jump in with some questions from folks at home? A lot of people are asking about, you're shooting at 1.4, and where are you focusing, how are you getting them both in focus? This is coming down to knowing your lenses and your gear, right? I know that, if I nail my focus, and I'm generally going for her eye, I know people are very much concerned with an image being tack sharp. The thing is that lenses right now, especially the newer primes that are coming out, they're so freaking sharp that you're showing every bit of detail anyway. Your depth of field is very short, but if you can shoot at 1.4, or 1.8, or 2.0 on these types of shots, it really does a nice softening effect over skin. I'm focusing right at the eye, and areas of the cheek that are going in and out, and so forth, and you can see that he's still pretty dang sharp. I mean, his epic beard will be slightly out of focus. I'm gonna refer to that a lot. I just like it. It's one of the things that, okay. You can see that his beard is a little bit out of focus, but everything over here is good. We have plenty of detail in the shot. It's okay if he's a smidge out. He's not the primary focus of the shot. If I wanted to have both them looking into the camera, and they're both the focus of a shot, I do need to make sure that they're both sharp, but if one person is emphasized over the other, if one person's the primary subject, then I'm not worried too much about it. Generally, I aim for the eye because, especially on her eye, if you close your eyes, my dear, you can see that there's black, and then skin on each side, so it's black, and skin, and skin on each side, you can open again, thank you, it's a contrast point. I'm looking for contrast points whenever I'm focusing. One of the most common situations is a dark church, and guys walking down the aisle in black suits. You're like, "Oh my gosh, the camera's freaking out. "It can't focus." If you're far enough from the subject, shooting at f/2.8 is totally fine. Depth of field is gauged also by your distance to the subject, right? They're not gonna be blurry. If you focus right on the tie, where the black tie meets the white, that's a contrast point. You place the focus right there, your camera will fire every single time, and there's not enough difference between this and this to make something out of focus, not when you're 10 feet, 20 feet away. Does that make sense? Does everybody understand depth of field? You can see in the chat room, if they have questions about that, then we can talk about it. We did have a question here. Somewhat related to that question there, I'm wondering if you're using a focus and recompose, or if you're just moving your cursor around in there. Part two to that is, the spot metering, does that have any impact or any correlation to single point focus? Fantastic questions, I love it, Catherine. About focusing first, in your cameras, there are cross-type focus points, and non-cross-type focus points. Your camera manufacturer's gonna advertise, "We got 90 focal points on this thing, it's amazing." Then you start using them, and a lot of them miss focused. Do you guys notice that? They miss. In a camera like this, in the 5D Mark III, there's 90-something focus points, but only 40 of them are cross-type. There's an option in the camera to turn off all the other ones. When I get my camera back every time from service, and they reset it, the first that I do is, I turn off non-cross-type focus points. Now, when you look in this camera, there's a limited number of focus points to move to. It makes it so, when you're clicking over and adjusting, you don't have to go over 90 points. You're going over a far smaller amount as you're adjusting to that place. It also makes it so, whatever points are left are actually more accurate. What I'm doing here is, I actually brought the cross-type point, if you look at it, I wish you guys can see the inside of this guy. That's the camera of the future, it sees the inside of what I'm looking at. It's at the very topmost right side cross focus point in camera. I know that because I turn off all of the other points. I just move it round, I'm just using my joystick as I go, and I'm moving quickly along the way. The other part of that was... I can't remember. The spot meter. Oh, spot meter. Yeah, once again, when we dialed in, I actually use Live View here, right? But if I didn't want to use Live View, I totally could. I could spot meter, and get it in, and I'm shooting manual, so now, it doesn't really matter 'cause once I start adjusting my compositions, what I'm gonna do is, I'm gonna say, "Danielle, I'm gonna step in close for one second, "and get a spot meter reading." She doesn't really need to know what that is. I'm just gonna say I'm gonna meter, get her exposure. I'm gonna come in, get my reading, and I get my adjustments setting. I'm just looking at the meter at the bottom of the screen and seeing, okay, where does that fall in? After I step away, I'm no longer even looking at the meter, because it's already been set, it's set to manual. This is why you don't use spot metering when you're using aperture priority or shutter priority, because, as soon as that spot meter drops over his shirt. For example, I can give you a demonstration of this. It's in spot meter. I'm gonna switch this over to aperture priority. I'm gonna go right over his shirt. Then I'm gonna go over her shirt. Watch the two shots. You guys see the dramatic difference? It took it from, let's bring up our information. The first shot was at 1/80th of a second to 1/500th of a second just by moving that spot meter. If you're in anything other than manual, it'll be flying all over the place as you adjust. That's why we say, only do spot metering in manual mode.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work