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Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Lesson 7 of 46

Layer Three: Accent Light

Dan Brouillette

Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

7. Layer Three: Accent Light


Class Trailer
1 Class Introduction 15:18 2 How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out 05:48 3 What is Lighting in Layers? 16:49 4 Build a Lighting Foundation 18:28 5 Layer One: Main Light 06:17 6 Layer Two: Fill Light 08:29 7 Layer Three: Accent Light 04:29 8 Layer Four: Additional Light 11:46

Lesson Info

Layer Three: Accent Light

So, the next layer is accent lights. Those are also known as edge lights, hair lights, rim lights, et cetera. It's basically any light that is accenting something that your main light and your fill light aren't touching. So, everybody knows that hair light is coming from above to light someone's hair. A lot of times with shots of athletes, you'll want that edge where it shows muscle definition and that type of stuff. You'll use an accent light from behind to kinda give that look that you see in a natural sports moment of a basketball player in an arena where they have the light coming from behind them and it's providing that accent. So, those can be placed a lot of different places, it's kind of depending on the goal of your image. They can be placed anywhere, but a lot of times they will affect other things that you don't want, so I usually select something that's more controlled. If you're using a big soft box for your main light, I'm not gonna use a big soft box as an accent light f...

or a number of reasons. One, I probably don't have room behind the subject to put a big soft box. Two, I don't want that light spilling everywhere, I want it accenting a certain spot, and those are the main reasons. So, a lot of times what I'll use for an accent light is something like a strip box, so maybe a soft box that's 10 inches wide and 30 inches tall. Something that's narrow where I can really aim it, it can stay out of the way, and a lot of times, more often than not, I'll put a grid on those lights to really control it because an accent light, when seen through your lens, can cause lens flair, so you wanna keep it out of the lens, unless you're trying to do it on purpose which can provide its own effect. So, it's just being aware of why you're placing the accent light where you're putting it and how it's affecting the shot. The other thing, similar to your other lights, is how specular do you want that accent light? I did a shoot a couple years ago for the Minnesota Vikings. It was all football players in their gear after practice so they had, you know, looking a little sweaty, had a glisten to their skin and they wanted it to look like they were sculpted, so I thought, alright, this is gonna be a situation where we're gonna use harder light, so I used, basically, just small seven-inch reflectors on my lights with grids. That gave a really specular quality to the light, it also controlled it so it wasn't causing a bunch of lens flair. Whereas if you're, I had a shoot with a bunch of attorneys recently and we needed to separate them from the background, that was why we were using an accent light, so we could separate suits and hair and everything else from the background, and that didn't, I didn't want them to look like football players because they didn't, so I wanted to use something that was softer so we used a 10-by-36 inch strip light with a grid on it to give nice, soft light, but still accent them from the back and give that separation from the background and accent their hair and other features. So, they can be placed anywhere, but they usually need to be controlled. Alright, and the last part, like I said, use grids or smaller modifiers to aim the light where you want it to go. Here's an example. This was a senior. One light from your guys' left, there was no fill light here, we wanted that shadow. You can see, earlier when I was talking about falloff, look at his face versus the bottom of the frame. You can see how it went to dark, so that tells me that light must have been pretty close to his head and not really far away because that falloff, but the main point of this image is, on the other side, his left, our right side, you can see that accent light, so I wanted to show off kinda that, you know, a little more aggressive look, so I used a bare-bulb flash behind. And the other thing to know, earlier when we talked about lighting ratios, these can be measured the same way with a fill light. You can measure your light coming from the side of your main light or turn around and measure where your accent light's coming from, and if those light powers are the same, you know, that's like a one-to-one ratio of your main light to your accent light. So, sometimes with, the guys with the Vikings, we actually went more than, it was like a one-to-two ratio. We really pumped up those accent lights so it was just blasting in light, where the photos of the attorneys, it was subtle, it was almost two stops below. Was just a little touch of light to give them that separation, but I didn't wanna blast them with light like this guy. So, it just depends on what look you want.

Class Description

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.


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.