Outdoor Lighting for Senior Portraits, with James Schmelzer

In this course, James demonstrates some of the techniques he has learned for controlling and shaping light while shooting outdoors and using natural light.

Professional photographer James Schmelzer has made a career shooting of high school senior portraits. In this course, James demonstrates some of the techniques he has learned for controlling and shaping light while shooting outdoors and using natural light.

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Course Lessons:

Lesson 1: Direct Sunlight into Shade Using a Reflector (Duration 06:45)

Using a reflector to bounce the sunlight back into a shaded area to better control the exposure

Lesson 2: Blocking Light with Natural Gobos (Duration 02:21)

Sometimes it is easier to use a large structure at your location to block light instead of trying to set up something yourself

Lesson 3: Subtractive Light Control (Duration 01:14)

Using a black gobo to create more contrast and shading on your subject

Lesson 4: Softening Raw Light Using a Diffuser (Duration 02:00)

Using the bright sun as the main light and softening it with a diffuser

Lesson 5: Lighting and Posing on Railroad Tracks (Duration 06:12)

On location at the railroad tracks for a cool, urban look

Lesson 6: Choosing the Correct Side of a Building (Duration 02:05)

Learn to use the north side of the buildings as backdrop

Lesson 7: Evening Portraits (Duration 02:19)

Taking evening photos using a simple flashlight and umbrella as a light source

Lesson 8: Matching the Background and the Outfit (Duration 03:15)

In this segment, James experiments with different outfits in an environmental setting

Lesson 9: Natural Light with Reflector Fill (Duration 02:21)

Shooting low to capture the neon signs and lights in the background

Lesson 10: Lighting for Urban Scenes (Duration 02:59)

Using a full length reflector and composing the urban background

Lesson 11: Portraits at the Park (Duration 08:04)

Going through a variety of setups during a sunny day shoot at the park

Lesson 12: Creating an Outdoor Studio (Duration 02:16)

Making an outdoor portrait fast and easy

Lesson 13: Beach Portraits (Duration 04:13)

Going out later in the day for softer light. Learn some poses, setups and lighting tips

Meet Your Instructor: James Schmelzer

James Schmelzer is an award winning photographer, lecturer, and has been the technical representative for F.J. Westcott Company for over 25 years. James has been actively involved in designing new…


  1. Your comment is awaiting moderation. Excellent instructor. Very detailed and experienced with posing and lighting. Cool. calm, collective. Easy to understand. I believe I saw him in person at USA Imaging 2012 in New Orleans, LA.

  2. Very good course. I will be watching this one over and over. I like the simple strategies and simple techniques that result is very nice portraits.

  3. Great course. Very understandable, and the content is ready to be put into practice. I really appreciate his tips on using the full-length reflector, the night flashlight, so many good ideas. Is there another name for the "expo meter?" I have tried an internet search without results.

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