Senior Portraits: Background, Props, and Shooting Ideas, with James Schmelzer

Join portrait photographer James Schmelzer as he shares his cutting-edge ideas and concepts for creating and lighting unique backgrounds for studio portraits.

Join portrait photographer James Schmelzer as he shares his cutting-edge ideas and concepts for creating and lighting unique backgrounds for studio portraits.

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Course Lessons:

Lesson 1: Introduction (Duration 01:55)

An introduction to the instructor and what will be covered in this course

Lesson 2: Zebra Print (Duration 08:24)

Controlling the light on an animal print background with daylight-balanced fluorescent bulbs by Westcott

Lesson 3: CD Wall (Duration 02:35)

The reflective surfaces of the CDs make for an interesting challenge

Lesson 4: Shag Rug (Duration 01:43)

Breaking up the wall behind the subject with fill light

Lesson 5: Beads and Hand-Painted Foam Core (Duration 04:34)

Creative painting and turning your light into a spotlight with Turbo Spot

Lesson 6: Old Boards and Chipped Paint (Duration 03:12)

Be sure to offer a variety of backgrounds for your customers to choose from

Lesson 7: Pillows and a White Background (Duration 07:38)

Inspiration can come from walking around the mall and looking at the window displays

Lesson 8: Rose Petals (Duration 05:01)

One of the more beautiful and popular poses for high school portraits

Lesson 9: Frosted Tungsten Bulb (Duration 04:01)

Trying to match the color temperature of the chandelier

Lesson 10: Black Couch, Tiled Floor (Duration 01:56)

Mixing these elements with a bead background and the correct lighting

Lesson 11: Painted SubFloor as Background (Duration 01:59)

This eye-catching material works great in this setup because the subjects can lean and touch on the background

Lesson 12: 3D Wall Paper (Duration 02:52)

Many different ways to be creative with this background material

Lesson 13: Antique Couch (Duration 02:54)

Antique store is another great source for interesting set pieces for the studio

Lesson 14: Glitter Board (Duration 03:58)

Using studio lights with barn doors attached are great for creating lighting patterns

Lesson 15: Ring Flash (Duration 02:19)

This type of flash can be used to give a fashion look to all of your images

Lesson 16: Conclusion (Duration 01:04)

Learn the rudiments to lighting and have fun taking senior portraits

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. Im in the process to set up my first studio (for portraits) and those lessons are invaluable to me. Im very impressed with level of details that Mr. Schmelzer put in each light (size, distance, modifiers, etc.). That's Im looking for my photos - quality and distinguish. Thank you

  2. Im am interested in the lighting setup that James has used. I have search suppliers such as B&H but cannot find the continuous lighting and exact triflector that is used. Lastolite market one but this appears much larger than the one that in used in the video. Thanks. Johnny

  3. This was a very helpful series. There were so many details covered that I will be viewing again just to make sure I see them all. I like the style of studio he has. The foam boards are a great way to move a background into place without the hassle of hanging cloth backdrops.

  4. Love the different techniques and the very easy to understand lighting layouts. I am really getting a lot out of the available light type shooters. Love that James steps through his perspective on sets, props and posing. Good guy. Can't wait to hear more from him!

  5. Thanks for these killer videos! Having never done portraiture but quickly developing interest in it, these lessons give me a great idea of the basic elements of lighting people, as well as the creative possibilities inherent in portraiture. Awesome series!

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