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

55 min
Difficulty Difficulty Difficulty

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

Video transcripts available with a subscription.

An introduction to the instructor and what will be covered in this course
Controlling the light on an animal print background with daylight-balanced fluorescent bulbs by Westcott
The reflective surfaces of the CDs make for an interesting challenge
Breaking up the wall behind the subject with fill light
Creative painting and turning your light into a spotlight with Turbo Spot
Be sure to offer a variety of backgrounds for your customers to choose from
Inspiration can come from walking around the mall and looking at the window displays
One of the more beautiful and popular poses for high school portraits
Trying to match the color temperature of the chandelier
Mixing these elements with a bead background and the correct lighting
This eye-catching material works great in this setup because the subjects can lean and touch on the background
Many different ways to be creative with this background material
Antique store is another great source for interesting set pieces for the studio
Using studio lights with barn doors attached are great for creating lighting patterns
This type of flash can be used to give a fashion look to all of your images
Learn the rudiments to lighting and have fun taking senior portraits
Profile photo of James Schmelzer

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 light modifier products as well as creating instructional videos demonstrating control of light. He conducts workshops, speaks at seminars, and...

James's Courses


Join the Discussion
  1. Profile photo of dougharhai dougharhai

    Very in-depth, unique information. Great course.

  2. Profile photo of jwagner32407 jwagner32407

    Wow this was great!!! I have just been asked to do some senior photo shoots and this is going to help me. It’s very inspiring and I can see how this type of photography can draw one in.

  3. Profile photo of Neptune_Sky Neptune_Sky

    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!

  4. Profile photo of Ray Warren Ray Warren

    Brilliant video James. I love your work and learn a lot from your videos.

  5. Profile photo of matmlmm matmlmm

    Please have James Schmelzer do some more courses. I’m new to photography and he’s great! —- Yes, please post my feedback

  6. Profile photo of JCam1964 JCam1964

    I enjoyed this course from start to finish.This is a class that I will definitely be watching over again . —- Yes, please post my feedback

  7. Profile photo of lucienr lucienr

    Very good course! It inspired me and gave me new ideas. Good teacher that explains well. Stunning models! —- Yes, please post my feedback

  8. Profile photo of Bluefine Bluefine

    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! —- Yes, please post my feedback

  9. Profile photo of Barton Bernard Barton Bernard

    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. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  10. Profile photo of JakAHearts JakAHearts

    Thanks so much for all of your senior videos. They have been invaluable in my growth as a photographer. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  11. Profile photo of Housty Housty

    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 —- Yes, please post my feedback

  12. Profile photo of pedrojschmitt pedrojschmitt

    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 —- Yes, please post my feedback

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