Technical Approaches To Portraiture

We examine environmental portrait lighting techniques from seven of the world’s best photographers. From natural light to blended natural and artificial light, students explore each technique as they apply it to the weekly location/environmental portrait assignment. 

Posing Techniques for Portraiture

Learning about how the world’s top environmental portraitists work with their subjects help photographers find and develop their own methods. Studying the images, re-engineering them and finding out how to present the subjects as they do adds more tools to the process.

Photoshop Integration for Environmental Portraiture

Each assignment also includes appropriate Photoshop techniques for the student to explore – from Frequency Separation to creating ethereal and emotional lighting effects, we have gathered the best tutorials available for each weeks workshop.

Explore the Work of 8 Environmental Portraitists

Each assignment features the work of a contemporary or modern photographer and provides the direction for the shooting assignment for that week.

Why This Workshop?

My portrait workshops are different than most. We examine the portraiture of contemporary and historically important photographers together. There is no attempt to copy or recreate the work of these artists – instead the goal is to provide a catalyst for creativity in the student. When we immerse ourselves in the work of a photographer, we find ways in which the work stirs an inspirational desire to make better photographs. To make our photographs better.

In this workshop we will study the work of:

Diane Arbus

Dawoud Bay

David Eustace

Lee Crum

Andrew Hetherington

Jake Stangel

Joni Sternbach

Arthur Elgort

The study of each of these photographers will provide the direction for the shooting assignments each week. The images will be shown in an online gallery at the end of the workshop. While the workshop is protected, the gallery of final images will be available for the public to view.

What you will need for this class

A Digital (or film) camera with a normal lens, wide angle lens and telephoto lens. (Film cameras are fine if you have a way to quickly scan them for the reviews.) Lenses: In Full Frame mode that would be a 28 – 35mm wide angle, a 50mm – 60mm ‘normal’ and an 85mm – 135mm telephoto. Zooms are fine: FF 24-105mm would be a one lens approach. (Crop sensor around 17-85mm) Mirrorless systems are welcome of course. You will need at least two lights that can be used on location. Whether they are speedlights or studio lights with battery power is not important. You must be able to fire the flashes off camera AND you must know how to use the flash and triggers. You will need the following modifiers: Modifiers: An umbrella that can be used as a shoot-thru or a bounce. A medium softbox (Westcott Apollo 28 or larger) A snoot or grid for your light. You will also need a medium or large 5-in-one reflector kit. At least two stands with sandbags are required, and a boom is highly recommended. Tripod. Please.

Content Rich Classes

This is an intensive training workshop designed to build a photographer’s toolkit with real world approaches to commercial portraiture. Each class includes:

  • Technical instruction and assignments
  • Study of a Master Photographer
  • Applicable Photoshop Technique
  • Shooting assignment that has roots in real world commercial portraiture.
  • Live, recorded review of the images each student shot.

The assignments come one per week, and you will have two weeks to complete them. The assignments will be available on Friday and you will have two weeks (two weekends) plus a few days to get the assignments finished and uploaded for the critiques. No late assignments please.

Critiques are LIVE and RECORDED

You will have access to the recorded critiques and all of the materials in this workshop for as long as the site is up (5 years for sure).

Subjects: You will need someone (model, partner, kid) to work with you for the full 8 weeks. It does not have to be a different person each week. It is fine for it to be the same person each time. (Just think of the great body of work that subject would have at the end of this class… wow.) This is a learning class, not a ‘portfolio’ building class although it can certainly be both. For reviews: We use GoToWebinar and it is highly advised that you have a mic/earphones set for best audio. The meetings are scheduled for an hour. However, we frequently go over our time on this… so be prepared for detailed and deep discussions. We have an amazing Facebook Private Group – and you are invited.  After signing up for the class, you will be taken to a page with a link to the group. You must request to be a member. No one can see our posts there – only members. We do not have trolls or wandering eyes. Access to this incredibly helpful and supportive group is one of the biggest perks imaginable. IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE: WHILE THIS IS A CLASS for portraiture, it is not a ‘beginner’ class for those who want to learn to use their camera better. You must be able to work your gear, know what proper exposure is, how to control depth of field and work with flash or artificial light. Meters are suggested but not required.

Student Images

What previous students are saying about the 8 Week Portrait Series:

Anna Gunn and Filipe Martins (Portugal) did a whole series of posts they did on what the class was about. Great stuff and you will learn a ton from these two.

Flavio Martins (West Palm Beach, FL) has a post to show the images he did over the 8 weeks. Really good stuff, Flavio.

Brilliant Portrait Classes I fully recommend these online portrait workshops in which you study 8 well known photographers, learn about their lighting and portrait techniques and then use what you learn to inspire you to create portraits of your own! The class is intermediate to advanced because you should have some equipment for lighting and be familiar with how to use it. I owe so much to the creator of the classes +Don Giannatti – he is a generous and patient teacher. It also gives you access to a fantastic Group on facebook where all the class enrollees (from all his portrait classes) gather together in community to support each other. The feefor class is a freakin bargain  $75 (one time payment), which covers Eight classes and includes weekly webinars with personal feedback on your submissions for everyone. — Sam Breach (San Francisco Bay Area)

Irene Liebler (Connecticut) has a wonderful post on her site of a recent assignment in the ‘102’ class.

Mel Arnott (Australia) has a very in-depth set of posts on her experience in the workshop.

Hiram Chee (Santa Cruz) just posted a wonderful article on what he did with the portrait class.

Class begins Friday, January 13, 3PM PST with a welcome webinar. When you sign up, you will be given a access to the workshop to begin the first assignment which will be due at the next webinar date, January 20. All other assignments will have the two week time frame.

You will receive an assignment each week, but you will have two weeks to work on them. Webinars will be scheduled at the Friday, 3PM PST time slot and there will be nine of them. The first webinar is a welcome webinar where we meet each other, and then one each for each assignment.

All webinars are recorded. NOTE: You have two weeks to do the assignment and get it sent to me. Instructions will be provided. Each assignment will have a two week window for shooting/processing/uploading. Assignments are made weekly, with a two week lead for each. A schedule will be available on the class page. You must be able to shoot one image per week. (Sorry to be redundant, but we get questions like crazy.) 🙂

If you have questions, please address them to me at don.giannatti@gmail.com

As you can imagine this is an intensive, hands-on training that is geared toward maximizing the learning. I would suggest that you set aside 3-5 hours per week to do the assignment work and shoot. Please be sure to use an email address that you check regularly when signing up. It is that email address I will use to contact you with more information. Fee for class is $75 (one-time payment). I will also contact you at the email address you pay with at PayPal. I will have further instructions for you with that email. Please make sure you check the email you use for signing up periodically.


Fee for course is $75 US.

My name is Don Giannatti. I have been teaching commercial photography for the last 8 years. I am also a professional shooter as well as designer. I have taught on CreativeLIVE, UDEMY, and in workshops the world over. In 2012 I was recognized as one of the “Top 13 Workshop Instructors in the World” by Photo District News. I also teach an online professional workshop called Project52Pro. This year long project has launched dozens of professional commercial photographers, and is one of the best online classes for discovering and promoting photographic talent. Lighting Essentials is my flagship online publication. signature
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