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Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio

Become a better photographer today!

Join 's Course: 4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the StudioLearn to shoot captivating portraits in a variety of situations in this exciting four-week online course. This class draws on more than 15 years of John Siskin's experience in teaching professional lighting. The goal is to give you the tools necessary for photographing portraits in a wide range of conditions.

Key Features

  1. Outdoor Portraits - positioning the face for the best effect, and also portraits outdoors.
  2. Portraits at home - either at your home or the subject's.
  3. The hands - Using the subject's hands to make a portrait more interesting.
  4. Controlling Light - how light can flatter the subject

  • Making portraits outdoors, at home, at work and in the studio.
  • Understanding and using lighting in a variety of circumstances!
  • Looking for good locations.
  • Using on-camera strobe, battery-powered strobe and studio strobe.
  • Using umbrellas, light panels and soft boxes.
  • Using hard and soft light effectively.
  • Information on setting up a home studio.

$198.00 USD

What You Get


You get direct feedback on your photos from world-acclaimed, professional photographers. You can learn photography in this way from anywhere in the world.  
  • Learn at your pace, with structure.
  • Be guided by a real pro instructor.
  • Get your photos critiqued every week.
  • Join students from around the world.
  • Go far beyond any book or DVD.
  • Make great pictures, again and again!



Photography Instructor: John H. Siskin John H. Siskin
John Siskin is a commercial and fine art photographer who makes architectural, portrait and macro images. He has worked for General Motors and Disney Studios. He teaches the BetterPhoto course An Introduction to Photographic Lighting and is the author of the book Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers.

In addition, he teaches studio lighting black and white photography at Los Angeles Mission College. His studio is in Reseda California and more of his work can be seen at

His work has been part of many exhibits. His photographs have been shown at the Brand Library, 2nd City Art Gallery, Haroldís Gallery, Farmani Gallery, and The Atelier. He has been a participant in the Valley Studio Tour several times.

John has published quite a number of technical articles about photography. His articles have appeared in Photo Techniques, View Camera, Studio Photography and others. He has written about photographic lighting, building lenses, framing, photographic lab work, building cameras, as well as some more speculative photographic subjects. Since he is so well versed in photographic subjects, he is often hired as a consultant by businesses.

Sample Photos by the Instructor

© John Siskin 

© John Siskin 

Course Outline


Lesson 1: Outdoor Portraits
Understanding the human face, and positioning the face for the best effect. Portraits outdoors. Looking for good outdoor backgrounds. Using flash fill and reflectors.
Assignment: Shoot outdoor portraits, and upload 3 of the best.

Lesson 2: Portraits at Home
Understanding make-up. Portraits at home - either at your home or the subject's. Finding good locations at home for portraits. Types of professional strobe equipment. Using strobes with diffusers and umbrellas.
Assignment: Shoot portraits at home; upload 3 of the best. Try not to annoy your family members too much!

Lesson 3: The Hands
More on the tools that modify light, like the snoot and barn doors. What they do and how to use them. Using the subjectís hands to make a portrait more interesting. Shooting in a work environment. Choosing the right light for the location.
Assignment: Photograph someone in a work environment, preferably a more physical job. Upload 3 that let us know something about the job and the job site. It would be good if one of your shots is a hand shot.

Lesson 4: Controlling Light
Understanding how light can be controlled to flatter the subject. Photographing in a studio environment. Shooting portraits by the numbers: what are ratios and how they work for you.
Assignment: Using light, make two portraits of the same person - one that makes the face appear slimmer than the other.

© John Siskin 

© John Siskin 



  • Camera & tripod - digital camera preferred.
  • Image editing software.
  • Strobes, even Vivitar 283s are OK to start.
  • Experience with manipulating light.
  • If you do not have lighting experience, then consider John Siskin's excellent An Introduction to Photographic Lighting  course.



Do I need strobe lights to take this course?
 would hope that students will have at least a good dedicated flash. Students should expect that they will want strobes in order to use the techniques from this class in their own photography.  

I am interested in portrait lighting but I donít have a studio. Will this class help me?
Yes! We will discuss shooting in several areas - including outdoors, home and at work. I find that I do more studio work outside of the studio myself.  

Will we need to buy strobes in the first week of class?
No, you can work with a dedicated strobe the first week. Youíll find that the later assignments will work better with monolights, studio strobes or battery-powered strobe. I will introduce these tools in class and help you choose these tools, if you want to purchase them.  

Are there really digital lights?
Well, some of the manufacturers are not exactly truthful, so no. There are some differences in using digital with strobes. Most digital cameras are small capture areas; consequently, they exhibit good depth-of field at fairly wide apertures, meaning you need less power. Digital does, however, show up relatively small differences in the color of lights, so we have to be careful to maintain the same color from each light.  

What other tools will we discuss?
Backgrounds, reflectors, light stands and C-stands. I will also show you how to make your own light panels. Of course, I am always available to discuss any tool you are interested in.  

I have heard about lighting ratios. Will we see how these work?
Absolutely! I will also explain the applications of lighting ratios and when to use them. I should say that these are only one of the lighting tools we will discuss.  

© John Siskin 

© John Siskin 

Do I have to be online at any specific time?
No, you do not need to be online at any specific time. The lessons are sent to your email and you are also provided the Campus Square - where you interact with your classmates and instructor. This is also where you upload your photos to be critiqued by your instructor. The instructors are very punctual and respond quickly.

Will I have access to the instructor to ask questions during the photo course?
Absolutely! Students can ask questions in the special Q&A forum set up in the course's Campus Square, or can ask the instructor via email.

Do you offer a money back guarantee?
Yes. We are confident that you will fully enjoy our courses. All the same, for our 8-week classes, we offer a 100% money-back guarantee before the Wednesday that Lesson #3 is sent out. If for any reason, you are not satisfied and let us know that you would like to withdraw before the Wednesday that Lesson #3 is sent, you will be promptly refunded.

For our 4-week courses, we offer a 100% money back guarantee before the Wednesday that Lesson #2 is sent out from BetterPhoto. If for any reason you are not satisfied and you let the ordering department know that you would like to withdraw before the Wednesday that Lesson #2 is sent, you will be refunded within 7 days. After the second lesson has been sent out, no refunds will be given.

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