What if I said that you can take great portraits anywhere, even in an ordinary garage? It’s all about understanding light and how it works. In this video, I’ll be walking through how to create dramatic portrait lighting anywhere in 4 simple steps.

Video: 4 Simple Steps for Dramatic Portrait Lighting Anywhere

Today, we’re going to take away all the excessive gear and run with just the fundamentals. No fancy lighting and I’m going to demonstrate these portrait lighting principles on my Canon EOS R5 as well as an iPhone. If we understand how light works, we can take great portraits anywhere. Just follow these easy steps.

  1. Control the Light
  2. Composition & Positioning
  3. Control the Background Light
  4. Layering Techniques

Before we start, head over to Instagram and give Kiara, our wonderful model today, a follow!

The Walk-Up Shot

Here’s where we’ll be starting. No portrait lighting techniques just yet. Simply the ambient light from an open garage. Basic, right?

Step #1: Controlling the Light

Portrait lighting often involves controlling light using flash or modifiers. Instead, we’re going to start by eliminating the light and to do this, I simply closed the garage. Then, I opened the side door which creates a makeshift strip-box. You can even open or close the door to control the width and light spread.

Step #2: Composition & Positioning

portrait lighting strip box

I moved Kiara beside the door where the light was lighting her perfectly. Then, I tightened the frame so we don’t see any unnecessary clutter in the background.

Step #3: Control the Background Light

By simply opening the door, I can allow more light to spill onto the walls. On the other hand, I can close the doors to tighten up the light and darken the background.

Step #4: Layering Techniques

portrait lighting layers and depth

To add depth to the shot, I placed Kiara against the wall and used the door to control the highlight behind her.

Final Images

portrait lighting final images
Edited with VF Presets > Mood Pack

Check out our final images using these simple portrait lighting steps.


I hope you enjoyed this article/video. A strong understanding of portrait lighting is all you need to capture beautiful photographs anywhere. Check out SLR Lounge Premium for specialized photography-related courses such as our Posing Workshop, Creative Mobile Photography, and a complete guide to Lightroom. For our full library of intuitive lighting-based presets, visit Visual Flow.

Don’t miss our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!