Master the Environmental Portrait

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©David Turner

Celebrity portraits often look like they had all day to set up. The reality is the image is snapped in a matter of minutes. The time crunch means you have to know what you are doing before you do it.

This course teaches students how to size up a location, look for the existing ambient light, light the location to match the existing ambient (taking your cues from the location), light a small space beautifully, and balance the lighting so that ultimately, you can master an environmental portrait on location, no matter if the subject is a musician, writer, actor, or my favorite, an everyday interesting person.

David teaches master lighting techniques customized for the individual subject. The key light is sculpted to varying degrees based on a trained eye, not formulas or lighting diagrams. The class will emphasize seeing the light, setting the mood for the scene, creating atmosphere, handling the cascading effects of decision-making (when things go wrong), and separating the subject by making the right tonal values that make or break a great image. Students leave understanding how to make interesting images, compelling location portraits, and how to use the lighting to make the subject the star.

David Turner’s experience as a professional photographer brings real-world experience into the classroom, explaining photography’s fundamentals through theory and practical demonstration which helps the student connect the dots of not just how but the why’s. Turner not only explains modern digital photography but also explains the origin of many techniques from photography’s fascinating history.

Working in Italy for fashion magazines in the ’80s and his experience as the staff photographer for W magazine in NYC for nearly 20 years provides Turner with practical examples and wonderful stories about the interesting people in the magazine world as well as the challenges of working under tight deadlines.

David Turner is currently a Visiting Professor at  Rochester Institute of Technology, which boasts a renowned photography department. 


Past student work (left to right): Martin Ruetschi, Pat Trotter, Christina Venturini, Frank Bitetto

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Instructor: David Turner

Photographer David Turner is best known for his 25 year career in NYC working for top magazines like W Magazine photographing the latest fashions to a beautifully lit portrait of designer Ralph Lauren to a still life of the newest fragrance. Constantly running to the newsstand to see other popular photographers from the New York Times Magazine or Italian Vogue to competitively compare or secretly admire the beautiful and powerful medium of photography, Turner has had to keep a pulse on this constantly changing industry not from the outside looking in but from the inside where all the decisions are being made by Editors, Creative Directors and leading Designers. That’s what makes Turner a real photographer’s photographer. He is knowledgeable yet appreciative of what’s new and sees the potential of a budding talent. Turner as of late has been teaching location lighting at Rochester Institute of Technology, the premiere photo school, and continues to enlighten and amaze young photographers everywhere.