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Dan Winters Style Photo Shoot

Oct 10

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Dan Winters

Dan Winters is a great photographer who produces gripping work. His lighting style is amazing, and he has a way of pulling emotion out of his subjects that will leave you breathless.

Today we look at one of his famous portraits of Tom Hanks, and try to reproduce it. Our model is Sam Luna who is also a great musician. He is getting into doing modeling and we shot a few different looks for his book.

We start off by analyzing Dan’s lighting style, and the figure out how to reproduce it. Keep in mind everything we do is a guess, but that is part of the fun. We encourage you to find a photo you like and imitate it. It can be a great learning exercise! Just be sure to credit the person responsible.

After working on the lighting, we take to Photoshop to color the image similar to Dan’s and give the background a bit of life. I think it turned out great!

PRO Textures

The textures used in this episode are available for download here. You can use them any way you want, including adding more depth to your backgrounds as we did in today’s episode.

Lighting Diagram

  • Isalabam

    So thats where you get your sense of humor lol. Great tutorial! 

  • Balint Alovits

    This episode is AWESOME Aaron! More episodes like this please. For one example from Annie Leibovitz’s images!

  • JeanaCPhoto
  • Mark

    Great episode Aaron.

  • Robert

    I love Dan’s work as he does what we all should do start from zero light and that means black boarding out those nasty reflecting light walls, etc when you are on location it can be a pain to do but worth the effort. 

  • Bryanleighty

    Aaron – excellent post and tutorial. Here is a link to a Flickr discussion about the exact same Dan Winters photo where Dan himself tells his story about making this amazing photo:

    Here is Dan’s note:
    “To be honest with you don’t remember what I used to light that picture. Probably a profoto head with a grid, a chimera for fill, some flags and a head on background. The picture was shot on a set that we built at at smashbox studios in Culver city. When I started on this particular photograph I had already gone into overtime and Tom’s publicist was giving me the evil eye. I was messing around with the lighting while he was in position and he noticed her snarling at me. Under his breath he said to me, “take your time”. A gesture like this can really diffuse stress while working under pressure. Tom is a total pro and is well versed at the difficulties in achieving subtle lighting. The same lighting could be achieved using many different types of equipment. Truthfully, with patience and care, it could be achieved using clip lights from Home Depot with 100 watt bulbs, some neutral density filters, some flags and stands. I usually think about the kind of lighting that I want and then think about the best way to approach it on that day. My lighting approach is pretty intuitive. After 25 years as a professional the mystery has abated somewhat but the wonderment is still very much there. One of my great pleasures in life is lighting portraits. I recently went to Hawaii to do a shoot of Eminem and Dre for packaging. When we landed ,
    I drove to Home Depot and bought some clip lights, bulbs and some flat white spray paint. I sprayed the inside of the reflectors white, bought some extension cords and went to the recording studio. I had my assistant had hold the lights and I lit the whole shoot in this manner. The real trick to lighting is understanding the physical properties of light. When you really understand them, your only obstacle is your voice, which is infinitely more difficult to master than any lighting set up. thanks for sharing your work. some of it is really beautiful.
    Best of luck,

  • François Vendiol

    Tutorials based on the work of pro photographers is one of the thing i enjoy the most about learning, this is where it’s getting exciting
    Excellent, i wish for more !!

  • Peter

    Wow, one of the best episodes I’ve seen, showing the entire process (except for the actual shooting of the photograph). Great stuff, highly informative and equally inspiring. Thank you!
    Btw, I’d love to see an ep on interaction with the model during a shoot. That’s one of the most difficult things for me. I know it takes practice and experience (not to mention natural born people skills), but any tips help!

  • Andrew Richardson-Winters

    Great Tutorial!!! I have been watching Phlearn since the beginning and this is one of my favorite tutorials. Please keep doing start to finish episodes, they keep me inspired!    

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  • Steven Erat

    Thank you Aaron.  I appreciate the effort put into this lesson.

    Also, +1 to more Inspired By tutorials like this, including actual BTS setup footage if you would please.  I bet Annie L’s Keith Richards hotel portrait would get a lot of attention, for one example.

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  • Rifqi Dahlgren

    Love this look and I’ve been wondering how to create it. However, I don’t have access to photoshop so instead I’m using lightroom and perfect layers. The problem is that I can’t figure out how to create the step where you get the white light on the face with those programs. Does anyone know if it’s possible to do? Any help would be very appreciated.

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  • Gregory Imler

    Great post, but have to admit I got lost when the blue channel copy adjustments started. Couldn’t seem to add the white and specularity the same way.

  • Socratic1

    Aaron, so cool that you had your Mom join at the end of the video. She has a great sense of humor too!

    I think this tutorial will help me to do some analysis of images I like, and try to recreate the lighting…and hopefully raise my game. Thanks!

  • Ian Boys

    Just had a go at this …

  • Ian Boys


  • GabrielMisfire


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