The Location Portraiture and Lighting Masterclass | Varanasi, India | late January - early February 2020

Matt Brandon and yours truly are happy to pre-announce the 2020 edition of the popular Location Portraiture and Lighting Masterclass. This time, we've focused on one of India's most photogenic cities: Varanasi or Benares, as it is officially called.

The Masterclass

India in general and Varanasi in particular have always been looked upon as a photographer’s paradise. But even the best locations and most interesting subjects are not enough to create amazing portraits. There are other factors that come into play and the biggest of them all is lighting.


In this Location Portraiture and Lighting Masterclass, we will spend a large amount of time working with available light, sculpted light and the combination of both. This workshop will help you overcome any fears for artificial light you might have and will let you use it as another exciting tool in your photographic toolbox.

Below are some examples of the types of images you can expect to be adding to your portfolio over the course of this seven-day Masterclass, which will be held somewhere in late January or early February, 2020.


Your hosts: Matt Brandon and Piet Van den Eynde

This Masterclass is led by two instructors: Matt Brandon and Piet Van den Eynde. Both have a passion for travel in general and India in particular and their combined photographic strengths make this Masterclass a unique experience.

Matt Brandon ( is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer, who collaborates with NGOs to tell their stories and to train their field staff to do the same. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by clients such as National Geographic Traveller, Asian Geographic, the BBC, Honda Motor Corporation, and Bombardier Transport Corporation, KLM Airlines and others. His photographic pursuits have taken him to the countries of Egypt, Tibet, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Philippines, Malaysia to name a few.

Matt is a Fujifilm X-Photographer for Malaysia. For more information on Matt, read his complete profile at PhotoShelter.

Piet Van den Eynde (pronounced “Pete”) is a Belgian freelance photographer specializing in travel portraiture. As an Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Certified Expert, he has written numerous books on Adobe Lightroom. He also wrote a comprehensive ebook on using flash on location: 'Light It Up! Techniques for Dramatic Off-Camera Flash' with loads of travel images. When he's not traveling or writing, he's recording video courses. Finally, he has created a number of Lightroom preset and profile packages such as his Creative Profiles Starter Pack. He contributes articles to photography magazines worldwide.

In 2009, Piet threw his camera, a flash and an umbrella in his bicycle panniers and cycled 5000 miles through Asia. Piet will be teaching off-camera lighting skills as well as Lightroom processing throughout this workshop.

Below is a trailer with some images for the 2019 edition of the Masterclass

What you will learn in this class...

1. Recognize great light

We will teach you to look at light and help you to understand its attributes such as direction, quality and color.  You will come to understand that there really is no bad light, it’s just that not all light is created equal and you have to choose the light to match the mood of the image.

2. How to use off-camera lighting

Not only will Matt and I help you to grasp the basics of off-camera flash, we will push you to try new and daring techniques. By the way, we even provide you with lighting toys to play with!

3. What makes a well-composed image?

Matt and I will spend time with you looking at your images and critiquing your shot. We will give you - optional - assignments to help you grow as a portrait and travel photographer.

4. Lightroom Tips & Tricks

Matt and I do all our post-processing of our images in Adobe Lightroom (with the occasional excursion into Photoshop). There will be times when we can sit with the whole class or with you individually and go through some of the ways we edit. From our favorite plugins to standard workflow techniques.

What others are saying...

This is going to be an amazing workshop, but you don't have to take our word for it: here's what alumni George, René, and Thomas have to say:

Having taken two workshops with these two wonderful educators and moved from a noob to shooting my first wedding this summer after only two years of shooting, I can attest to their skills in teaching photography. I can’t recommend more highly this opportunity. If anyone wants to talk about my experience, feel free to pm me. I want to add that between my two trips with these two, our time in Varanasi was my favourite.
— George Neill, Application Systems Analyst and Enthusiast Photographer
This is a workshop that will leave a lasting impression. Take the hectic street life and colorful people of Varanasi and its surroundings. Add Matt’s expertise to work with the local ‘talent’ and put the story into the picture. Spice up with Piet’s mastering of dramatic composition and off-camera lighting. Then top off with your own photographic ambition and inspiration. Whatever your visual and technical skill level may be, your imagery will never look the same again!
— René Delbar, Life-long Photographer and Gear Freak
The workshop was a great experience, I gained a lot of confidence in shooting both street and location flash portrait photography, adding fantastic photos to my portfolio. Many, many thanks to Matt and Piet!
— Thomas Lippok Vice President Sales, EMEA at HBM

The 2020 Location Lighting and Portraiture Masterclass: planned itinerary*

Please note that this is a very rough draft of the itinerary. We are planning to add at least two highly photogenic new shooting locations that we will only share once you’ve registered, in order to keep them exclusive.

Don't think the Masterclass is only about artificial (flash) light or posed portraits. We use available light and street photography techniques just as well. All the above images were photographed with available light. In fact, it's the mix of these two approaches to travel portraiture that makes this workshop unique. To us, the difference between available light and flash is an academic one: we simply use the light that is most suitable for the image we have in mind.

Day 01: Arrival in Varanasi, meet and greet, exploratory afternoon walk

As this is an international group, participants will be arriving from everywhere in the world, typically around noon. You'll be picked up at the airport and be taken to our hotel. As the hotel is on the shores of the Ganges, you'll enter the city by boat, an unforgettable experience and the first of quite a number of exciting boat rides on this workshop. Depending on the arrival times of the group's members, on this first day we will either schedule some introductory class time or an afternoon walk in the hotel area. Thanks to its superb location, we literally only have to walk down the stairs to start taking amazing shots. If we're not too jetlagged, we might even do both!

_Fujifilm GFX 50S | GX32-64mmF4 R LM WR @ 32 mm | 1-60 sec at f - 5,6 | ISO 200.jpg

Day 02

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we will continue our exploration of the Ganges shoreline, which is where you'll find the most amazing characters. We might be lucky enough to photograph children jumping into the river or getting a haircut by one of the many mobile barbers. If you're feeling adventurous, you might treat yourself to the latest hairstyle, too! We will also get our first (and definitely not our last) chance to photograph some sadhus with their colorful and highly photogenic faces and clothes. Prior to that, we'll schedule some formal class time on off-camera flash so that you get familiar with the gear and techniques we'll use throughout this workshop.

Day 03

It's time for one of the - many - highlights of this Masterclass: you will get up really early for a sadhu boat shoot on the Ganges. This is the perfect occasion to learn to mix flash and available light, as the balance between them will change as the sun rises. After that, we get back to the hotel for a well-deserved breakfast. In the early afternoon, Matt will share his course on image composition with those who are interested. After that, it's back on track for a model shoot at a quiet Hindu temple. We might even come across a snake charmer...

Day 04

Today, we'll leave the hustle and bustle of Varanasi behind us - at least for a while - and we'll explore a nearby fishing village and a dhobi ghat (public clothes washing place). Very few tourists, if any, come here and as such there are great portraits to be made. The fishing village will also give us a chance to practice our street photography skills and our Instax printers will probably make over time!

Day 05

In the morning, we'll visit Varanasi's bustling flower market, another colorful experience. Plenty of opportunity for street-style and lit portraits or even long exposure shots transforming the busy market into a beautiful blur. In the afternoon we take it easier: because you will have been shooting rather frantically for the past days, we know that by now, you might want some downtime, either to rest or to simply download your cards and process some images. Obviously, Matt and I are available to review images or give you some postprocessing ideas. And if you can't get enough, you can obviously continue to explore the city by yourself. Feel free to use our lighting gear and our fixer will happily join you.

Day 06

Today is another early riser! But one with tremendous photographic opportunities as we'll visit one of Varanasi's mud wrestling schools, followed by an exploration of a huge vegetable market. Both are visual feasts: one is a harmonious and subtle game of different shades of brown, while the vegetable market is simply an explosion of colors, unless, like me, you prefer to desaturate your images a little in postproduction. It's all a matter of personal preference, really. 

Day 07

Varanasi's fish and chicken market are a delight for a photographer's eyes, although maybe less so for the other senses! In the afternoon, depending on the group's interest, we'll either explore Varanasi's Muslim area, with the sari weaving district, or we might head out to another nearby village.

Day 08 - Last day in Varanasi - Outbound flights

Alas, it’s time to go… but depending on your connections, there is still some time to shoot some more portraits or hunt for souvenirs for those of you who cannot return home empty-handed. After all, you would like your significant other back home to allow you to participate in future workshops, right? The official workshop program ends in Varanasi at noon on day 8 (or earlier that day, depending on your return flight). You will be brought back to Varanasi Airport and then it’s back home with a suitcase full of memories and a camera bag full of memory cards!

* We don't want to give you a minute-by-minute schedule because first of all, that's simply not possible and it also wouldn't be much fun, would it? Throughout our trip, you might hear us say 'T.I.I.' on occasion. This is short for 'This Is India', which means things don't always go as planned. While we plan to see most of the sights on this itinerary (and probably some more), sometimes things might not go according to schedule, both in terms of places or people visited and the days we do so. The beauty is that the alternative provided might sometimes be even better than the original plan! Also know that some of the best shots just happen in between scheduled shoots. Such is the nature of travel photography! The images above hopefully show that there will be no lack of photo opportunities, interesting subjects, backgrounds, and teaching. After all, this is a workshop and not just a photo tour.

For those interested, we will schedule a class on composition and postprocessing.

Practicalities and Pricing

While many travel photography workshops have an 8:1 or even a 10:1 guest:instructor ratio, we have purposely limited the number of photographing participants on this trip to only six. With two instructors, this makes for an incredible 3:1 guest:instructor ratio. Therefore, we expect this Masterclass to sell out quickly. In fact, one of the previous editions sold out within the hour! We regret that we cannot hold spaces: all six photography spots will be allotted on a first come, first served basis.

This workshop is open to all levels of photographers using mirrorless or DSLR-style cameras who know the basics about operating their cameras. We've called this a 'Masterclass' because that's what we want you to be by the time you return back home: a master of lighting, both available light and flash, and any mix in between.

Final pricing hasn’t been set yet, but will be somewhere in the range of $ 5.500. A discount is available for non-photographing partners. The workshop price includes the following:

What’s included: Just about everything.

  • Your stay in a shared double room. You can opt for a single room on the registration page (subject to availability). The single room supplement price hasn’t been established yet, but should be around $ 1.000.

  • All meals and water during the tour

  • Airport transfer to and from Varanasi Airport;

  • Services of English speaking local guides for sightseeing as per the program;

  • Bicycle and auto rickshaw rides in Varanasi;

  • Boat rides in Varanasi as per the program;

  • Bottled water in the Mini Coach;

  • Tuition by Matt and Piet;

  • Model and fixer fees;

  • Use of lighting gear during the workshop: although you can bring your own lighting equipment, you're welcome to use ours.

What’s NOT included:

  • Flash trigger. Although we generally bring extra units, we highly recommend you purchase your own Godox X-Pro flash trigger for your particular camera brand. This trigger retails for about $80 and is available in a Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus and Fujifilm version. Having your own trigger, instead of waiting for one of ours to become available, will undoubtedly improve your workshop experience!

  • Any expenses of personal nature like tips, souvenirs, laundry, all beverages (except water), telephone calls, etc...

  • Any expenses caused by factors beyond our control like flight cancellation, roadblocks, vehicle malfunction etc...

  • Any travel, medical or evacuation insurance. We'll require you to have travel and cancellation insurance and provide proof of that before the start of the workshop.

  • Your international flight to and from Varanasi.

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Our Sponsors

We kindly thank Fujifilm Belgium for providing us with Instax printers and paper to use throughout the workshop. You'll experience first hand the joy that photography can bring when you offer a print to someone you've just photographed.


The Fujifilm Instax Printer is like the photographic equivalent of Good Karma. Step 1. Make a portrait. Step 2. Give a print. Step 3. Someone else will invariably ask you to have their portrait taken. Step 4: Repeat Step 1. [Occasional extra step: change paper in Instax printer - even more occasional extra step: recharge Instax printer's battery]

The Fujifilm Instax Printer is like the photographic equivalent of Good Karma. Step 1. Make a portrait. Step 2. Give a print. Step 3. Someone else will invariably ask you to have their portrait taken. Step 4: Repeat Step 1. [Occasional extra step: change paper in Instax printer - even more occasional extra step: recharge Instax printer's battery]


All images on this page are © Piet Van den Eynde, except for some behind-the-scenes images that are © René Delbar and George Neill.



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