The picture above shows the classic Hollywood look that is created when the nose shadow touches the cheek shadow to enclose a triangle of light on the unlit side of the face. The pictures in this post are the result of my summer 2013 project. I started my quest to revitalise the classic Hollywood look 5 years ago back in 2008. I largely abandoned it until along came affordable, continuous lights that have both the all important Fresnel lenses and utilise the magic of daylight balanced LEDs. Now I’m glad to say that this style is well entrenched here in the UK and the Hollywood look has finally been reborn.
01. I took these shots in my studio back in 2008 using tungsten lights and a home made diffusion filter over the lens. These days I use the Tiffen Black Pro Mist 1/4 filter. I find it takes the ‘digital edge’ off my images without sacrificing detail.
02. I am often asked how can I recreate this look with studio flash? The simple answer is you can’t. The shot on the left above is taken at f/1.8 and even on the lowest power my studio flash heads give me f/5.6 when used directly inside a fresnel attachment. Creating the look of a soft edged spotlight is not easy with flash when the light source is a horse shoe shape. Any lens will focus this shape rather than the point source from a ‘w’ wound tungsten filament or a single LED as found in the Lupolux LED spotlights.
03. Hollywood style portraits don’t have to be low key. These portraits taken with LED spotlights were shot in bright environments and the shadow depth was controlled with indirect light used to lift the ambient. Working with continuous light is easy as you can see the effect of subtle changes as you make them without having to pick up a camera.
04. This is the most complicated lighting rig here. There’s a light on the strings of the piano and an upstage key on Jamie my male model holding an ‘e’ cigarette. There’s a key light on Chloe-Jasmine and a back light too. There’s a light on the back wall and the whole scene was set and exposed to the desk lamp on the piano. I used two Arri junior fresnels, one Sachtler reporter light, a Li-ion battery powered Lowel iD light and a couple of Dedo lights. All of these lights have tungsten filaments and are well balanced for colour as a result.
05. It’s the back light or kick light that completes the classic film look.
06. I held my Fujifilm X-Pro1 high above my head to shoot this frame through the chandelier. This would not be possible without the live view on the LCD screen.
07. Adding a vintage hair style takes this portrait of Helen on the left to another level. Notice how crisply cheek bones in both these shots are clearly defined by the hard light.
08. Jamie is lit with one daylight balanced LED spotlight with a Scattergel in the picture on the left. For the picture on the right I’ve used a pair of Arri tungsten lights. I chose tungsten lights to match the colour temperature of the bedroom lighting.
09. The two bedside lights set the base exposure that I built on with my two tungsten spotlights. The rim light from behind Chloe-Jasmine was rigged on a boom arm to avoid getting any lighting stands in shot.
10. There is a studio in Paris, France called Studio Harcourt and they have been shooting this style of portrait for the rich and famous since it opened way back in 1934. This style of portraiture is sure to make a resurgence as more and more studios switch to continuous light. Continuous light is perfect for video portraits too.
11. This Fresnel lighting can be used for contemporary and vintage style portraiture. It’s easy to give portraits that film star look when you know how.
12. A little bit of flare and halation from my 1/4 black pro mist filter gives the shot of Carla on the left a vintage look While Chloe-Jasmine’s facial bone structure makes a picture of beauty when lit with a spotlight.
This look needs lights with Fresnel lenses for authenticity. Five years ago LED Fresnel spotlights weren’t even dreamed of. Now they have largely replaced HMI units. LED lighting is the future and it’s here right now.
In my next post I’ll show you how I styled this look to the next stage to recreate the Film Noir genre. In the meantime you can see more of my Hollywood pictures in this dedicated gallery. You can also explore my YouTube channel for lighting tips.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out the gallery of these portraits. They’re stunning.
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