After binge watching Netflix’s “The Crown,” I was inspired to recreate the series poster. My goal was to keep the shoot simple, using minimal gear. Here’s how to consistently recreate this look using a stripbox, reflector and inexpensive props.
Start with inexpensive props
I constantly check Amazon for items I need for shoots. I found this crown and necklace and thought it would make a great prop. Thanks to Amazon Prime, the order came in two days. The necklace was perfect, however the crown was very small. I took a chance and cut the crown, making it a tiara. I didn’t realize how much I overpaid for it until I wrote this article. Although it looks great for this image, I would recommend using a different headpiece to keep the cost even lower.
Using a striplight on an angle
The key to this look is to keep the light narrow and on the same angle as the subject when they lean over. This is doing a couple of things. First, it’s lighting just under the chin and neck. Second it’s reducing a hot spot on the subject’s forehead. Raise the striplight away from the subject so the lower half of their body isn’t being lit. After experimenting, I found moving the subject off center to the light—technical term feathering—produced the look I was after.
Invest in a light meter
Instead of guessing where to start, we took a meter reading of the subject’s forehead, nose, cheek and ear. The goal was to ensure light was falling off of the subject properly. After we took two shots, we reviewed the images on a computer. Noticing the subject’s ear wasn’t lit, we brought in a white reflector. Took another reading and snapped a couple more shots. If you don’t have a light meter, start with a guesstimate and take several shots—changing just the f/stop until you get the exposure correct. Honestly, investing in an inexpensive light meter will help you understand light.
Bounce a little light with a white reflector
After reviewing the first two images, we realized we couldn’t see the diamond earing. Placing a white reflector behind the subject bounced a little light onto the subject’s ear, showing the earing. The first shot we did bounced too much light. Moving the reflector back six inches gave the right amount of light we needed.
The subject was about 10 feet from a black backdrop. Using a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second killed any ambient light that fell on the background—keeping it a solid black. I chose an ISO of 64—the lowest native ISO for my camera—and an f/stop of f/8. This kept the face, necklace and earing in focus. I would have preferred f/2.8 to keep the skin nice and soft, but that made the jewelry look too soft.
After importing the images into Lightroom, I selected the last shot and exported it into Photoshop. I tried my favorite plugin—Perfectly Clear—to smooth the skin and adjust the image overall. The problem, the image isn’t your typical portrait and Perfectly Clear didn’t recognize the skin. I went back into Lightroom and enhanced the skin the old fashion way using the same techniques from 3 tips to perfect Skin inside Lightroom. Once the image looked the way I wanted, I exported it into Photoshop, used liquify for under the neck and chin then created a movie poster.
Advice from a Facebook Group
I posted the final image in the Photoshop and Lightroom Group and asked if there was an interest in this style of lighting. Several members suggested this lighting setup would be great for Graduating Seniors/College Grads, First Communions, Quinceañera and, of course, Weddings. They also asked if this shot can be recreated using lighting gear under $50 bucks. Hmmm… challenge accepted.
Currently he is teaching workshops, writing for Photofocus and creating tutorials for various plug-in companies and for the Vanelli and Friends series.
You can find out more about Vanelli at www.VanelliandFriends.com