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How to Create the Look – A Rugged Black & White Portrait

Background story

After a few weeks of traveling on how to quickly enhance images, I found myself home with an open schedule. My friend Richard Thompson, President of our Melbourne camera club, called and asked if I could fill in for a canceled speaker. I have to admit I accepted the request partially out of guilt. I haven’t taught in my hometown for a while and as tired as I was, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. The first part of my lecture was creating a Black & White portrait. I knew exactly who I wanted to photograph, my buddy and fellow photographer Charlie Howse. Selecting the right outfit, accessory and lighting is how I created the look.

Finding Inspiration

Charlie has been working on a series of self portraits. I saw an image he captured and loved the style. The strong character lines on his face and his white beard defining his age inspired me to shoot the image specifically for Black & White. Choosing the right hat, shirt and background gave me the flexibility I needed; especially while shooting in front of a live audience.

Putting the Look Together

I asked Charlie to bring a couple of shirts with him. He showed up in a lighter blue shirt that would have looked great for a color portrait. Since I knew I wanted the finish image as a Black & White, I asked him to change into his second choice; a darker texture shirt. Adding a Stetson Outback style hat gave Charlie the rugged look I was going for.

To remove any chance of a distracting background, I shot on black using a large 5 in 1 reflector. For dramatic lighting, I cross lit Charlie using a small stripbox to separate him from the black background and a medium octagon softbox to the right of him, feather to produce less light on the left side of his face. I instructed him to close his eyes and think about being commanding. I had him slowly open his eyes and shot before they were completely wide open. This gave me the confident look I needed for the image.

Assignment

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