Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hollywood Lighting - and the Oscar Goes To...

It worked for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall - I know I showing my age here - but those old Hollywood portraits sure had something special and dramatic about them. Here is a variation of that style in a portrait we did at my Master Class yesterday. Normally, I like to light my portraits by shooting through an umbrella. This gives me a nice soft light that really flatters the subject. But, yesterday, I found myself in a situation where I really wanted the bride to "pop out" of the scene. I also wanted all the viewer's attention to go mostly to her face. I know that I can "control" how the "viewer" visually explores the image with various amounts of light, color, and detail that I incorporate into the image. In this case, I chose to light primarily the bride's face with a very strong directional light. I did it with a "snoot" light.

Here is how we did it. I pulled the reflector off of my Quantum T5d showing only the bare bulb. Next, I borrowed some notebook paper from one of the students to wrap around the flash tube as you can see in this first image.

This basically created a new light source with a very narrow beam of light. The "tricky" part was getting the "snoot" light pointed properly to create the "Hollywood" lighting pattern I wanted on my bride's face. My "Hollywood" lighting pattern is simply a variation of the classical "Rembrandt" lighting that artists and photographers have been using for years. Shellee, my assistant on the shot, positioned the flash so she could not see the far side of the bride's nose - so neither could the light she was holding, but she could still see plenty of the far side of the bride's cheek - and so could the light. Check out the second image.

Now if the light was held in the position described above, we should see an image of our bride with the dramatic, hard shadowed, directional light on her face, with the light falling off quickly over the rest of the scene to drive the viewer's attention easily to our bride's face. I think the resulting image does just that. Pretty cool, I think. --Enjoy.


  1. David,
    How did you meter this?

  2. Very, very nice. Do you think the same thing could be done with another light source other than the Quantum T5d? I really appreciate how you're sharing techniques that don't require an elaborate setup in a wedding shoot. I'm eager to do more off-camera flash shooting at my upcoming weddings. I've been too conventional about keeping the flash on the camera. Thanks for your posts. I hope to enroll in one of your classes in the near future.

  3. Thanks, Any flash will work - and I generally just wrap a magazine or a few pieces of paper aroung the flash to get the "snoot - tube" shape. Give it a try. --David

  4. How do I meter? I just read the histogram or use camera "blinkies" to be sure nothing is blown out - very sofisticated technique - but, heck, it works. --David

  5. David, looks like some fine tuned your magazine or paper tool: Honlphoto

  6. I've done this to provide a splash of light to accent hair or the outline of a head while the face got the main light. Paper, magazine etc.. all work well but I keep a rectangle piece of white "foamie" in my kit just for this type of thing.