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  1. #31
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    a few tag-ons, if you don't mind!

    Hi Dianna,

    I'd like to add some information, by way of commenting on those who went before me:

    • Mark Wangerin
      IMHO, Mark is one of the better practicioners of the Hollywood look, at this moment. The portraits he's posted here are good proof of what a few of us have told you: that you don't absolutely need expensive equipment to achieve (or approach) this look.

      He also hit upon the subject of lighting ratios. Very important. While the earliest Hollywood photographers often worked without meters (they would work empirically and judge ratios by eye, rather accurately, by looking through a contrast filter), by the early 1940's reliable light meters made it possible to establish very precise lighting ratios. Personally, I've come to believe that —once you've established the norms of your exposure and development— the good ol' eyeball is still the best equipment you can have to place lighting ratios with this type of photography. However, so called "commercial portraiture" (think 'Kodak', 1950's style) will still benefit from metered ratio placement. Pick up an old Kodak portrait book —and Mark's new one!— for more information.

    • D.F. Cardwell's dummy
      Great idea for testing and playing with different lighting set-ups. Your "model" can be stored in a closet and never complains about her portrait! I regret giving my mannequin away (named "Skinhead") a couple years ago. You can really learn alot —and quickly— using these. Wish I had had one when I was younger. It would have saved my little sister's retinas from fading and our cat's fur from getting crispy.

    • Charles Webb - Availalble light as a keylight
      This kind of light can give really very beautiful results, but the difficulty comes in the fact that you can't move the light source around. It is "window priorty" lighting ... and weather priorty, at that! But, again, it can be gorgeous. Fantastic results can be had by shooting with the window at your back, with your subject looking at you, straight on. The window —especially if it is tall— functions as a sort of huge, soft, ringlight (talk about a Mortensen look!). Obviously, this will work best with strong skylight rather than direct sunlight.

    • "Modern" adaptations to the Hollywood look
      Mark Wangerin mentioned that he does digital retouching. Studio Harcourt, here in Paris —which is, as far as I know, the only major studio still shooting in the Hollywood style continually since the 1940's — shoots in medium format. OK, I'm initially a snobby purist who says the "real look" has to be 8x10, negative retouching. However, when I see the results from Mark and Harcourt, I just shut-up and sit-down (not to mention that I'd be hypocritical... I often shoot 6x7and 4x5 ). I still think that negative retouching is pretty cool because it doesn't seem to erase texture as digital seems to, but I know diddly-swat about digital, so maybe I'm wrong. Again, it's the results which count.

    • I'm not making this up...
      Lastly, as many here have mentioned, shiny make-up is not a taboo in this kind of portraiture. Don't go crazy, however, or your portrait will look like an ad for Vaseline!


    Hope this is useful.

  2. #32
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    If you hunt around on www.petergowland.com, you can find a picture of his early rooftop studio set built on a large rotating platform, so the orientation of the model, camera, and background with respect to the sun could easily be adjusted at will.

    When I started doing studio portraits, my ideas about using natural light completely changed, because I'd never thought about ideas like "key vs. fill" before, and then I realized they applied even with natural light.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  3. #33
    Charles Webb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Nisperos

    [*]Charles Webb - Availalble light as a keylight
    This kind of light can give really very beautiful results, but the difficulty comes in the fact that you can't move the light source around. It is "window priorty" lighting ... and weather priorty, at that! But, again, it can be gorgeous. Fantastic results can be had by shooting with the window at your back, with your subject looking at you, straight on. The window —especially if it is tall— functions as a sort of huge, soft, ringlight (talk about a Mortensen look!). Obviously, this will work best with strong skylight rather than direct sunlight.
    Hope this is useful.
    Christopher N,
    I don't recall mentioning in particular "window priority Lighting" but it can be used as you say with beautiful results. Perhaps my error was in not using the term of "North Light". I said instead available light. Available light and northlight are very similar and can be very easily controlled using the tools available to the early 20th century camera men. It still can be controlled today using the same tools they did. It can effectively be moved to where you want it by use of mirrors, reflectors etc.

    The early studio used "Sky lights" to admit northlight to expose their films, plates etc. The studio was constructed to take advantage of northlight pretty much alone. Hard direct sunlight was also used by more than most folks today believe, diffused by muslin or sail cloth or even canvas. As I said before, it's a great source of light that is seldom used because of it's bad reputation. Direct sun light when modified with the same tools used by the early studio men will deliver beautiful results.

    It has been raining here in Canyon City for two days, my dining room skylight
    is on the North roof of my house, exposure from bright sunlight to todays light has dropped by meter reading less than two stops. Not nearly enough to postpone shooting because of weather. As I said before a camera operator with an imagination will use what ever he has available to produce a good facsimile of a portrait with the "Hollywood look" That is if he/she really wants to.

    Again, this is all my opinion, I could be wrong. I realize how today so few will willingly spend the effort to try a different though traveled and proven road.

    This has been a good thread, and I appreciate everyone who participated!

    Charlie...........................

  4. #34

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    Hi
    I to have admired this Hollywood style lighting and a book that came out a couple of years ago by Roger Hicks and Christopher Nisperos called Holywood Portraits I found to be very useful. Taking Portraits from the Kobal Collection they give you a breakdown as to how these images were taken and what kind of lighting was used. A diagram and a level of difficulty along with a breakdown across the decades help you on the way. I think it is worth a look (ISBN 1 85585 787 1)

    Steve

  5. #35
    noseoil's Avatar
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    I've found this thread to be fascinating. There is a question bouncing around in my head with respect to portrait lighting which would be best asked here. Our front porch on the house has a plain white block wall across the front and side wall adjacent to the porch (90 degree corner with one face 14' away and the other about 25' away, 5' tall, Riverside cement white stucco finish). With the sunlight we get here in Tucson, the porch has good, bright lighting in the afternoon for most of the year.

    With just some cardboard "windows" and sheet reflectors, both light and dark, wouldn't it be possible to use this light fairly easily to set up some decent shots? The size, location, distance and direction of these "windows" and reflectors could be adjusted into a simple "booth" type of setup to provide good light, because there is an abundance of white light flooding the porch. It might look a bit "interesting" from the outside, but there would be ample light and no costs other than hangers, clips, gaffer's tape and simple stands. This would keep someone from melting in the afternoon sun and the fans could provide sufficien cooling.

    Just a thought I've been playing with that the thread has prompted. I have a Fujinon 180mm SF lens with both discs and some Efke 25 in 4x5 I can play with for film. Perhaps TXP might be a better choice in this case? tim

  6. #36
    Tony Egan's Avatar
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    Here are two shots from a book I have called "The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographer" by John Kobal showing Hurrell and Bachrach at work. You can get a reasonable idea of the kind of lighting, setup and approach they used. Most likely these images were also posed but the close personal contact and directing by the photographer after the lighting was complete and camera focused seems to me to be also behind the success of these shots. Really looking at the subject not through the camera. Making and not just taking the shot.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Bachrach.jpg   Hurrell.jpg  

  7. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by noseoil
    I've found this thread to be fascinating. There is a question bouncing around in my head with respect to portrait lighting which would be best asked here. Our front porch on the house has a plain white block wall across the front and side wall adjacent to the porch (90 degree corner with one face 14' away and the other about 25' away, 5' tall, Riverside cement white stucco finish). With the sunlight we get here in Tucson, the porch has good, bright lighting in the afternoon for most of the year.
    Tim,

    Sounds like you have a real interesting space there with potential for some real cool portrait work. When I hear of a space like this, I think about the Goertz Matte boxes that were custom made for many Cinematographers of the silent era with iris blades of ivory. The Goertz Matte box iris center of view could be positioned anywhere in the frame, was large enough to open to admit the entire scene and closed down to eliminate extraneous image area and diffuse the image via light scatter through the blades. Add this to no anti-halation backing on most stocks of the era and, viola, you are Eric Von Stroheim!

    Ever seen, "The Wedding March"? Watch the cherry orchard scene; even though it takes place at night, it is simply astounding technically considering the speed of the stocks and of the time.

    These scenes have a very diaphamous, silky look to them; smokey, hot backlight with only the slightest hint of dmax in the shadows to establish relative contrast for the eye and most everything running to the shoulder and straight-line portion of the curve.


    Quote Originally Posted by noseoil
    With just some cardboard "windows" and sheet reflectors, both light and dark, wouldn't it be possible to use this light fairly easily to set up some decent shots? The size, location, distance and direction of these "windows" and reflectors could be adjusted into a simple "booth" type of setup to provide good light, because there is an abundance of white light flooding the porch. It might look a bit "interesting" from the outside, but there would be ample light and no costs other than hangers, clips, gaffer's tape and simple stands. This would keep someone from melting in the afternoon sun and the fans could provide sufficien cooling.
    This is the fun part of working with available light and lots of it! Personally, I would spend some time making black teasers and gobos of varying size from 4 feet wide and 8 feet tall to small fingers you can use to subtract tiny bits of light. "C" stands are great, but they are expensive and you can make PVC tube stands cheaper (fill the legs full of sand for stability) and use mafer clamps and gaffer tape to hold the fingers and such.

    IMHO, In this situation, subtracting and moving around, shaping the light will be your major challenge, not adding it, but if you do need to add it, don't forget a good old mirror, foam core and two stands...

    Quote Originally Posted by noseoil
    Just a thought I've been playing with that the thread has prompted. I have a Fujinon 180mm SF lens with both discs and some Efke 25 in 4x5 I can play with for film. Perhaps TXP might be a better choice in this case? tim
    Having no experience with Efke 25, I cannot comment, but I would think any stock short of the new T-grain stocks would work fine, but take that for what is worth...

    Frank.

  8. #38
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Webb
    Christopher N,
    I don't recall mentioning in particular "window priority Lighting" but it can be used as you say with beautiful results.
    Charlie...........................
    Hi Charlie,

    No, I didn't mean to insinuate that "window priority" was your term. It's a joke term I made up (simulating terms like aperture priorty or shutter priority) to express the fact that many available light portraits are taken by window light, and often (in my experience) the window is near a corner of the room. In this case —for a "normal" portrait— you are forced to photograph your subject with the window on a certain side, or at your back. One cannot always easily turn the subject around to have the face lit on the other side.

    Window priority ain't necessarily bad! For me, light coming from the side —(ok, above, too)— is preferable when I want to create modeling (or relief or dimension or whatever you want to call it). The simple approach is to just use a fill card (or styrofoam or a Flexfill™) on the opposite side of your subject, however, —because the card is flat and only reflects light onto the side of the face— I find that this usually leaves an undesirable shadow in the inner eye-socket on the side. To eliminate this, I use to use a specially built curved fill-card. Now I just use a diffused photoflood.

    Charlie,about mirrors: I don't know how practical it would be to use them to make the light come from the right when the window is on the left, but I suppose anything is possible. I know they're great to use as a hairlight. But don't forget the great amount of falloff you'd run into in trying to bounce light around as keylight.


    Back to Hollywood lighting. Ladies and gentlemen, a scoop!. A cinematographer friend of mine turned me on to a new product, the cuculoris (google the word, if you're unfamiliar). Not new, you say? Take a look.http://www.lightbreak.com/

    I got one of these as a sample because I'm writing another article on lighting. They're great, they're cheap and they give you lots of ideas for different shots.

  9. #39
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    The Matthews catalog is always fun.

    Watching old movies is always fun.

    A good, ahem, stock for this kind of fun is TMY. Why ? It has an improbably long scale that lets us expose for shadows, and give normal development, the result is all the data coming into the darkroom on a way we can deal with.

    I shot in on the stage, and did stage lighting. When it came to designing a show I was going to shoot I hung SCOOPS all over the place, threw fresnels around as needed to see, used ellipsoidals with COOKIES for grace notes and beam projectors for the sheer fun of it. An old hand asked if I was lighting for Hepburn, or Garbo.

    And I answered, all together now, YES.

    My current fave portrait lens is a Leica Summarex, an 85mm almost Speed Panchro.

    A neat technique, instead of using hotspots, is to start with a softbox and add DOTS ( little gobos ... umm, go-betweens ) casting shadows. It all adds to the same thing. Having the romantic feel is the thing, and being drunk on light helps.

    wow, great thread...

    Kino, my boy, we g-gotta cross paths this summer
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  10. #40
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    Christopher, I don't know when I'll be back to Paris.... but I'll hunt you down and we can talk about Atget, Marville, and glossy make-up

    d
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

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