Judging by the density of the shadows under her hand and at the base of the telephone, the lights are fairly high and probably six or eight reflector diameters away on either side of the camera. I think that there is the reflection of one light in her glasses; this looks like a round source, which is consistent with either hot lights or strobes in aluminum reflectors, with little or no diffusion.
I think that there really is a "'70's look", simply because I can usually guess the vintage of a picture to within five years or so from the subtleties of the film, lighting, and posing. I would put this in the early 1970s because of her hair and clothing and the fact that it seems not to have been done with monolights and umbrellas. The film and props all play into this as well (up through the mid-1960s, that telephone would probably have been black). On the other hand, this looks to be a fairly simple "stock" photo, and at the other end of the range lie the elaborate studio setups for magazine photography, which are entirely different.
As far as emulating this today, you would probably need suitable reflectors for your lights---monolights and umbrellas will definitely give you a different look unless you have an enormous studio (a 12" reflector five feet away is going to be like a 36" umbrella fifteen feet away, but even then the incidental fill from wall reflections is going to be different). I think you might be able to mask small softboxes down to 12" openings and achieve something like this lighting; once you have matched the shadow characteristics (angles, depth, and sharpness) the rest is going to depend on the posing, film, and props.
well said. I agree a good set of flags, scrims and loads of black wrap can be your best friend. in the early days of cinema (especially in Fort Lee, NJ and in Manhattan) sailers often were hired for rigging the "gaffs and flags" used for open-roof studios.
Originally Posted by Diapositivo
Our views "period" lighting are largely shaped by the qualities of "period" printing technologies, whatever the gear used. I've done 50s style b&w pin-up shots whose "look" depended on fresnel spots and large panel reflectors. Then there was hair, clothing, props, film choice and digital post-production massaging...
Frankly, lighting is probably the easiest part of the equaton. Research time, shopping for props and "correct" decor and colours, clothing, hair and make-up are crucial to nailing a reasonable degree of authenticity.
The sheen on the model's face suggests she was being slowly baked under some serious wattage.
Is it agreed that this is a recent recreation? If so I would concur about the color of the telephone. Plus a secretary likely would have been using a shoulder rest attachment on the handset, plus most offices as I recall were a little slow to adopt touch tone and that's an earlier, non-modular set. (The paper I worked for didn't switch until shortly before they installed the Atex editing mainframe.) And the pen set seems a little out of place for a secretary. So you would be essentially imitating an imitation. Maybe a better produced film from that era instead?
Also, at the time, wasn't almost all color intended for reproduction shot on chrome?
I think it's not recent. I also think she's not a secretary, regardless of the picture's title; she's a loan officer, judging by the sign on her desk.
I agree with the others - set, hair costume, make-up, pose etc are more important than lighting - just use a textbook set up. I think a major part will be getting the colour right - not only will the original have been affected by age but the film you use will be different to whatever was used for the original.
set, hair costume, make-up, pose etc are more important than lighting
I agree, with the one caveat that the multiple shadows just about have to be there for it to look "right". Umbrellas and, later, softboxes, came into use to eliminate such shadows, and I still have a set of the Smith-Victor aluminum reflectors that were almost standard equipment for work like this. The movie industry and higher-end studios had better equipment even in the '70s, of course, but this is a fairly simplistic stock photo characteristic of the low end of the range for its time.
The black "Loans" nameplate looks slightly out of place to me. By the time touch-tone 'phones in beige were common, white-on-black engraving had largely given way to white-on-faux walnut, and the original wooden holders had been replaced by extruded aluminum holders like the one in the picture.
My last quibble is that the desk blotter was originally an adjunct to the use of fountain pens; the subject in the picture was provided with a ballpoint (the eight-inch long one with no pocket clip, to ensure that it didn't get carried off...) which would have been difficult to use on a soft blotter. Presumably the photographer didn't the sheet of glass that became standard before wooden desktops gave way to plastic laminate.
So, all in all, what you have is an authentic 1970s stock photograph of a slightly non-authentic scene. That should make it at least a little easier to emulate...:)
Hey guys, sorry it's been so long between posts, majorly stupidly busy working on getting Honours things right!
Anyway tell me what you think they did to achieve this lighting - again another 70s image, different to the first, but still to my eye has a dated look which I'm trying to replicate.
Greybeard - were you saying that in the 70s basically noone used softboxes yet? And that the only way to soften shadows was with lots of reflectors? I totally agree, it is a subtle thing which you've picked up on and that is that the shadows need to be there for us to read that it is a 70s image. What I'd like to know is what equipment was typical of the time which would have been making those shadows.
You mentioned aluminium reflectors? Are they the predecessors of the silvery fabric ones we have today? I just want a time machine to go back and see what they used for this shoot! haha
One thing that might actually require some DPUG.org work from you is the color palette for two reasons.
First, when I look at family snaps from the '80s and I compare with what my pictures look like today, I can see there's a huge step in terms of colour fidelity. If you look at the photo you have posted, the colours are rather brownish, muted, badly separated, and lack brilliance (goodbye yellow! hello brown!). Simulating this lack of quality with today's film can be very hard: they're just too good. Perhaps drugstore films like Kodak Color Plus (worst stuff you can find on the market today) can help.
Second, I suspect the photo you posted was taken from a magazine. That's how most people experience commercial photos. The offset printing process matters a lot too. Not before the 80s were CMYK separations routinely made via laser scanning. Finding someone today who can/wants to do analog CMYK is next to impossible, so your best bet would be to simulate the result.
Lighting is just one tiny part of the equation. Composition, angle of view, negative space (look at that shadow framing the shot), clothes (motifs!!), colour palette, makeup, all work together to make "The Look".
The light I associate with that look uses Photoflood bulbs in spun aluminum reflectors--12-inch or 16-inch most likely. The positioning of the lighting isn't likely to be too complex, maybe Rembrandt style with a fill and a background light, possibly a hair light. This was before softboxes, but there were umbrellas and scrims, but I think you're after more of a low-end look (as opposed to the Hollywood style which could draw on all the lighting resources of a Los Angeles movie studio). See if you can find an old copy of the Kodak Guide to Portraiture or whatever it was called--the one that recommends a blue filter for B&W portraits of rugged sailors to bring out the "character" in their faces.