Old School Hollywood Portraits with Dani

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Soon after my portrait photography shoot with Liz at the Pedestrian Bridge in Providence, RI, I got together with my friend Dani for some old-time Hollywood styled black and white glamour portraits at her place, north of Boston, MA.

One thing I enjoy about getting together with Dani is that our photo shoots always start off with a specific goal in mind and we inevitably take a meandering path to get there. This time around, our goal was to produce some classic Hollywood styled portraits. You know the look, right? Strong shadows, very controlled hard light; black-and-white, and so on.

First Round: Basic Headshots

Before we got to the Hollywood portraits, we took some time to set lights up for some basic headshots. Initial gear used the same light-stands as the Pedestrian Bridge shoot and we started out with a Godox AD200, bare-bulbed, into an umbrella-softbox at camera left, elevated to the classic 45/45 position. Aperture was around F3.5-4.0, and shutter remained at my camera’s max flash-sync speed at 1/200″. White balance was set to daylight.

Works just fine, right? You can do this with just a single flash, light-stand, and umbrella. Add a collapsible black backdrop and you’re all set for some competent and usable headshots.

The next light was a second AD200 set up behind Dani to camera left, with the bare fresnel head with barn-doors to control the light spill. Notice the extra highlights in Dani’s hair?

Next step, I added a collapsible black and white backdrop. These things are always a pain in the ass to fold back up but I think I’m getting better at it. This time around took me only about three tries to get it stuffed into its carrying bag.

And, finally, it was time to cool the shadows a little bit with a 1/2 CTB bare Godox manual speedlight on a light-stand to camera right, halfway between my position and Dani’s, aimed directly at the wall, zoomed in to give a medium-wide throw. It was set about two stops below key.

boston massachusetts business headshot of woman wearing eyeglasses, a white shirt, and a white necklace

Second Round: Halloween Headshots

Once we had things dialed in, Dani changed outfits to go for a more Halloween focused vibe. The only real change to the lighting here was lowering the key-light and umbrella to get better fill beneath Dani’s hat so her eyes were not lost in shadow. Look at the catch-light in her eye.

Third Round: Branded Headshots

From here, the last round of headshots had Dani remove her wig and hat and we shot a few photos with her iPhone as a prop and some headshots for use on her professional accounts. Once lighting was dialed in, the technical things, everything came down to banter and chemistry in order to draw Dani’s expression and emotion out.

Interlude: Scatterflash

Remember I mentioned Scatterflash (external link) in the last post? It’s something I found a couple of years ago, created and sold by Damien Lovegrove (external link), over in the UK, and it creates some incredibly useful light and shadow effects. Unfortunately, Scatterflash is no longer being produced; however, there’s still a market for Scattergels (external link), to be used with continuous LED lighting. The gels can still be used with Godox AD200s, a Bowens mount speedlight bracket, and Bowens mount barn-doors. The Scattergel link has a couple of video demonstrations on how they can be used together.

By the way, I’m not sponsored; I just I really love the look Scatterflash and Scattergels give to lighting and I like to use them whenever I can.

Last Round: Old School Hollywood Styled Portraits

So, this changed the portrait lighting up a little bit. Remember, we were going for hard light with very narrow light-spills so all the lights were remounted into Bowens brackets and I attached aluminum snoots to each of them.

After having Dani sit on her couch, I set one AD200 up to spot her face, a second to act as a hair light, and the speedlight was aimed to rake across her living room curtains as a separation light.

The real challenge was getting snooted lights to aim where I wanted them to, so in between sticking my face roughly where I wanted the light to land (sorry to Dani’s boobs) to see if they were aimed well, and a bit of trial and error, we managed to improvise our way to a successful batch of Hollywood styled portraits!

Bonus Round: Vintage Color Hollywood Styled Portraits

Portrait Photography Session: Aftermath

Editing was pretty simple. Building on the foundation from the last portrait session with Liz, I kept the edits mostly to the basics: a crop, contrast, brightness, and some very light touching up so I could deliver them to Dani quickly. This batch was processed and sent out within about 24 hrs after we ended the photo session.

You know, the more I look at them, the more I feel like these Hollywood styled portraits would look amazing as a boudoir photography shoot!

For giggles, I also processed them to have a vintage-color old-school Hollywood feel. The biggest difference is that, in person, Dani’s top was somewhat see-through. Black and white with strong contrast hides very well while the vintage color has an alluring tease to them.

Personally, I like the feel to them both.

How about you?

Shameless Plug

If you’re looking to get some beautiful design work by a very talented Boston, MA graphic designer (external link) and one of my dearest friends, visit Dani’s website and have a look around!

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