I know some photographers who think that some of the classic photography from years past is dated and boring. Photographers today want that ultra sexy, hot and contemporary shot that just knocks everyone’s socks off. But just like with anything we can always learn a lot from the past, and 50-60 years ago there was really some amazing images coming out of hollywood that also would fit the style of what clients are looking for today.
Hollywood lighting. One of the key characteristics that defined this style of Hollywood lighting was a very dramatic light with the main key light normally coming from high above the subject. This adds some shadow to the face which gives the person depth and also adds some extra drama to the image. The lighting for these types of images is generally not shot with flash units or strobes. Although you could use a flash to light, most photographers prefer a Fresnel Light which is a continuous light that can be focused. Being able to focus your light is really key for these types of shots, you want a very dramatic light that is coming in like a spotlight would be. So you need to be able to have your light be very targeted. With a strobe you can use a snoot or really anything handmade that you attach to the strobe unit to keep the light from spilling all over the image. Some black cardboard taped to all 4 sides of your flash can do a great job to create a very focused spotlight type of light. And although a Fresnel Light is still a pretty harsh light it does have a softer quality compared to strobes. In addition to the main light these types of images normally have a little bit of fill light to balance out the light and then one or two lights in the back to sometimes create a light effect on the background or to create a rim light around the subject.
If you are looking to learn more about this type of lighting one of the most classic books with lots of real world examples and how the lighting was done is:
Hollywood Portraits: Classic Shots and How to Take Them
Check out this great video tutorial below showing a few hollywood inspired images along with a lighting diagram on how they were created.
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