Playing with Hollywood style portraits

In the Sadler household, we have often commented on the 1940s/1950s Hollywood style portraits you see in many films set in that era. You know the ones I mean – the sepia-toned glamourous, soft focus portrait of a woman, that men pull out of their wallets when they are missing their sweetheart.

These are such iconic images of their era. I thought it was about time I had a play around with my lighting and photo technique to see if I could recreate this look.

Hollywood style portraits

The distinctive look was created using a harsh, hard light. This is contrary to the sort of light we consider most flattering in modern portraiture. However, this is one of the features that makes these images so iconic.

Fortunately, I have got a couple of “old school” red head continuous tungsten lights set up in my studio. These were perfect for me to create this style.

My studio (otherwise known as my box room in my house!) is not a huge space. It can be rather limiting, but you have to make do with what you have.

So I set up some black velvet as my background and lit this with one of the redhead lamps, dialled down to its lowest setting.

I set up another redhead at 45 degrees from the camera and put it up on the stand as high as it would go.

Now, excuse the messy state of my studio! But I thought it would be good to show you this snap, just to give you an idea of the cramped space I was working in. This also shows you how I set my equipment up.

Seeing as I did not have access to a glamorous lady, I decided this would have to be self-portrait!

I was ready to give this ago. Using the canon app on my phone to check my position, focus the camera and take the photograph.

The results

Considering I had very little space to manoeuvre, and that this was my first attempt at this style of photography. I was rather pleased with myself!

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