Following on from my earlier post, I thought I’d give you a look Behind the Scenes to show what went into creating this portrait of my friend Ian Munro for my World War 2 / 1940’s Project…
When it comes to military portraits taken back in the 40’s and also in the time of the Great War, there’s two characteristics that define them, 1) the subject was rarely looking into the camera, and 2) the portraits were low contrast, meaning the blacks weren’t deep black and the highlights weren’t overly bright which meant there was detail in the shadow areas.; this you can see in the portraits below…
The far left portrait is of my Grandad, Frederick Charles Elson from World War 2; the other 2 portraits are circa WW1
Here’s a list of the kit I used for this photo shoot…
- Sony Alpha A7 RII Mirrorless Camera
- Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM (G Master) Lens
- Manfrotto MT055CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO Ball Head with 200PL Quick-Release System
- Manfrotto Q2 L Bracket
- Tether Tools Jerk Stopper
- Tether Tools TetherPro USB 2.0 A Male to Micro-B 5-Pin Cable (15′)
- Sekonic Lite-Master Pro L-478DR Lightmeter (Elinchrom)
- X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo (Black)
- Westcott Rapid Box Switch Octa (Large) 48″
- Elinchrom ELB 1200 with dock
- Background canvas by Gravity Backdrops
You’ll see from the Behind the Scenes pictures below that I was shooting tethered hence the TetherTools kit listed above. This is something I always do; the benefit primarily being that it allows you to see pictures much bigger on your computer screen as they are taken. Having this means it’s much easier to check sharpness but also allows you to notice anything you may not have done when only using the screen on the back of the camera even though you can zoom in. Another benefit I find is that it slows me down; this alone has played a huge part in the growth of my portfolio.
Lighting Set Up
Again looking at the military portraits from the 40’s and before, the lighting was of course classic i.e. Rembrandt, so this is the set up I went. You can see the set up for this being just one light (my Westcott Rapid Box Swith 48″ Octa) positioned camera left and to the front of Ian. You can also see that the Octa is angled down and the bottom is roughly level with Ian’s shoulders; this gives the triangular shape to the light on the shadow side of Ian’s face.
In the Behind the Scenes pictures above you can see that my friend Anthony was also holding white reflectors towards Ian on the opposite side of Ian. This was because as mentioned earlier, I wanted the pictures to be low contrast and there to be detail in the shadow areas. Anthony is holding two of them simply because one wasn’t big enough to cover from Ian’s head to below his waistline.
Talking of reflectors, the series of 4 pictures above shows how the the amount of light varies depending on how close the reflectors are positioned to the subject (white side towards Ian in this case). A was with no reflector followed by B where the reflectors were positioned just out of camera view; this gave too much light reflection for the look I was after. C and D show how the light reflected reduced as Anthony stepped away from Ian by roughly 1 small step for C and another step for D. For the look I was after I opted for Anthony to hold the reflectors as he did in C as it was clear there was a shadow but still lots of detail visible.
The picture above shows again how the Westcott Octa was positioned to the side and front of Ian.
Just in case you’re interested, the settings I used in camera were:
ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, and of course the light (ELB 1200) was metered to f/5.6 so as to give a ‘perfect’ exposure.
Note: When it comes to using a Lightmeter, the idea here is to get the lights metered (correct power output) to match the camera settings. However, it doesn’t mean this is where you have to stay. Your own taste may be to increase or maybe decrease the exposure, but the great thing is that the Lightmeter has meant you get to this point much quicker without taking test shot after test shot. For me this helps to keep everything calm and under control which is especially good when photographing for a client; especially when the first picture they see come through onto your computer screen is ‘perfectly’ exposed. Does that make sense?
Looking at the two portraits below, you can see how just a few small tweaks to the pose can make a big difference.
- With A I felt that Ian was turned towards the camera a little too much so I asked him to turn away slightly resulting in his chest being a little more side as in B.
- Ian’s right arm (hand holding the cap) was pulled back a little. In A it seemed to add to the width of Ian so bringing back showed the taper from Ian’s chest to waist.
- We all deliberated whether Ian’s left arm should be down by his side as in A or behind his back as in B. We all ended up agreeing that behind the back looked better (B) and as Ian said was much more in-keeping with how Military personnel would stand.
Final Retouched Portrait…
So I think that’s all to tell for this particular portrait. I’m going to be hosting a YouTube LIVE Broadcast this coming Friday (23rd November) to go through some of the post production, but in the mean time if you have any questions / comments, please feel free to make use of the comments section below.
Catch you next time
>Check out a LARGE version of this portrait over in my portfolio: CLICK HERE