I recently, while preparing for a commercial shoot, took a few self-portraits. Including this one:

Michael Willems, Photogrpaher (self portrait, December 2010)

Michael Willems, Photographer (self portrait)

As always, click to see it large. (You really do need to see this one at original size to see the full effect.)

To do a portrait like this, I did the following – and I thought it might be useful for me to share the thought process:

  • I decided I wanted black and white, and to shoot it that way.
  • I set up the right studio lighting. I used a softbox on camera left; an edge light on camera right at the back; and a fill light using an umbrella on camera right in front.
  • I metered for these lights, with a fairly high key:fill ratio. In other words, I wanted the less-lit part of my face to be much less lit. To get this, I set the fill light around three stops darker than the main light.
  • That in turn allowed me to set up an edge light, to show the contours of my face.
  • I set up a white background.
  • I positioned myself at a distance from the background that would ensure a grey (rather than black or white) background.
  • I set up the main light, in a softbox, such that I would get nice catch lights in my eyes.
  • I pre-focused (on a chair), then set the camera to manual, and then used the camera’s timer to take the shot.
  • I used a horizontal layout, to create enough “negative space”, by using the rule of thirds (i.e I did not put myself in the “Uncle Fred” position right in the middle).

Finally, in post-production I added some film grain. This is one of Lightroom 3’s Develop module’s “Effects”, and it is one I really like. Tri-X film, anyone?

I am about to set up the same setups for Saturday’s workshop. Deciding on lighting is a photographer’s major job!

2 thoughts on “Grain

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