“Being able to call up a technique that your client may not even have thought about can produce a positive difference in your bottom line,” says Grey. The Hollywood portrait look of the late 1930s to mid-1940s is one such style.
To emulate this classic lighting, your accessory list will include grid spots, barndoors, snoots, cutters, and flags. These will be used only with direct lights, just as traditional hot lights were used in the past. Although they might be bounced off a fill card or bookend, they won’t be modified by umbrellas or soft boxes. “This is the key to success,” says Grey.
For the image below, the key light was tightly barndoored to almost exclusively light the subject’s face. Since the key was set high to get the deep shadows of her eyes, and because it was placed close to her, the light fell off rapidly. The first of the two backlights was aimed more at her shoulder than her hair and produced the hot spot on her shoulder. It was set 1/2 stop over the key light. The second was aimed at her hip and was set at 11/2 stops over the key
light, because it was aimed at black cloth. Grey also set a small fill card just above the camera to catch some of the backlight and open the shadows.
For the images below, an 18-inch dish, with the strobe set at its lowest power output, was the key. At about five feet from the model, it metered at f/8. Grey placed a hair light on each side. The camera-left hair light was fitted with vertical barndoors, throwing light down her side. The other hair light was a six-inch dish with a 30-degree grid spot.
Making small adjustments to this lighting setup and the position of the model allowed Grey to create the range of looks seen above.
The background was comprised of medium-gray seamless paper and a red flat, which appears dark gray when rendered in black & white. To light this, Grey placed a six-inch dish with a 20-degree grid spot on the floor almost directly behind the model. This was aimed at what Grey calls a “reverse cookie” (shards of broken mirror mounted haphazardly on a piece of plywood) to reflect a pattern onto both surfaces.
With his model in place, Grey tweaked the lights slightly and brought the camera-left hair light closer to camera and lowered it to widen the highlight and light the side of her nose. “Originally, I had placed the key just to the right of camera,” says Grey, “but I decided to move it over the camera instead. This little move gave me broad light (below, first) to butterfly (below, second). When she turned to profile, the slight move of the camera-left side light produced a perfect closed loop highlight (above).”
*excerpted from the book Professional Portrait Lighting