Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How I Got The Shot #1 - Classic Horror Lighting

This is one of my all time favorite shots.  It was done with a very small setup on location.  Anyone with even a beginners level Strobist set of gear should be able to recreate this shot.

Check out the details after the break...

Creative Process:
I love horror movies.  Grew up on them, watched them with my family, friends, college buddies.  You ask me what my all time favorite movie is and most likely you'll get a horror movie in response(although, sci-fi is not very far behind!).  I've always loved the classic lighting that was setup in the old Hammer Horror movies. Bela Legosi playing Dracula, Lon Chaney, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee....ah! the good old days.

I wanted to replicate that in a photo shoot, so I called up my trusted "on call" model, Danielle and let her know what I wanted to do.  This shoot was essentially for me, giving me a creative outlet to provide a portfolio shot that can provide clients with a little different look.  It will let them know that we can think outside the box and go for images that are outside the norm.

My wife and I love to geocache and while on one of those excursions, we happened to come across an old lock that was part of the Erie Canal system in days gone by.  As all good photographers do, I keep a journal of all the interesting places that I visit and might want to return to for client work or future shoots.  This place seemed ideal because it was a public area and it could provide a type of background that would fit the mood we were looking for in the shoot.  You can walk right down into the bed of the lock and have sunlight or shade and stone blocks that makeup the lock itself are just what we need.

Nikon D300
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8
SB-600 Speedlight
Radio Popper JrX STUDIO Trans/Rec
Light Stand
Lumiquest Softbox III attached with a Speedstrap

EXIF Info:
Shot in manual at 1/250th - f/6.3 - ISO 200 @ 80mm
Shot in RAW

Lighting Setup:
Really simple on this one...
The light(yes, this is a one light shot) is low and shooting up into the face from below.  What I've heard others refer to as "reverse butterfly" lighting.
The light is close, just barely out of the frame at the bottom and pointed up at a 45 degree angle.
The light was set at roughly 1/4 power(I'm guessing as the Radio Popper doesn't have markings to tell you the power output).
I follow the advice of Joe McNally and start with one light, see what you got and build from there.  A lot of time, one light is enough.  It is a lot easier to look at an image and figure out what you need to add than it is to figure out what you need to take away.

The Image Straight Out Of Camera:

Now that shot is good.  It has all the elements needed to be a great shot.   Now we need to spruce it up a bit.  Since we are shooting in RAW, we need to give it attributes to turn it into a JPG.  I started off with the daylight white balance and warmed it up just a bit.  This is supposed to be horror, so we want it to be warmer.

Beyond that do whatever it is you do to put the image into how you like it.  I do sharpening, clarity, saturation,  vibrance adjustments to get the colors to pop just how I like them.   I have a standard preset that I use as a base to start with.

Now we start to work a little of the Photoshop plug in magic.  I use a suite of tools from Topaz Labs.  You can check them out here.  For this image, I used Topaz Adjust and a custom preset I called "Dani Darkly".  You might want/need to do some retouching of skin and what not, depending on your model.

We changed the adaptive exposure a bit, brought out some of the detail and monkeyed with the color.  Images of the sliders and their values to follow:

And whala!!

You now have this:

Some other finished images from the same shoot.  Note - the lighting was essentially the same.  I only changed the composition of the images and the position of the model.  The exact same values in the Topaz Adjust plugin were used.

As you can see, you can get quite a few different looks from the same lighting.

And for those who like lighting diagrams:

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