Film Noir Portrait Shoot: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

In this video I shoot a Film Noir style image in my small home studio. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching AdoramaTV brought to you by Adorama the camera store that has got everything for us photographers and once again you join me in my small home studio, except today, this isn’t a home studio. This is a private detectives office. I’m going to create a Film Noir inspired shoot, lots of contrast, monochromatic. It should be a great fun thing to do. So this is going to be the office. On the other side is going to be, well, the outside world and I am going to treat them and light them differently. Now to separate the two areas, I’ve got this, which is just a cheap venetian blind and it’s going to do a few things. It will add some separation. It’s also going to be a prop and a light modifier as well. So let’s get some light set. Let’s get a model in. Let’s get shooting. So today I’ve been joined in the studio by Brian who’s going to be the private detective here in my small home studio and we got the basic setup already. We’ve got the venetian blinds and I’ve got a key light. Mostly this light is going to be the important part of the setup. So let’s get this right first. So I’ve got an Evolve200 from Adorama here. It’s shining through the venetian blind and you’ll notice it’s fairly low down in height. That’s going to give us a mood and drama to the portraits that you wouldn’t get if the light was up high. So this is already metered out for f/8. Let’s take a shot, see how this looks. Well that’s a good start but we can make some improvements and the easiest improvement I can make is controlling the spread of the light, and I can do that by using something like this. So this is a honeycomb grid that’s specifically for the Evolve 200 and my Streaklight 360 and this if I pop it in the reflector, it’s going to give me some direction of the light So less light hits the white. Light will still hit Brian, but it will be less as well, because that grid just takes away some of the light. Now to find out how much I’m going to use a flash meter and I’m just going to meter from Brian now. Brian’s very kindly held the the blinds open for me, because I want to make sure I’m metering through the blinds and I’m not metering the actual shadow from them. So I’ve lost almost a stop there, so let’s just increase that and we’ll take another meter reading and I’m back to f/8 okay? So I’m back to the same meter reading I was before, let’s take the shot see how that looks and you can see straight away the difference in mood between this and the last. The wall behind has gone almost completely black. There is still some detail there on the left-hand side and that looks much more dramatic, but it’s missing one really important thing. There’s no glass in the window, so let’s add that in now. So I’ve added in the window. Now this is an actually glass this is perspex and you might have seen this before. if you saw the video I did recently where we did a shoot through a rainy window. This is exactly the same piece of perspex. If you missed that of course go check out the Adorama Learning Center for more information. Now it’s not going to change the exposure on Brian so I don’t need to re-meter but it will change the look and feel. Have a look at this. Here we go. So now on that left-hand side you can see that there’s some reflection, that there’s some dirt and scratches and decay, and that really adds to the look and feel of this shoot. So we could keep this as a single light setup. That does work really nicely but if you’ve got access to some more lights you can really start to build this out and make a whole new inside scene to go with the outside world and the first light I’m going to use to do that is this one. This is going to be a separation light. I’m going to put it nice and high because I want any shadow cast by this light to go down onto the floor rather than to go onto the blinds and also well, that’s where the light would be in a room. It’s likely to be up high. I’m going to try and get it so it just hits Brian’s shoulder and just illuminates this part of the scene and separates Bryan out from that dark background. Now it’s another streak light which means I can use the remote control here and control it, which means I can choose the power without having to go backwards and forwards. Let’s take a shot like that at its lowest power and at it’s lowest power it works but it’s not that impressive I think you need to increase the power by a couple of stops. So if I go up two stops in power and do the same shot again. Now we’re getting some nice light hitting the back of Brian’s neck. His shoulders and just separating him out from that background. Even a little bit on the hat as well, which looks really good. With the light on Brian’s shoulder it really needs a source, where did it come from? So that’s what I’m going to do with the third light. So this light I’m going to put up nice and high, and it’s going to beam down at an angle and just put a little splash of light onto this background. It’s called motivated light rather than normal light because I’m going to try and make it look like it’s coming from here but in fact it’s coming from this light here. So two lit different lights to achieve a single lighting look. Now once again it’s on its own separate channel so I can control this remotely at the moment I’ve got it set to its lowest possible power. I think that’s possibly about right. We don’t want to go up any brighter than that and I think that’s where we’re going to live with that. Okay so that’s my basic lighting setup. I’m going to move around, try out a few different props and see if we can get some interesting shots with this. So Brian are you ready? Yeah. Okay let’s take some pictures. Well there we go that was absolutely wonderful. Brian makes a fantastic detective but to complete the look and feel of this, we need to do a bit of Photoshop work I’m going to do that right now. For my Film Noir effect it wasn’t just the styling and the lighting that was going to be important I knew the post-processing would be too. So I need an image that’s black and white. I also need lots of contrast to really fit in with the theme of the shoot and to do that I’m going to use either Lightroom or in this case Photoshop’s Camera Raw Let’s have a little look. So this is the image I want to edit and the first thing I’m going to do is take the color image and make it black and white. So I’m going to jump over to the HSL stroke rescale here in Camera Raw that’s B&W in Lightroom and then I’m going to click on the convert to grayscale button right here and that’s going to make a basic black and white. Now we’ll come back and adjust that in just a minute but for now I’m going to go back to the basic tab and apply some basic adjustments. Now the key thing for Film Noir is contrast, lots of contrast. So let’s get the contrast slider and increase the contrast quite a lot. That’s pretty “contrasty”, but we can go even more with the contrast by doing something like clarity. Clarity is contrast enhancement but in the mid-tones and that looks really nice on this style of image. Now I’m not too happy with what just happened on his face. I’ve lost a bit of detail around the mouth. So let’s bring that back by switching to the adjustment brush and the adjustment brush allows me to make a local rather than a global adjustment in this case I want to increase the exposure. I probably want to open up the shadows a little bit and counter-intuitively I want to add in some more clarity. Clarity helps us to bring up the highlights as well as opening up the shadows with the other sliders. So that works really nicely I can use the same setting just a, maybe put some little lights, here and there, just to highlight parts of the image that may have got lost in the overall processing. Now I said earlier that we would go back to the HSL grayscale and there is a reason for that. It really works well on the skin tones if you adjust the tonal range just for the skin. So to do that I need to go to, any of the tools on the left hand side like the zoom tool for example and then I can go back and find my HSL stroke grayscale. There it is and I’m going to come down to the oranges. Now the oranges slider is the one that really affects most people’s skin tones and you can see how I move it around, it affects anything orange in the picture. So it will have an effect on the venetian blinds which were sort of a yellowy, browny orange color, but more importantly it will affect blind skin tones I can use that just to lighten up the skin tones just a little bit from where they were and just put a bit more detail in there, something like that and with a few other adjustments and fine-tuning effects, there it is my Film Noir styled image, it’s complete! With just a few simple props and some careful lighting it’s amazing how quickly you can turn your small home studio into a Film Noir inspired shoot. Now of course if you’ve enjoyed this video well leave me a comment below and click on the subscribe button for more videos for myself and the other amazing presenters right here on AdoramaTV. I’m Gavin Hoey. Thanks for watching.

100 Replies to “Film Noir Portrait Shoot: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. I've been looking for that directional grid for the Evolv 200, but I'm not seeing it anywhere. Any idea where that can be found?

  2. Amazing! It's make fun to see how much enthusiasm you have at your work, thank you. I love noir films with the actors Humphrey Bogart or Edward G. Robinson. A special thanks for your light setup. I didn't knew how easy to create a noir style picture. With best greetings from Germany.

  3. What an inspiration! I bought the blinds and acrylic panel and did my own film noir photo using your demonstration. Wonderful to see how you do so many things in a small space.

  4. It's weird seeing this done with flash. I love old film noir movies. This makes me wonder how much the cinematographers saw these dramatic effects live through the lens as they were filming and how much of it was their deep knowledge of how film reinterperates what we see with the naked eye.

  5. You've earned a subscriber, Gavin. Very well done! There's a great deal of inspiration in your work and I appreciate it very much!

  6. The first time I heard your voice, I found it pretty annoying. Now, when I hear your voice, I put all my attention on the video, cause I know I gona learn a lot, get lots of good ideas, in a minimum of time. You are really good. Probably one of the best.

  7. Hey Gavin. Love your Adorama TV videos. I also have a small home studio so I am inspired by your work. I recently reconstructed your Film Noir Detective image adding a fake cigarette to it. I just felt the style of image required it.
    Keep up the good work and keep the videos coming. – The White Opal Photography & The White Opal Studio on FaceBook

  8. Magic – never seizes to amaze me how some basic lighting, workmanship and creativity can produce wonderful results. Of course the model part of the magic happening here! Thanks for the inspiration, time to dust off my strobes again.

  9. This rocked! Thank you for all of the tips – as it will set me up for more tips on my next vintage photo shoot. SUPER impressed by the thorough details of all that you shared from camera settings, the plexiglass, the props, and Light Room details. Appreciate this!

  10. Grande Gavin!!Imparo molto dai tuoi video sempre originali.Amo il b/w e questo genere di scatti/ritratto mi piacciono moltissimo!

  11. so Much Win! Epic! I always learn a lot with Gavin Hoey every minute counts no fluff. Great overall Noir effect without a window! Nice touch on the water rain droplets on the window. And I didn't even know about Adjust Brush and tne BW settings. Thank You!

  12. ive got to go out and do a noir photoshoot for my photography a level course this weekend, any advice or help? what pictures do include in the shoot?

  13. This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks a bunch!
    I will probably do the shoot with one of my Mamiya medium format cameras and some classic film stock, like 400TX, which has been around since the 1940s. That way I won't need to imitate that "film look" as the image is actually shot on film (I also enjoy working with film so there's my excuse).

  14. How come the BG gets dark even though the studio is rather bright? I would like ti take these kinds of pics but do not understand how it works

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