Making a portrait more moody, with flash and daylight.

A lot of the photography I like seem to be dark and moody portraits, be that movie posters or stills to advertise Big budget TV Shows for example…(Image 1)

The photographer who shot this is actually my favourite photographer out there currently,(plus I used to assist him back in the day), the stills are dark, menacing and have so much life to them you expect them to start talking when you look at the image. The level of Post production here is probably vast, from the outset I look at the lighting, how many heads have been used to light them, (as they were all probably shot individually) probably two heads,(maybe 3 for a hair light on a boom coming down on thier heads slightly from behind), a soft box to the front and right (possibly with grids or egg crates in to make them more directional as well as slightly underexposed) and a hard back light (KEY LIGHT) coming in from behind and high up to create mood. The images look like they have been pushed a bit in contrasts well as desaturated in the skin tones. The usually skin work has been employed, adding or taking away blemishes, cleaning up the eyes etc..Oh and a dropped in background too…all in all, really nice!

My Work

Image 2 (my Shot), I tried to give a similar feel, it can be hard when you are outdoors to re-create a studio shot, but with a good balance of flash and ambient light you can get there or there a-bouts. I desaturated the face, darkened the sides to create more mood in the face and played around with the stubble so to speak, darkening areas and lightening the white bristles. This gives that visceral feel to an image, making it more alive and in the context of this shoot, more grizzly and weather beaten.I used a large scrim (diffuser) off to the right and used more of the ambient daylight. working with the shadows and the softened light I tried to create a darker portrait, letting the left side of the face fall into shadow but with just a spot of light on the left eye. I desaturated the image and also dodged and burned certain areas to create that depth and lifelike quality to the image that I wanted.

Image 3

Image 2

Image 3

Image 3

Image 1.

Image 3 was shot differently to Image 2, I used a light right above camera and very directional, Almost in the territory of a ring Flash, (which blasts light at the subject removing wrinkles, shadow etc). I knew this was a mood killer but as I had the moody ambient shot in the bag I wanted to try a different tack.I wanted a really shallow depth of field too, putting the emphasis on the subject and less on the environment. In post the lighting actually gave me great scope to push the contrast in the images well as working with the subjects features and giving it a different feel. A bit of darkening around the cheekbones and sides and some dodging etc and desaturating I came away with an image I was really happy with.

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