Shooting old Hollywood / film noir styles

Got to do something fun this past weekend - a photoshoot styled after classic Hollywood and film noir photos. Our fabulous organizer, Rose, wrangled five models, costumes, and props into Richmond's historic train station. Thank goodness we shot indoors - it was a torrid 90 degrees outside, too hot and humid for late April.

Lighting was, on the surface, dead simple: just one flash, half of the time with a snoot. But like all things in life, the devil is in the details. This kind of hard, direct light is unforgiving; half an inch either way made all the difference in how shadows fell over the models' faces. i would have loved to use the huge Fresnel spotlights found in the old film studios, but that requires equally huge applications of electricity and manpower!

Model, lens, and lighting test

For this shoot, I rented Fujifilm's 56 mm f/1.2 lens. This lens has gathered quite a reputation: it's supposedly endowed with an unbeatable combination of build quality, sharpness, and sublime creaminess in the out-of-focus areas. I just had to find out for myself.

Paired with my old but trusty Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera, I shot three models in a studio. I used a 3-light setup. The key light was set above the model and was either pointed directly at the model's face or bounced off a white umbrella. The hair light was set slightly behind the model, gelled blue, and flagged so as to not shine into the lens. The background was painted white, and I lit it with a red-gelled strobe. Finally, I set a silver bounce at the model's waist level to fill in the shadows under her chin. Exposure was around f/5.6 at ISO 200. I shot JPGs, and set white balance off my X-Rite ColorChecker Passport.

These are straight JPGs from the camera, with no more than a 1/3-stop adjustment to exposure. All i can say is "Wow!" The images from this camera/lens combo are simply divine, and I'm very tempted to make this lens a permanent part of my toolkit.

Testing models and equipment

Outdoors on a cold, wintry day with the fabulous Sarah Moore. It was windy and freezing in Old Town, Alexandria VA and Sarah was nursing a cold, but she wanted to try this outfit. What a pro - she gutted it out and never complained.

Old Town is overflowing with brick buildings and other interesting facades. There are some warehouses just around the corner from Chadwicks, and that is where we found this especially nice shade of green.

Equipment notes: Fujifilm X-Pro1 with 35 mm f/1.4 lens. Beautiful lens, beautiful colors, but focusing speed is a tad leisurely. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: it slows down the pace and makes the process much more deliberate.