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|Category:||Portraits and People|
Hollywood portraits - Duncan Evans turns back the clock to the golden age of Hollywood star portraiture.
After the emergence of sound with movies, film production shifted from New York to Hollywood, and ushered in the era of stars signed to studios and what became known as the golden age of Hollywood star portraits. There's a case to be made for including the 1920s and the 1950s, but I've excluded these from this article as the 20s had far more limited cameras, lenses and film stock, while in the 50s, technological advancements meant that far more dynamic and active photos were being taken.
The model Sadie having period-style makeup applied by stylist Diane.
While there's some overlap at the end of the era, there is a key lighting style that is a signature of the 30s Hollywood portraits, and that is called loop lighting. In this the key light is placed to the left or right of the camera, at a 45 degree angle, and then also above the subject, at 45 degree pointing down. This creates a loop shadow to one side of the nose. For styling, your ladies should have largely straight hair, with some curls or waves, and it can either be parted from the centre, or right over the side and pulled back over the head. Eyebrows should be as thin as possible but note you can do this in Photoshop. Furs and evening dresses are expected, and if you can find long gloves, all the better. For the chaps, smart-casual dress is expected, throw in a jacket and a polo neck. Hair was usually gelled down and either shaped back, or allowed to have a bit of a curl, but shouldn't be over the ear at all.
The lighting setup for the 1930s photos.
This then is the lighting setup for both 1930s style photos. The key light is to the right of the camera, 45 degrees up, pointing down at the subject. That creates the loop lighting effect under the nose.
There is a fill-flash to the left to soften shadows and provide light on the other side of the main lighting, while a snoot-fitted flash fires at the hair to provide highlights.
Note that on blond subjects, the hair light would often burn out detail - this is evident in a lot of classic shots.
The 1930s shot with loop lighting, a moody look and a genuine fur stole.
Of course, all these shots were taken digitally, with a Nikon D200, not on an old large format film camera, so Photoshop was required for the rest of the effect.
Here's another 30s style shot, showing clearly, the loop lighting effect under the nose. Note the side-hair parting and the use of a feather boa to wrap around the model's neck.
The lighting setup for the 1940s style shots.
Styling wise, the ladies were still looking glamorous of course, but now introduce pearls, hats, and, perhaps surprisingly, plunging necklines and bigger shoulder pads. Yes, those 80s fashions actually originated in the 40s. Expressions were fare less demure and more into the camera. Hair had more curls and eyebrows were thicker than the decade before. For the chaps, very little changed and if anything hair was even more slicked back and styled and smoking was often seen in the photos.
Examine the lighting setup and you can see that the difference is that the key light is now dead centre above the subject to provide the butterfly effect. It should also be point out that because the photographers could see where the shadows and light were falling, they would often use four, five, six or more lights, particularly if the shot was taking place on a film set so that elements of the background could be highlighted.
Our thanks go to the lovely Sadie, the model, and make-up artist Diane Dakin for their splendid efforts on this shoot. Sadie can be contacted at email@example.com and seen here while more of Diane's work can be seen at www.dianedakin.com.