Portrait and Studio Photography does not come easy to me. I am much more comfortable shooting animals, landscapes, flowers, pets (I adore shooting pets!), sports and taking candid shots. That is perhaps the reason why it took me so long to tackle it.
My initial attempts to write about Classical Portraits and Semiotics was published a while back and can be read here. These initial posts were exploratory. I was dipping my little toes in a whole new side of photography that was pretty new to me.
For sometime I wanted to do a studio retake of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Monalisa. Da Vinci has long fascinated me, I’m convinced (and have no evidence whatsoever) that he must have been bipolar! He was just so clever, a painter, an engineer, an inventor, a mathematician, a scientist, the list goes on.
I tried my own version of Mona Lisa at home (read my post here) and had much fun BUT I felt I could and should do more. I could do better. I wanted to do better.
I carried on researching and loved the link between Rembrandt Lighting and Hollywood Portraits that was particularly fashionable during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Again, I had to remind myself that the brief we were given was for a classical inspired studio photo and not a Hollywood shot. I decided to save that for another day.
The Rembrandt Light: the one thing Mona Lisa does not have
To achieve the ‘Rembrandt Look’ one half of the models face needs to be in full illumination whilst the other half (usually the side furthest away from the camera) is in partial shadow, with a very distinct illuminated triangle under the eye on the shadowed side. Rembrandt lighting was “coined” after the master himself, Rembrandt, the famous 17th century Dutch Painter, who used this lighting technique to such great effect in his works of art.
There are plenty of amazing examples of Rembrandt’s work, in fact all one has to do is type ‘Chiaroscuro’ and stunning images by Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci and Caravaggio are sure to fill the screen.
That said, I wanted something a little different for my portrait and as I researched for the ‘perfect painting’ for me I came across ‘The Femme Dans Un Manteau’ by Etienne Adolph Piot a French painter who became famous in Paris during the mid/late 1800s for painting wealthy, young and beautiful debutantes.
Contrary to the original painting, my model was a little older and I wanted a portrait that would enhance that. I also liked the idea of her wearing a spot of colour and sheen in her hood.
Having had a chance to help with the set up of other people’s project I was quite confident in setting up my own lighting this time, but I must confess when offered help I was also glad to receive it!
At first, I tried to follow the classical Rembrandt Lighting set up as shown below then adjusted it to give me the ‘look’ I was after.
The beauty dish was set up in the right direction and one of my helpers was holding the snoot just at the right position for me to capture the ‘chiaroscuro’ effect on Anna, my model. The light catching on her hood also made the colour pop (I was worried because chiaroscuro can be unforgiving with colours!) but I was pleased with set up.
Having taken ‘the shot’ we tried to experiment a little with colour gels but quickly dropped that idea.
With Health & Safety adhered to, the shoot went very well. I really enjoyed the session and was pleased with the result.
I would like to point out at this stage that my choice of model and pose were inspired by the classical painting and in any way made to be an exact copy. I made amendments on my set up on purpose so it would be my own take on the painting and not a copy of someone else’s work.
Personally, I rather like how it turned out.
Thanks for reading this far!
P1, P2, P3, P4, M1, M2, M3
References for Classical Portrait Assignment in Studio: