Film Noir

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I call this kind of setup "Film Noir" in homage to the films of the forties and fifties. It isn't really true noir, because you expect to see much tighter light shaping, but it is a short hand way of describing the look.

Essentially the subject is picked out by their own lights, which are also quite hard with lots of contrast. Meanwhile the background and environment is lit to a much lower level, enough to see there is something there, but not enough to distract.

This is a four light setup, more than I normally use - which often times is only one or two lights. Let's start with Leah first. On Leah's right is a honeycombed strobe with barn doors. This lets me create quite a tight spot effect on Leah. To Leah's left is a strobe with a snoot which lets me drop in just a little light into the hair to give some separation.

To the right hand side there is a very diffused light coming in through a fake window - this is toned down as low as possible but still illuminating the back wall. Then way behind the camera is a big softbox providing just a little fill around the whole scene, but in particular preventing the shadows on Leah's face going black. This is important because Leah's hair is so dark black it would be easy for the shadows and hair to merge in an unpleasant way. With a lighter hair subject that may be less necessary.

In this series I've chosen images which are little more thoughtful rather than smiley, happy - though they work just as well.

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In the second image I've switched to a longer shot with more environment. Notice how I've brought the legs out for a longer look in the leg.

Because Leah is sitting it has to scrunch the tummy, so I've used Leah's hand to hide the tummy, yet provide a leading line into the leg.

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The last image is more provocative, with Leah really leaning forward into the camera. This of course squashes the tummy even more, so it's important that we find ways of hiding it in the posing or composition.


key points

Models with very dark hair need a lot more attention paid to the hair for acceptable images.

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