Studio Portraiture – Task 2 – Practice

Introduction
Task 2 of the studio portraiture brief (detailed below) requires high, mid, and low key shots. I wanted to practice high-key lighting styles, and gain confidence in the studio, so I brought my five year old niece into the studio yesterday for a practise.

Brief
High, Mid, and Low Key Portraits

The picture editor of a weekend broadsheet publication has requested three portraits, using high, mid, and low key lighting. In addition, the article’s layout requires a close (head and shoulders), mid (waist up) and full body portrait.

Research

  • high, mid, and low-key lighting styles
  • model positioning
  • styling
  • composition

Influence
Influence for this shoot can be found in this post, but particularly, I was influenced by these shots:

The Model
Freyja, aged five, is a precocious child. She models informally for her mother, who designs and creates much of Freyja’s clothing. I used her as my practice model because she takes direction really well, she “can be really still like a statue” (her words), and she has this mass of beautiful strawberry blonde hair that would look really good in a high key profile shot.

Lighting

I had the camera positioned low to the floor, as I wanted to shoot mostly at eye level with the model. I chose a blue gel for the background because I wanted it to contrast with her gingery blonde hair. I didn’t want it to be too dark or cold, though, so I introduced a yellow gel with a soft pink on the rim light for soft highlights in her hair. The result was this, shot at f/8 at 1/125 s shutter speed and 100 ISO:

I found the peacock feather hairclip in the studio and it was a very lucky find: it gave me a purpose to take a profile shot, and it gave me serious Gloria Swanson vibes (as in the influential shots). Freyja’s namesake, the Viking goddess Freyja, is also often depicted with a headdress so I really like the way this accessory gave me a reason to bring those influential elements together.

Using a softbox cast a diffuse soft light evenly on the model’s face. The rim light caught the back of her hair, and the edge of her fingers, as well as giving her black sweater an edge of golden contrast from the purplish blue tones of the background.

Optimisation
I optimised the image in Adobe Camera Raw using the following settings to correct the white balance and to reduce the coolness of the blue.

Editing

In Adobe PS, I removed the tiny chickenpox scar from under the model’s eye, and used the dodge tool to lighten the model’s eye and details in the headpiece, and to lift the shadows in the sweater. I added some sharpening (USM and high pass) and cropped the frame, resulting in this image:

Black & White
I decided to play with the vintage feel of the shot, but I wanted a high key image. With that in mind, I used a B&W filter to lighten the blue tones, which effectively removed the background but kept some gradation in tone in the yellow/pink on the right hand side of the background. I then applied a luminosity mask to brighten the model’s face a little, and applied a mild high pass sharpening layer mask, before cropping down to tighten the composition:

Final image

I carried out the same optimisations and editing for another shot of the same model:

Raw image, f/8.0 – 1/125 s – ISO 100
ACR optimisation
Final image

I’m very pleased with the resulting images, for a first attempt at a beginning-to-end influenced shoot, through styling, editing, and black and white conversion. I was fortunate to have a great model and some really great assistants (Nabeel and Mabel, thank you dearly for your studio help, and Tom, for delivering my model and supplying sweeties).

Model Release Form

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