Simple Film Noir Portrait: OnSet ep. 254

By | March 12, 2020


Hey this is Daniel Norton, I’m here in my studio in New York City with Andres and we’re gonna create kind of a noir vibe today kind of noir, we actually did a video one, of the very earliest on sets, I did a noir shoot and I used my data lights and we created that kind of that light across the eye thing and that was super fun but I thought I’d do the classic blinds, and while you’ve probably seen me do a lot things with cookies and I have the data lights with projectors and stuff which makes it really easy I used specialized equipment and not everybody has that, so I thought I’d show you guys how you can get this vibe with something you can get pretty easily I mean I just took these down from the studio, but you can buy cheap blinds somewhere just to do this, or take them out of your house, or whatever you know, just for a minute to do it. The only disadvantage here though is, that you’re not going to be able to just put the the projector on your head and really just focus and defocus down, for that you’re gonna have to be really concerned with the distance between the blinds, or the light and your subject. Okay so there’s a few factors that you really need to consider when you are, you know, using a light with something in between, or let’s call it a gobo, right, to create shadow. One is that you want to use a hard source. You can see here I have a Softbox, you know, shooting towards my subject here with these sticks, coffee stirrers, and you cannot really see even up super close, I mean there’s a little shadow, but you can barely make those out even that close. No matter what I do, you’re really not gonna see that, right? What you want to do is use a harder light , so if someone take the Softbox off. Right, once you’ve done that, kind of, a single hard source, you’re going to get a nice shadow pattern. Now that shadow pattern is going to be controlled by a few factors. One is well, the size of your light, which is the hard light, and it’s hardness, one is the distance of your light to your gobo, we’re gonna call it, and then the other one is the distance of your gobo to your subject. So if I put my light further back from my Gobo my shadow is going to be crisper. However keep in mind that when you do that you’re gonna lose power and also the light itself is probably gonna spread out especially if we’re using a flash that doesn’t have some way to focus it, right? So we don’t want to back it up too far, because if we do then we’re gonna get scattered light everywhere, and that might be a problem, especially in my studio which is white. So that’s one factor, the other factor of course, is the distance of the subject from the gobo, so if I move my subject back, you can see that the shadow pattern is getting softer, it’s not quite as sharp, and then it’s nice and sharp there. So again you see that distance there. Okay now of course, the other thing, like I said, is we can move the actual gobo
itself by moving in closer, you’ll see that it gets sharper, of course now the issue or fear would be that you don’t want to get it in your shot, right? I mean I could put it right up against her face, that’s gonna give me the tightest line, but if I do that, you know, then it could be in my shot. So you’re really going to play around with those factors to control the edge value of your lines. Now let me just move this, I can show you guys, if I take my light and I move it in closer, we can see how the shadow pattern starts to really break up. In fact there you can almost not see it at all, if I put it close enough to my pattern, it would virtually disappear. So that shows, now if I move it back, right, and of course obviously the exposure is gonna change here too. We can see that the further back I put it, the sharper the the lines will get they’re also lengthening in this case, you know, that’s also good but like as you can probably see, if you’re looking at the background and stuff, you can probably get an idea of it. My light’s spreading out a lot when I do that, So these are all things we have to keep in mind, right. Any of those things will help you in in the case of shooting a person, and you know what we’re gonna do, we’re building a set, we can move things and we can move the light, where we want sometimes, the thing is defined right? If you’re let’s say in a house, you may only have so much space though you might actually be using actual blinds that are there, right. So if you’re doing that, and you might not be able to move them, right? You might have to actually either move your subject closer to get them sharper, or move your light further back, let’s say you put a light outside the window or something. So keep those things in mind, that’s how we’re gonna control this. Okay so let me show you what we’re gonna do, here I’ve got the Profoto light, over here setup. We’ve got our blinds, and they’re open a little bit, to create kind of a pattern. Now I’m ultimately gonna use this grid on here, but I want to show you what it looks like without it. So if we just take the light you can see the model and lights on, and we can get the idea of what just pointing the light at the background is going to look like. Let’s see what we got here. Okay that’s pretty good right we’re in TTL, we got light on him, it looks pretty good, right, the background is getting some, shadow of the blinds on it, which is also kind of interesting. Over here because of the angle we’re not getting much, but the whole thing even though we have our cool black-and-white vibe going, it’s not really gritty as I’d like it to be. I feel like we want have more control, yeah and like I said for that we’re gonna use this grid. This is a 10 degree grid you could use different degrees, basically to get different spread, but we kind of did a couple experiments here between the 5 and the 10, and I kind of like the 10. So again I’m still in TTL, gonna do the same thing, we’re getting our baseline here, you see the difference it makes. Now that’s a huge difference guys, right, this is because the grid is changing the spread of light, it doesn’t focus the light, it changes the spread, right, because the lights not hitting this back wall, because it’s not doing all of this, we’re really getting like just where we want it, which is right there. So that looks pretty good, right, we’re pretty happy with that, but now — I did like a little bit of light in the background, you know, I felt like that, the this by itself, is just a little bit too stark for me. So what I’m gonna do is bring in a second light. This is another Profoto B1X, and I’m gonna basically… I’m also gonna put a grid on this one, this is a 5 degree grid, and we’re gonna do here is, aim this guy to just give us some pattern in the background. So this is gonna be tricky because it’s just gonna be a small circle of light, I didn’t want to… I feel like if I lit the whole background evenly with the window shade it would be fine, but it would just look almost too much like a set, this feels like a little bit more real to me, to get like a little bit of light back there, and we create this kind of vibe, and this is all in TTL guys like I said. So that looked pretty good now, I like that. I’m gonna hit manual, so things lock in, and what I’m gonna do… all looks good, alright, is we’re gonna– bring your fingers up and open the shade a slight bit, so we can get, yeah there we go, get a little vibe in there. I’ve gotten I’ve got a little bit of the shade here in the front, that adds a little texture, that looks cool because we have… Oh yeah that’s nice and sharp, has that cool vibe. See for you to step a smidge back, perfect, that’s perfect. Here we go. Remember where he stands, is gonna be super important, so I want to move him back a smidge, not to get that in there, just in case you didn’t like that, but I want to make sure, too, that he gets the nice vibe of the lines on his face, let’s just shoot few like that. This is good. Try it both ways, nice, oh that’s nice, that’s nice. He’s like ..’What could be going on.’ One more. Oh yeah like that, that was a good one. He’s like uh-huh. I like that vibe, and that vibe would be actually cooler if we were shooting on the other side. So let’s actually come on the other side of the the curtain here, and I’m gonna have Andres open it up and kind of look at me with this, yeah there we go, inquisitive eyes. Let’s see what we got there. Oh it’s kind of cool. These are metallic shades too, so they’re creating like kind of a, they almost feel like I’m shooting from the outside, like a street lamp looking in, and some cheesy hotel, probably a motel I think, more noir, and as he moves just gonna slightly shift and change, and it’s kind of fun just to see what the difference is, you know, because this is has this little flat area here, it’s creating this kind of a cool leading line. if that bothered you, cause let’s just get rid of it for one, turn this back yeah, let’s get it nice and straight, let’s do one where it’s straight, just for, you know, the people that like to have it straight. Okay that’s good there, here we go. Also cool. I kind of like the leading line that was making, but, you know, that’s Daniel predicting comment there, about the thing not being straight, but that’s pretty cool, you know what could actually be cool as well, is if we go the other way. What if we were to shoot with the, kind of a silhouette, right? And we can pull this off. Now I do know this; with this light here blasting through, it’s hitting this light, so if I shoot through the, the shade, I’m gonna end up seeing this light, so I’m just gonna turn this guy off for this, because I’m not getting that background in this shot. Anyways let’s kill this light completely, we take him out. Let’s do one final shot, that I think will be really nice. I’m gonna leave everything set the way it is to start with, and we’ll kind of play around if we need to. Alright so basically the same thing, I’m gonna get the light in the shot, looking out, getting the vibe going, there we go. Now I didn’t switch back to TTL, because if I did, it would have completely changed my exposure because… Oh we might have nailed that too easy, you never want to nail it too easy, you definitely don’t want to do that, it’s too easy. Oh that’s great, let’s do one more like that, I love it. Oh yeah let’s take the jacket off, that’s a good idea so he’s wearing a black jacket, right, which is fine, but if he takes the jacket off, well first of all you need to take the jacket off when you get inside your hotel, and also the white might actually pick up a little bit more of the light. Perfect, like that, let’s see. Oh yeah it’s nice you get a little more detail there, it’s got a nice vibe going, nice and sharp and crispy. Let’s do one more, now there is, you know, guys if you want to, if you were getting crazy here, like, you can see a little bit back there, so make sure you don’t have a bunch of junk back there, I don’t think you can really see anything too suspicious, so I think we’re good. There are some stains and stuff, but I don’t think you can really make out what they are. You know what I’m actually gonna go a bit of a wider lens and get closer, I just want to see what that does. I’ve been shooting at 70mm the whole time, I decide to switch to a 24mm. Oh yeah aha, see being inside that really makes a difference, I just want to see a little bit more your eyes though, so we’ll just adjust that light slightly, bring your chin up a smidge, right there. Let’s see what that looks like guys. There we go. It makes the light smaller and less, kind of, a major part of the shot, but it really gives some intimacy to him, of course that’s out of focus. Let me get that one in focus huh hmm I’m torn, because I kind of like that, but I also like this. Let’s do both at the end that way we have them both. Yeah also interesting, it flattens it, you know, that’s what perspective does. I’m gonna do one final thing, right, we always do one final thing, I’m gonna go to my A group and I’m just gonna crank that light up like two more stops. So we’re overexposed a bit. Now I know this is gonna blow him out, but I kind of want to see what happens, if we get some like massive like flare coming forward. Oh wow. Interesting. Nope it was better the way it was. See this is what we learned, this is the thing once you’re a certain distance, and you’re into a shoot and it’s already going you got your shots, why not try things, you know, it’s worth experimenting, we’re gonna close like this, I’m going to put it back on 70mm, bring the the blind up a smidge or get a little lower if you can, perfect, here we go. There it is, back to where we were, make sure that when you when you do make random changes, guys, that you keep track of what it is, so that you can go back, if you need to get to where it was. Wow that’s well done, well done Andres… this is you know Emmy, Emmy that’s for acting? Yeah Emmy Award, you know for the… You know when you’re trying to create something that has some mood or or a vibe, like something like noir, just keep in mind, some of the things that people do, look at the tropes that they use. The very classic, you know, noir thing of the blinds, the light coming through the window, could be a street light, putting it in black-and-white, keeping it gritty, you know, doing the kind of undone bowtie, that kind of stuff. It just helps add that mystery to the
shot and it’s really simple this could really be any light, and like I said you get blinds super cheap, grab some at, you know, a discount store or whatever, and give this a shot. So I will put Andres’ information in the description, be sure to follow me @DanielNortonPhotographer and subscribe to Adorama TV. Ring the bell for all the new videos, and I’ll see you next time OnSet.

51 thoughts on “Simple Film Noir Portrait: OnSet ep. 254

  1. Blackwing Visuals Post author

    Dan the man!! Good effort simple but effective!

    Reply
  2. CharleyL Post author

    Thanks again, Daniel. Has Adorama closed up their OnSet Studio? I don't see your shows coming from there any more.

    Reply
  3. fmrff70 Post author

    Would shadows change if you incorporated a snoot? I already know that you're going to tell me to try it out and get back to you!😄

    Reply
  4. Rony Robert Post author

    Holding the lens that way is really creeping me out

    Reply
  5. Huie D. Post author

    This was PERFECT!! I had done this shot on myself (could not find a model at the time) and was so happy with the results. Your demonstrating the crisp lines vs. soft lines with the styrofoam head was PERFECT…I finally got the concept of hard vs soft vs distance to subject concept that you guys have been telling us about-oh man!!! Thanks so much for real-time shots and how you run into not so perfect results and then seeing how you corrected them-MAJOR plus! Thanks again, Daniel, from East Bay, California.

    Reply
  6. Rafael Gonzaga Post author

    Please, make more videos photographing men. Thank you for this tips. Congratulations man

    Reply
  7. swedesrus25 Post author

    I like the effects that are created. Well done!

    Reply
  8. Chris Belec Post author

    What would Daniel have laying around to make a gobo??? Hmmmm coffee stir sticks of course he has coffee sticks around….lol

    Reply
  9. Charanjeet Singh Post author

    If kit lens aperture is 3.5-5.6 and your camera settings show you setting upto f1.4 or f1.8 to f22 if you are using f8 in setting what actual aperture is please tell me

    Reply
  10. Mike James Post author

    Thanks, Daniel and Andreas. I've seen this shot done by others of course, but appreciate your explanation of the distance issues between the light, gobo, and subject. Convincing results!

    Reply
  11. Kevin Phillips Post author

    An excellent tutorial on the genre. I love the film noir look and now I have some techniques to have a go myself. It'll have to be speedlights though! Thanks for doing these on-set videos and thanks to Andreas too.

    Reply
  12. Southlander1000 Post author

    Trying things I hadn't planned on has created some of my best shots. I can't recommend it enough.

    Reply
  13. David Centifanto Post author

    Another fantastic Daniel Norton teaching moment. Thank you for the inspiration

    Reply
  14. Jim Sewell Post author

    Thanks Daniel. I found my blinds at the Salvation Army. They cost me much less than a single metal gobo would have.

    Reply
  15. Barry Kidd Post author

    Oh wow! What's that stand with, what looks like, a female, junior on one of the feet?

    Reply
  16. José Leyva Post author

    I really learn with this masterclass, thanks guys

    Reply
  17. Engineer Chowdry Ashfaq Post author

    Great Video dude. Thanks. Greetings from Chowdry Photography, Bengaluru, India

    Reply
  18. Joey McDaniel Post author

    Fun and informative shoot! I wish I had space to hang blinds in my small home studio.

    Reply
  19. phynx2006 Post author

    Great shoot, great images, great tips, great Scott hahaha

    Reply
  20. Hugo Ghoul Post author

    So versatile, I´m gonna have a boudoir session and it gave me some ideas

    Reply
  21. Russ Dixon Post author

    great tutorial, in a similar vein could you do a George Hurrell style shoot sometime?

    Reply
  22. Jim Atyeo Post author

    No offense to your male subject, but life is to short to watch a male subject when you have other very lovely models. I guess this is one for the ladies to watch.

    Reply
  23. Alan Johnstone Post author

    Easy ways todo it, Thanks Daniel and Andreas

    Reply
  24. Raul Zaldivar Post author

    Thank you Daniel, great information and ideas 💡

    Reply
  25. Joe Loftus Post author

    Very educational and inspirational. I loved the clear explanation of the Gobo.

    Reply
  26. gilles matheron Post author

    Yet another good set of ideas and techniques from Master Norton.
    Be he thanked !

    Reply
  27. Greg Rones Post author

    Great technique. Liked seeing this from multiple angles.

    Reply
  28. William Palmer Post author

    Wow, well done Daniel! I can’t wait to try some of these myself. Very informative and creative.

    Reply
  29. Marc Labro Post author

    super tuto. I learnt a lot about gobo principles, using blinds, creative photographic ideas…

    Reply
  30. Michael Riddell Post author

    Great Video, the last few shots looked like an old round car headlight, and added to the photo, very ccol

    Reply
  31. Al So Post author

    ha nice idea! easy to do it myself. i got the perfect model for this…my neighbour….he stands the whole day behind his window and watch people 😀 😀 😀

    Reply

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