Old Hollywood Glamour Lighting

Old Hollywood Glamour Lighting

There are numerous styles that can be used for Boudoir photography from soft natural light, to a crisp modern setup to traditional portrait lighting but a style that is gaining renewed popularity is the 1930s 'Hollywood Glamour' lighting set-up typified in this shot of Rita Heyworth.

In order to obtain a good approximation of the lighting used for this type of shot, we need to understand how the image was shot and why. Both cameras and film were more limited back in the 1930s compared to today's film cameras, but particularly today's digital cameras. Far more light was needed to obtain a good image indoors back in the 1930s than today.  Typically the best lights available to provide the necessary degree of light for a good indoor shot back in the 1930s were the same lights used for filming movies. They were 'continuous' (as in always on, not flash) spot lights. These were high power to provide the necessary light for filming or photography and as such would get very, very hot. The light output would be controlled by a glass lens and metal 'doors' or shutters. These lights would provide a 'circle' or 'spot' of light which might be very bright, but outside of that spot the light would 'falloff' very rapidly, meaning outside of the area being lit, it would be quite dark in comparison.  This combination of bright light and dark shadow produced high contrast images which could be quite 'harsh' in showing skin imperfections which meant that lots of make-up would be needed on the subject being photographed and typically the resulting images would also be heavily 'retouched' in the darkroom (retouching is nothing new, only now we use something like photoshop rather than 'painting' on the negative)

Once we understand how a typical 1930s glamour/fashion image was shot and why, we can look at how we can replicate that 'look' with modern equipment.

In order to achieve the 'spot' light effect, there are a number of options, you can use a modern stage/film light which are still very similar to those from the 1930s, they still tend to use a glass lens to 'focus' the spot and metal doors/shutters to control where the light shines. You can though also use a studio 'flash' to achieve a similar effect with a suitable modifier. We use a large 'beauty dish' which is a modified parabolic reflector fitted with a grid. This produces a very similar spot light effect to a film/stage light. Then it is simply a case of matching the camera exposure settings to make the area of the studio outside of the 'spot' dark, whilst ensuring that the area lit by the 'spot' is exposed properly. We can use a black backdrop to ensure we have an even dark background, but the studio's polished wooden floor works really well for this style of lighting. We might then use one or more other lights to separate the subject from the background, or to lift an area of shadow just a touch.

Here are a few shots from a recent shoot in the studio to illustrate the end result.

Of course these images can then be processed in a number of different ways, e.g. converting to black and white, or sepia, to further enhance the 'vintage' effect, but they work equally well in colour. 

Of course, boudoir covers more than vintage style glamour or old hollywood, we can also shoot soft 'natural light' images as we have large West facing windows, again the wooden floor of the studio works well for this style, or we can shoot more modern contemporary styles, with a clear white background for instance.

Whatever your preference, we can work with you to create some stunning images that you will be proud of.

You can check our availability, find out more or book a shoot at this link BOOK ONLINE

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