Tammy - homage to old Hollywood glamour
I am fascinated by the old Hollywood glamour style. I like the dramatic use of light, props and pose to create this vaporous, impossibly beautiful images of the movie stars of the time. I have occasionally paid homage to the style using modern equipment and techniques, and generally feeling dissatisfied with the results. So yesterday I tried again, with Tammy, a lovely local model. What makes the style distinctive are these features, in no particular order:
· Lighting is the key component. In the 30s photographers like Hurrell used large movie style tungsten lamps equipped with a Fresnel lens. These fixtures are still available today, but their practical use is limited, as they are very heavy, consume lots of power and generate plenty of heat. Alternatives in the form of strobe Fresnel are made by some manufactures like Profoto. Norman modified an old tungsten can to contain a strobe, and called it the F10 fresnel – that’s what I used for this shoot – actually I only used the 250w modeling light, not the strobe itself to achieve shallow depth of field.
· Black and white images, with ortho film in the very early days, which gives reds, like lips, a dark tonality. Black and white can be successfully obtained today with digital processing, down to the level of grain and film type – although not for those old films from the 30s.
· Smooth skin – this was achieved by hand retouching the negative for hours until the desire effect was achieved. It’s much easier today with digital post-processing.
· Use of a large camera and negative, 8×10, and slow lenses, which give a very shallow depth of field- this is doable today shooting with 35mm wide open with a fast lens, although the results are not exactly identical. Digital processing can be added to modify depth of field, with only modest success.
· Makeup, pose, wardrobe and props – very important to achieve the look of the 30s.
So, for the images below I used a Normal F10 strobe Fresnel as the key light, but only the modeling light, not the flash itself. This is a fairly low power lamp of about 250w. I had to shoot at f/2.8 and 1/30 sec or so. This forced me to use a tripod to avoid camera motion. There was a hair light, a 650w Lowell strobe, which was difficult to control because it was (much) more powerful than the key light and it has no dimmer. So I moved it as high up as my ceiling allows, and I don’t think I did a great job controlling it. Finally I had a 250w Home Depot working light run thru a home made cookie to break the white seamless and produce the pattern on the background. We shot in my home studio, the garage, which was quite hot because of the summer like temperatures outside and all the hear generated 1,000 watts of lights. I’ve got lots to learn, but this is a good stop in that direction!