Year Two (09) – Film Noir

Another exciting evening at the Old Bakery and this time with the help of Lucy and a grand piano it was time to dip into the darkness and have a go at my own take on Film Noir style images. Black and white traditionally – but to great shots you need to include the whole black and white range – making sure the black is black and the white is white – without blowing out the highlights.

Where do you start… manual settings on the camera that are suitable for the speed of the lights that we were going to use – so todays settings were ISO100, F8, 1/250 sec – which meant that when I shot the image without any lighting all I got was black!

It was then a question of adding lights in the right places with the right modifiers, controlling the brightness and direction of the light – so that there was not to much spill light, and working with the model to create some dynamic images.

Setting up a shot and deciding how you light it is essential and it is well worth having an idea in your head before you start, Mike wanted big shadows for some of his shots.. so it was important to remember what we had to do to achieve that look – the light source has to be further away and angled to create a shadow – this was mainly done with a studio light which we were triggering with a flash!


Getting someone to stand in the image helps save time when setting up a shot

Camera angles are also really important – do you want to shoot straight on and get a large shadow on the wall… or do you want to shoot up – Richard is kindly demonstrating how photographers have to move to get the shot and angle that they want… the right shot is not as easy as you think!


Camera angles are well worth considering

Clothing is another essential which I had not really considered enough, and as a photographer I cant rely on the client to know what to wear – below is a shot of me – my light jeans reflect back the light, my watch is an LCD screen so just appears black, my trainers are reflective and the outfit does not make you think Film Noir … so unless the set and the costume is right… the perfect shot is hard to achieve.


Clothing choices!

Does the background matter – no! Not if the set is lit correctly, the light falls in the right place and there is enough room to move. We could not move the piano, so we worked in the available space which actually was a restaurant cafe!


The location does not mater

Chimping – when you look in the back of the camera and think – have I done it right. This is essential… It a situation like this working with low light, I needed to make sure the highlights were not blown out – I wanted the lights as light so I could get details where I needed it yet I wanted some details in the shadows too.  It was also essential to make sure that I was triggering all the lights we were using – if I didn’t then all my shots may have ended up like this one….

Imagine if that was all I took a way from the shoot as I had never checked the back of the camera … luckily I checked and rechecked as I changed position and we changed the lights!

Film Noir Photography with Lucy

Checking the camera does matter

Moving angles, working with the lights and different props and you can add all sorts of moods to an image. The light falling down here is lighting the song sheet – slightly too much as it is blowing our the musical notes, but it is creating a halo around her fade, the hat brim is also lit along with her glowing hands. I should have lowered the exposure slightly perhaps, but to me it fits well with the style I was aiming for.

Film Noir Photography with Lucy

Using the light

See if you can spot the differences between the shot above and below…


Not using the light

If you don’t use the lights – here I used an on camera light at a high brightness, but becuase of my distance and angle – created a shadow on the wall behind, let up the underside of the table, captured details like her hair band, the lighting stand – you create a totally different look – not what I was after at all – but a great example of why lighting is important – Lucy has not really moved!


Hazard Aware

Working with a team of photographers also highlighted how important it is to be aware of their space and mine – when there are several of us using the same triggers it is easy to walk into someone’s shot without realising – an important reason to chimp and to be aware or the working space – as well as working quickly with the available light!

Film Noir Photography with Lucy

Silhouettes and lighting

I like the shot above – Lucy is almost a silhouette against the music sheet, the light lights her hat, the keyboard and her music sheet beautifully, is close and soft so no harsh shadows and you can just about make out the diagonal on the piano. It is a shot which you could add your own story too.

Film Noir Photography with Lucy

Adding something

Sometimes it is good to add something… here I add some smoke. Lucy is blended into the smoky atmosphere of some cheesey wine bar, she is having break from the music and enjoying a smoke… however I question the period of her watch and hair band – it is about noticing the details … here I missed them!

Film Noir Photography with Lucy

Dramatic angles

Trying something different, Lucy shot down on the piano in the cross fire of a battle … OK, we lacked the fake blood and the ketchup we found did not work …  and the fire door is sneaked into the shot to… but thinking differently and trying different angles can really add something.

Film Noir Photography with Lucy

Over gesturing

The shape of hands, bodies, clothing choices are all important – Lucy’s skirt is leather and reflects the light back, her heels add detail to her legs, her hands create shadows on the keys and the detail on the hat is brought out in the lights … subtle details which add to the image.

Eye contact, horizontal, landscape and crop formats all add to the atmosphere of the image and the story that you are telling… and add’s to the sense of scale.

Film Noir Photography with Lucy

Telling a story in Film Noir

More images from this shoot with Lucy can be found in her onine album, why not pop over to my photography galleriess and have a look.

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