I’ve really started to like hard lighting. If it works it can make portraits almost look 3D-like. If it doesn’t work it’ll be a disaster with very unpleasing shadows in the wrong place. Still worth a try.
Having mostly aimed for soft light with soft boxes and shoot-through brollies in the past, I took on the task to learn more about hard light. I wanted to create the classic “Hollywood lighting” or cinematic lighting from the 1940s that is so popular. Think Marilyn Monroe and you know what I mean.
I spent an evening doing self-portraits, just to see what the shadows looked like. My Canon Speedlite 580 EX IIs came in very handy, as they are small light sources and can be made even smaller and harder with grids and snoots from HONL, perfect for what I was looking for.
Self-portraits can be interesting and good practise, but my wife is definitely a better model, so I asked her to sit in for a few shots. I think we’re both pretty pleased with the result.
Two Canon Speedlite 580 EX IIs, a HONL 1/8 Speed Grid and a HONL 5” Speed Snoot was all it took. One Speedlite and a grid was used as the key light from camera right, rather close to my wife and at a high angle to give a hard shadow. The other Speedlite and the snoot was placed behind my wife to the left to create the hair light.
I didn’t have to use any background, as the amount of ambient light was not enough to illuminate the rest of the room, with the camera set to a shutter speed of 1/250 and f/11. With this setup I got a black background which further improved on the hard lighting and shadows I was aiming for.
I’m pleased with the results and think its a good start into the art of hard lighting. What do you think?
Here's the full story on how to shoot Hollywood style portraits.