Playing with lighting to achieve a Classic Hollywood look

A couple of weekend’s ago Morag and I attended a Photographers’ get together in York organised by my good friend and fabulous teacher John Denton. The event was called MonkeeFest and is a social gathering of photographers and a chance for us to work with some fabulous models to play around with new photography and lighting techniques on our own or in teams. John even organised a visit to Flamingoland Theme Park and Zoo, which was still shut for the winter – so it was great fun getting to run around a theme park – I’ll be posting a further blog post about that one soon.

At the event we were given a challenge by Roger Griffiths to come up with an image that would emulate the look and feel of the great Hollywood photographer George Hurrell – Hurrell photographed many of the iconic images that came out of 30’s and 40’s Hollywood and his work was stunning – he used a particular lighting technique mostly using “hot” studio lights and spotlights.

I’d first been introduced to Hurrell’s work when I attended a lighting seminar run by the great Trevor and Faye Yerbury. Trevor demonstrated how he could emulate the Hurrell look by using a Fresnel adapter in front of a Bowens studio light – he then simply used the modelling light in the Bowens (and a bit of that “Yerbury magic sprinkle dust”) to come up with a stunning image. I was knocked out by what Trevor and Faye achieved that day and promised myself that I would try out some Hurrell lighting at some point.

So, when Roger came up with the challenge – and it was backed up by a prize of a Joe McNally book and a framed print of the winning image from Colorworld – I was definitely going to give this a go.

So below you can see my favourite image from that day’s shooting session.

Wedding Photography Scotland - Emulating the George Hurrell Hollywood look

This image was shot on a Nikon D700 using 2 Lowell iD Video lights. The key thing for me in George Hurrell’s images was the heavy contrast in lighting, so we worked in a darkened room and had the key light on full power and zoomed right in (the Lowell has a small fresnel type lens) – the second Lowell was used to light the background and provide a little separation between the model and the background. Exposure was manual and spot metered on the model’s nose.

The file was processed using my normal Black and White processing method which emulates film as much as possible and I then added a little softening to the image to give that Hollywood “glow”.

I think it worked really well.

What do you think? – Greta Garbo eat your heart out?

Fortunately our judges also liked it and this image was picked out as the winner from the day.

Hopefully you agree this is a fabulous look to try to achieve and something I will be adding to our fashion inspired portrait sessions. If this is something that might interest you we currently have a special offer on our Fashion Portrait sessions give us a call on 01786 625645 for details or use our contact form to get in touch.

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  • Michael Martin10/03/2011 - 4:35 pm

    Beautiful image of a beautiful woman. I saw Trevor do the same shot you mentioned, he made it look so darned simple.

  • Roger G10/03/2011 - 5:27 pm

    Superb Alan, a ‘classic’ Hurrell image beautifully lit… Love it :-)

  • magan blasig16/03/2011 - 10:48 pm

    I think you definitely captured the “old Hollywood” style here. :) Awesome job, and great post!

  • Joshua Gull17/03/2011 - 2:35 am

    I think you definitely achieved the look you wanted. Stunning shot Alan.

  • Heather E17/03/2011 - 3:43 am

    WOW. I am such a fan of the classic, hollywood look. You totally nailed it in this shot. I would love to see more.

  • Daniel Krieger17/03/2011 - 5:37 am

    That’s some cool lighting there.. really nicely done.

  • Alicia Adamopoulos17/03/2011 - 7:29 am

    This is something I’ve always wanted to play around with myself and I think you’ve nailed it. Stunning!

  • Paul Nguyen17/03/2011 - 12:13 pm

    Classic hollywood look! Congrats!

  • Matthew Mead17/03/2011 - 1:05 pm

    Yep thats classic hollywood. Love it!

  • Nick Coyne17/03/2011 - 1:22 pm

    You definitely nailed it with that one!

  • Razvan17/03/2011 - 2:52 pm

    No wonder the judges liked it. This image is a winner! Beautifully executed, Alan.

  • Keao17/03/2011 - 3:07 pm

    This definitely takes us back to the elegance and beauty of Old Hollywood. She’s beautiful and I think the lighting highlights her face and the details of her dress perfectly.

  • adam houseman17/03/2011 - 3:41 pm

    beautifully done. Love the b&w.

  • Mike S.18/03/2011 - 5:48 pm

    Certainly an aroma of ‘Karsh” who, incidentally I met in Canada a few years ago just before he died..He was 90 and still active in his Studio in Montreal.

  • Leo18/03/2011 - 7:30 pm

    I’d say you have a winner here – love the portrait, and the style is spot on.

  • Elena24/03/2011 - 1:28 pm

    Fantastic photo Alan! Real Old Hollywood style.

  • Heather04/04/2011 - 10:03 pm

    What a throwback!! Awesome shot, the lighting is perfection.

  • Jon Jenkins05/04/2011 - 12:23 am

    Love it Alan! Excellent image.

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