Shooting portraits of authors and actors are a bit similar, you get to use your creativity and you get to create a light for just one person. It is also a good chance to try new lighting setups and other tricks.
Kerim Troeller is a Swedish actor, who recently did a small part in Michael Bay’s “13 Hours”. He needed new portraits for his portfolio and castings, so he called me.
I prepared a main setup that we used with small adjustments during the photoshoot, four lights were involved as well as a lot of different lighting modifiers and other stuff.
Behind The Scenes, actor portraits
This is how my small studio was set up for the headshots and casting portraits. Using four Profoto D1 (2 x D1 250 Air + 2 D1 500 Air), two from behind and the rest as main light and fill.
To avoid having light bouncing all around the limited space I work in, all lights but one used grids. Especially for rim lights, grids are a good way of controlling the light a bit better.
Contrasty main light
I wanted a light that created very much contrast but still had details in the shadows. Using a medium sized softbox with a grid (60 x 90 cm/2×3 ft) angled down from above, I got moody shadows in his eye sockets. Almost like a classic super hero cartoon (or villain?).
Below the main light I used a large Profoto Giant 180 as my fill, almost on-axis with the camera. That light also helps with getting a little light into the shadows so the eyes don’t go completely black.
Faking bokeh and haze with plastic
A simple trick to create some strange effects in the image, a bit similar to a Lens Baby or using a smoke machine is to put a plastic bag in front of the camera lens.
You can use a bag or shrink wrap plastic, just make sure not to overdo the effect. Having the plastic around the edges of the front lens can create interesting things.
Depending on how the light hits it, it can either make it look like haze or create something similar to bokeh. Or maybe a strange halo effect, just move it around and see.
It is also a lot less messy compared to using Vaseline.
Colour gels and grading
In this lighting setup for the portraits, three of four lights had blue colour gels mounted in front (CTB) with different density. Only the main light from the softbox above was unfiltered.
The background was a standard black paper background, I adjusted the rim lights during the shoot so they sometimes spilled onto the black. Together with the blue gels it created nice gradients here and there.
When we were finished with this part of the session, we moved on to more portraits with oil and warrior make-up, but I will save that for a separate blog post.
See more of Kerim
For an actor in the beginning of his career, I think his is doing a lot of things right. Having good publicity photos can never be a bad thing, I think. I hope to see more of him on the screen.