How to Create Drama With Speedlights

Trying to replicate certain looks, especially from our favorite films, is a great way to enhance our skills as photographers, but it's not always as easy as it looks. Gavin Hoey from Adorama TV gives us some great tips on how to light a scene like a film noir. 

Three-point lighting is one of the basic principles of portrait photography, and here, Hoey manages to get those points across without filling our minds with too much photography jargon. Presumably working on the assumption that you've been watching some of his other videos, he flies through the tutorial, making the whole process look effortless. There's a good lesson in here for anyone who's starting off and pining for that Profoto B1. It really is not about the gear. Hoey is able to get the shot he wants with four speedlights, a snoot, and a fog machine.   

Starting off by adding one light and refining each one to his liking before adding the next, he outlines his reasoning for each light. Just take note of the three main points of light: the first is a background light, which he modified with the venetian blind; the second is the hair-light, which he also uses to backlight the smoke from the smoke machine; and the third is the key-light, which he uses to illuminate the talent's face. He does add a fourth light to simulate what the desk-lamp light might look like, referred to as a "motivated light," but this is an extra flourish to an already simple but well thought-out scene. What brings it all together, though, is the set design, because all the lighting in the world can't replicate the mood of a practical set. 

When the shoot is finished, he takes his chosen image to Adobe Camera Raw to put the finishing touches on it. However, the same result can be accomplished with any decent raw editor. Have any of our readers tried replicating scenes from their favorite movies? We'd love to see the results.  

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Karl Johnston's picture

Very well explained, thank you

Jim Payne's picture

Building up the light makes this much easier to plan and execute. Excellent.