Platon is a widely acclaimed British portrait photographer. His portfolio includes, among others, images of the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, former president of the United States, Barack Obama, and the chilling portrait of revolutionary chairman of Libya, Muammar al-Gaddafi. His book "Power," shows portraits of more than 100 famous and infamous, past and present heads of state.
Platon's portraits are widely admired for their simplicity and striking character. In an interview with milkbooks he describes the origin of his style:
"I am dyslexic. My pictures make something simple out of something complicated perhaps because I can’t really function with a lot of complicated things on a page. My simplification [of] a powerful graphic form works well for the covers of magazines and makes for images that stand out. It is like I produce a logo of somebody’s face."
Here are the steps to creating this Platon-style portrait.
Platon mostly utilizes a simple lighting setup consisting of one strobe with a strong diffusion that he places in front and slightly overhead of the subject. I was unsure of the exact equipment that he used for the WIRED cover-shoot. I took a guess and placed two black panels left and right of the subject, to get a deeper shadow-gradient on the face. Make sure to include the light's reflection in the subject's eyes.
The setup is straightforward, now it is on you to capture the right moment. Once you are done, let's move on to Photoshop.
There are three main aspects to the edit that we are about to do: High contrast, low-Key torso, and broad highlights.
First, add a black and white adjustment layer.
Next, create a curves Layer and give it a distinct s-shape for contrast.
In order to guide the focus towards the subject's expression, add a brightness and contrast adjustment layer and mask the torso area.
For subtle details and highlights in the hair, eyes, and brows, add clarity through the Camera-Raw panel and mask it to only affect certain areas.
For some portraits, it is beneficial to drag up the midtones in order for them to bleed into both the shadows and the highlights. In this case, I chose not to, but this is how it would affect the image:
Burn the outer areas of the face with the burn tool to intensify the shadow gradient.
For a finishing touch, merge your layers while holding down the alt key. Select the new layer and go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the slider, so the outlines of facial details are barely visible. Set the blending mode of the new layer to Overlay to create a slightly shiny and bronze appeal.
There you go. Slap a WIRED logo on it and you are set.