May 20, 2013

How I did it. Artistic nude colour portrait. A light diagram

When I made this portrait I had in mind some Flemish paintings in which the light is just on the subject, leaving the surroundings in almost complete darkness creating a strong sense of mystery. I had no doubts on how to position lights, but the problem was that I wanted this portrait to look like a painting. With a digital camera I would have add some kind of texture in the editing. but how could I do it with a film camera?

Kodak Portra 400 f4 t1/250

The picture was taken on Kodak Portra 400 with a medium Format camera which was positioned in front of the model at her height. I chose a 80mm lens because I wanted the proportions to be as natural as possible. I used just a key light on the right side of the camera, almost at one side of the model and slightly tilted down. By this I would have manage to recreate the atmosphere I was looking for and, by using just one light, I also achieved the "sfumato" I was after.

I also added a background light: it's on the left side and pointing far away from the framed background so that just the fall-off would enter the picture. By that I added depth to the image, thus maintaining my sfumato. I corrected the background light with a blue filter  to add contrast with the orange tones of the model's skin.

To create the painting look I knew that using a shallow depth of field would have helped me. Shooting at f2.8 would have been a bit too much, so I set the aperture at f4. The 500w flash was at 1/4 of its power  and the shutter speed was at t1/250 but the exposure metering was not the one I wanted. 
I could have changed the shutter speed at t1/500 (I can do that with my camera without flash sync problems) but I would have only gained one stop: I needed more. So I used a 0,6 ND, a neutral density filter which stops down 2 diaphragms.

To add e sense of ethereal and help with the sfumato I left the model slightly out of focus (soft focus). But I need a certain texture and this time grains would not have been sufficient. I decided to do this with the development of the film. I used C-41 colour processing and I under developed the negative which made the blacks softer, added a particular grain structure which works really well as texture but also added some colour shift in the blacks which, after all, also helps to the purpose, don't you think so?

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