Lighting for film noir - what happened

Yesterday, we posted some of the works of our students, as they had just completed a session on film noir. Some friends of mine immediately took note of the lighting and posed some questions on how we lit the scene. 

We used 2 strobes (mainly) and in some places, it was entirely up to one strobe. Each photographer had his trigger and in some cases, we struggled due to the fact that the strobes were on full power and needed time to re-charge.

Nevertheless, we coordinated it well most times. I held the light for the students. We did our initial metering (though i don't remember the exact details in terms of metering as writing a blog article on this subject was not something I had thought about until recently).

Here are some photographs to explain in each of the cases:

In the above photograph, we used 2 lights, The first as a key/rim combo - lit by a 22" beauty dish (my personal favourite). The second was used as a fill flash. We metered the scene to have just enough light to show detail in his eyes and face and from what I remember, it was about 3 stops below our key. 

In this photograph, we used two lights but rather uncoventionally. We shot one light almost 90 degrees away from Cedrin (our model) - and shot it at the railings which acted as a cookie. A beauty dish was likewise used but angled to act as the key/rim combo that we've been trying to get this whole time. There is a very tad bit of fill light but it was rather fortunate that the scene was rather dark without too many white or light reflective surfaces. 

The metal floor was rather reflective so we reduced the exposure of this in post to ensure that the focus remains on the subject. Also in post, we strengthened some of the textures at the back of our subject - on the brick wall. 

In order to understand this photograph, it's important to realize that this shot (and all of these shots) was taken during the day. This particular one requires mention because it was actually outside. You could naturally take a photograph at ISO200 (and I have many times done so) and get away with it quite well. But unlike every other place, this was a Gold mine in that there wasn't a soul in the alley with the exception of a stray tourists.

My students basically had to stop down their apertures (since flash sync speed is capped at 1/250) and make it sure to ensure that almost all of the light in the setting was as a result of the flash. But then again, there was a limit to this and thankfully, we were able to work with it. 

Once again, this plays a 2 light set up. A bare flash firing down from a 340 degrees angle and pointed slightly towards the background but also enough to light the hat. This ensured that our background was well lit as well as separating our subject from the background and eliminating the flatness (which is quite essential here). Our wonderful beauty dish came to add some valuable fill - and of course, this being day time as well as the fact that the door at the back is white, we were able to get fills from the ambient light as well as that bouncing back from the door. 


This is a one light set up. The problem with this scene was that we couldn't have too many lights as it was the tunnel into the courtyard of Gibbys. We needed to be quick and the shoot was necessarily brief. We quickly figured out how much light we wanted to keep of the ambient light and then fired the strobe from the back. Again, harsh Key and Rim and the ambient light making its way to be a fill. 

This was obviously tons of fun to talk about. We'll definitely be doing more of these!