The Haircut: Getting the Shot
In the last bit, we set up the scrim. We blocked the light. I want to touch on a couple more additions that we've made to the lighting setup since. The first of those is we actually added a second scrim, and the reason for this, is it just gave us a little bit more real estate to work with with the guys being in the position that they're gonna be, and also with the light planning to move. And so it was really just one extra precaution of giving ourselves a little bit more preparedness for how the light's gonna change throughout the day. That's why that secondary scrim is there. For the actual lighting, I'm using a five foot octabox. This is positioned pretty high and downward. It's supposed to more or less imitate a cloudy day. That is what we're trying to achieve here, so I'm using a big soft light source for this. My go to light source for creating big soft light is usually like a large, or an extra large soft umbrella with diffusion, or a really large scrim with a soft box behind it...
, or an umbrella behind it. But, when shooting on location, when there's a little bit of a breeze, an umbrella's usually a terrible thing to use. It's gonna fly away, the five foot octa tends to create a nice, big, soft light source, but it's a little bit more practical to have in a situation like this. As for using a scrim in the front, I absolutely could've done it, but I felt like it was a little bit more valuable to me behind. And so the entire point of the lighting here is it's the total polar opposite of the theater shoot, in that it's a whole lot simpler to achieve. We have one light source, and we have a scrim, and you can achieve this in a much simpler way. For example, maybe you have a friend hold a diffusion reflector behind your subject if you're not needing to light a big set, or, if you're just lucky enough to actually have a cloudy day, you don't need them at all. And so you know, you can kind of get that effect with a very minimal set of equipment, and that's the entire point of the lighting. Then we get to the dressing of the set. So initially, I just had the chair in place to kind of gauge where everything was gonna be set up, but then we had to add in the actual props. And so I'm a big fan of the details and authenticity in the photograph, so you know, we look for all of these little details, or things that at least stylistically will look very similar, so we found a relatively similar pattern to the cloth that goes around the neck. It's you know, similar look, feel, somewhat similar color palate. We've got the pipe, we've got the splash of color for the barber tools, which are on the ground, so it was a yellow wrap. And to achieve this, we actually are just using an old Navy life vest. That's kind of giving the effect. We've added some tools on top. Instead of the book in the back, we've got a blue toolbox, but again, it's giving us a color palate that works. For the book, I actually found the same book that's in the photograph. It's an old book from the 1940s, this particular version was printed in the 1940s. And my version actually came in in a little bit of better condition than the one that was in the photograph, and because I'm a little bit of a stickler for detail, I started ripping it up, and trying to make it look as close to the original as possible, 'cause you know, this is what I'm using the book for. It's not really a collector's piece for me, so I really wanted to make sure that detail was, you know, appropriate to the image. So that being said, let's bring in Brandon and Casey, our talent, and go ahead and get them in position, and you know, take some pictures. Let's have you sitting down, here is your book. Here is your pipe, and let's go ahead and wrap you up with this a little bit. Okay, so this, it's gonna go under this arm, there you go, kind of like that. Do we have a clamp maybe we can kind of? That's gonna go, thank you very much. Yeah, so we're just trying to, looks like there's a couple different piece of it, which we don't really have, but you know what? Let's make this easy. I'm gonna take this from you for just a second. Okay. I mean, that looks pretty close, I don't have to make it exact. Bring that arm out. Let's switch the legs, good. Okay, this one's gonna hold the book in the lap. This look pretty good, and then... I mean they both kind of hold it, but they're both there, that looks good. That's good, that foot can come out a little bit more. Good. And then where'd that pipe go? Oh, here you go. Right side. Good work, alright. These are gonna be yours. So you're gonna left hand the comb. Are you righty or lefty?
Great, there you go. So, like my whole thing is the detail. Like I really, I think that when you're doing period stuff, it can regularly fall into costume, and kind of cliche a little bit, and so I'm a big believer in trying to find as many of the true to life details as you can to make it seem a little bit more believable. That's kind of a big pressure point for me when it comes to the work. So I always tend to really put a lot more effort into finding just the right pieces, just 'cause I think it just elevates the image one more step. (camera shutter clicks) I actually don't hate the light being a little bit more dramatic either.
No, it's pretty good.
Yeah, it's nice. Okay. Alright, that's good. The leg's better there, yup. If anything, we can probably bring that foot down a little bit further. Yeah, that's good.
Bring it over.
Casey, bring your head a little bit closer. A little, almost, yeah, lean in even more if you can. There you go, good, and we'll probably get that fan on, as well. Brandon, tilt that book down just a little bit for me please just tilt it forward. There you go, that's great. Nice, can you lift your head up just a little bit, turn your head a little bit more to me, that's perfect. (camera shutter clicks) Casey, lift your left elbow up, there you go, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. (camera shutter clicks) Beautiful, that's great. Super nice. Good, Brandon turn your head a little more this way. There you go, nice, nice, head up a little bit. Good, now Brandon tilt your head just a little bit other way, there, yeah, good, good, good, now turn it to me a little bit more. To me, to me, to me. There, perfect, yeah, yeah, yeah, good, good, good. Casey, turn your face to me a little bit. The angle's great, that's great, right there, that's perfect, yeah, that's real good. Lower the light a little bit and see if I like it any better.
Lower the power or the height?
No, I just lowered the power a skosh. I brought it down about half a stop. So I'm just giving myself a couple of options in terms of the lighting. So when I have the lighting up a little bit higher, it gives me a bit more contrast between the highlight and shadows, so it looks a little bit more dramatic, a little bit more lit. Whereas if I turn the power down, it gives me something a little bit closer to natural. And so since I'm working in a very specific pose, I can get multiple variations on light and decide later which one I ultimately like. (camera shutter clicking) Alright, good, now you guys can move around a little bit, there you go, good, nice, nice, nice. Good, Brandon look off to the side a little bit for me. There you go, nice, that's great. Good, tilt the book down a little bit more, yeah, that's perfect, perfect, perfect. That's really good. So usually when I set out to recreate a photo like this, I always aim to get the recreation first, so I spend a lot of time being very precise and specific with the posing and the expression, and all that other kind of stuff. Once I'm fairly confident that I have that, I will go in and I'll start to play around, and I'll them move around, I'll have them move the head around, give me some different expressions, as if it were actually happening. And I think from my perspective, giving them that foundation of what the real image was, at least them in a closer head space to what I'm hoping to get in terms of any deviations on it. And so that's kind of my mentality for that, and I know I at least have the original if I want it, but then again, if I want to get something, that's a little bit more of an improvisation on it, I have that as a backup, too. Okay. (camera shutter clicking) Yeah, you can grab the pipe, that's really nice. Good, good, now look off. Now take the pipe out of your mouth and kind of look off. Now do the other side. Bring it a little bit closer to the face. There you go, now look off to the other side. Good, bring the pipe off the face a little bit. I'm getting light on the hair again, I'm losing him again. This looks awesome, guys, (clicks tongue), spot on. Okay. Alright, so just to kinda put this up one more time, this is what that shot looked like, and I know that like it didn't seem like we were getting a whole lot of variety in this particular shot, and there wasn't necessarily meant to be a huge amount of variety, but how would you expand this? Well, another idea I had was you can also put shaving cream on, bring out the straight razor, and so it's a different take on it, right? Or, you know, you can actually have them in the varying stages of what that haircut would've looked like. Let me get you whipping the cape out. Like there's a whole story there that you can build shots around. We just went in with a very specific idea and we created that very specific idea and it was a little bit more efficient in terms of shootings, since why the actual shooting portion didn't actually seem that long. It wasn't, it wasn't that long. So I'll show you a little bit if we can peak over to the computer, here we go. So this is basically like what I would've narrowed the shots down just going through, and say all right, well what do the variations on these look like? And so it was just a few different head positions, hand positions, you know, things like that. The one that I really liked was this one, which wasn't as true to the original. The early shots were much closer to the straight on, just him looking down, reading the book. I actually like this one where the wind's catching a little bit. I mean, it gives a little bit more of an action to the frame, and so this would've been probably, this is the one that I ended up picking as the final, but I at least have all of those other versions just in case, just in case I want them. And so this shot isn't done yet. Obviously, this look relatively close to what the original vertical frame would've been, but my plan for this was to turn it into a wide shot, do a cinematic frame, do a 16 by 9. And so I still have to shoot the plates for it, and combine them together, but before I show you that video if you happen to have any questions about the shooting process, we can address those.
So I noticed you look at the back of the camera, and I saw that there was a tethered computer out there. When you're setting up your camera for these shots, are you calibrating the monitor in terms of that little gradient on the back that we often get and say okay, this is the right brightness, and all that stuff?
I don't, not when I'm on location. I mean you definitely can, and you can go through the whole trouble of it. I know what the flexibility of my files are and I can read the histogram, that's kind of how I deal with it. But what I will say is very, very helpful when shooting outside, you may have saw it, was that tent, that popup tent that goes over the computer. Man, that makes a huge difference. Either you're doing that or you've got a big cloth and you throw it over your head so you can see it without the daylight messing with the screen but that tent is awesome, they collapse, they're tremendously valuable when you're shooting on location. And, like this kind of thing, it would be very difficult to know if I got that just on the back of the screen of the camera and so the tethering is really beneficial when you're doing this kind of work. Because I'm shooting at two eight. Two eight on a medium format is probably close to, I mean, two, wanna full frame, more or less-ish, right? With that depth of field. It's tough to focus that. Like I don't like trust myself to do that on a regular basis but it's what I wanted these shots to look like. So I really had to make sure that I was getting the focus on a big screen so I had someone and, both I could check it, as well. Check the focus on the big screen. Also because I've got two people in this frame. I'm shooting at F2.8 and I want both of them to be in focus. I gotta make sure they are on that same plane. And I had that conversation, it wasn't in the video, but I had the conversation with them, I'm like, "All right, guys, "when you're posing, I know you're behind him "but I need your face to lean forward "so it's about the same plane photographically "to make sure you're in focus." And that's something that I made sure to address to them ahead of time and that's kinda why he's leaning over a little bit.
Then there's a followup. Is your monitor on your laptop is that... Color correcter or whatever?
It is, yeah. When I'm in studio, when I'm shooting in studio, I'm tethered to an external monitor. I'll bring the laptop in, I plug into the laptop but it's hooked up to an external monitor. I'm using usually like an EIZO in studio which is very color corrected and it's bigger and so it makes everything a lot easier. When I'm out on location just for sheer portability, unless it is a huge production, I'm tethered to a laptop versus a whole tethering station. But, you know, that's certainly commonly used, is huge stations with screens so you can have 10 people crowd around the back. But, you know, this, portability, I have the little stand with the table. I plug into it, tent pops out. The whole thing is surprisingly portable. I mean, my backpack houses all of my camera gear plus my laptop and then I can carry a tripod that brings most of it, and then, you know, the stand. It's not very much gear to set up a tether, believe it or not in a situation like this. The way worst part are the scrims.
Can you explain--
Yeah, can you explain again, you showed the lighting diagram, can you walk us through that a little bit more and just explain how you're recreating that light and why you put the scrim sort of behind instead of in front?
So I wanted to make the light look cloudy. That was my goal. I wanted it to look like traditional English weather. And so that was my goal for the image. But it was a sunny day. We anticipated it being sunny, like it was supposed to be sunny and hot, which by the way, 85 sunny and hot here in Seattle is way, way more pleasant than most places when it's 85 and sunny. It was really nice, actually. (audience laughs) So good for you, guys. (audience laughs) Unfortunately, there's a lot of haze in the sky from, I believe they're fires in Canada, and so that actually put like almost a diffusion layer across the day for the first half of it, not the second half. The second half, it cleared up a little bit more, but the early part of the day actually wasn't as sunny as it could have been which helped us a little bit in terms of the quality of light. Obviously, not good in the grand scheme of things, but in this very specific instance, it was visually beneficial to us. And so I knew when we wheeled the planes out, you saw me wheeling both of them out at the same time. That was kind of us orchestrating where they were gonna be for the second shot because I wanted to make it as easy as possible for everybody. I didn't wanna have to move planes around in between shots, so I aimed the second shot first and then I repositioned myself to the side of the other. So I basically, I'm shooting the plane straight on here but then I move all the way to the side to shoot the first shot so the bummer isn't in the first. The bummer isn't anywhere in the shot that you saw, even though nothing is changed. So I just went to the opposite side. And because of the relatively small area that we were able to shoot in because it's the end of an active runway, I didn't want to shoot into the building, like with the building behind it. You can see it a little bit in some of the plates which I will eventually take out 'cause it's too modern of a building. I didn't wanna shoot with the building as the backdrop. So I wanted to shoot with the trees as the backdrop. That limited what I could use as the backdrop. And then also the reason I scrimmed it from that side is because that was where the sun was and I had to hide the sun. And so the scrim goes up to block the sun, and then I brought that light around just a little bit more to slightly overpower it. So it feels like the light is all coming from one side, even though it's just kind of a little bit more to the front than it was. And that's kind of my reason for putting the lights how I did.
Let's say if it was really windy and you couldn't use your scrims at all.
By the way, it was a little windy at certain points.
Could you accomplish that just with the ND filter?
Close. I would suggest blocking the light in some way. You could wait for a cloudy day which is an option. You could also... I don't know which brand makes it, but it's a giant transparent umbrella and it's relatively inexpensive. But one of those really big, transparent umbrellas and you just have someone hold it just at a frame and they work really well as a scrim, believe it or not. That can also be an option and it's a little bit... It requires someone, but it's a little bit easier to put up and down. So that's a secondary option. Is does make a difference because what ends up happening when you don't have that scrim in this particular day because it's a hard light, that rim light would show up on the hair pretty aggressively and I didn't want that because I felt like it would look like two different light sources and I wanted it to look natural. I wanted it to look motivated by the sun, so I had to kind of change what the sun looked like so that I could overpower it. And all the shadows basically come from the same direction which helps, so the light kind of comes from the top right hand corner to the left. That's the direction of the light and that was important for me to think about when I was positioning the lights. All right.
Let's take one from online.
Devon asked, "Chris, when you're shooting "to overpower the sun, how many stops would you recommend "to retain the detail on the sky? "I feel like I'm underexposing too much to keep the sky. "What's your recommendation?"
Yeah, so it depends on your style when it comes to underexposing daylight. At about one stop, you're gonna get a little bit of... A little bit of shadow definition from what you are shaping with your key light. That tends to look pretty natural when you're underexposing ambient by about one stop. It look very natural. If you've ever seen... You watch TV shows and people are on, people are in a cafe outside, it's meant to look like just natural light, that's basically what they are working with. When you start getting into two, it's a little bit more dramatic. Three is quite a bit more dramatic. Four, you start to lose detail. So I would recommend somewhere in the two to four stop spectrum if you're looking for something dramatic. Now, I ended up underexposing ambient by about three to four stops in this image. And the reason I did it a little bit more was because it was such a bright, sunny day. By underexposing it a little bit more than normal, you're making it look darker and dimmer and less lit. And so I needed to go a little bit more than I probably would under normal circumstances to just change what that environment looked like. That was really my first, you know, just like the theater, make the environment look how you want it first because it's the thing you can change. Then bring in the other lights to figure out what that needs to look like. And so it's a totally different lighting theory than how I normally would shoot when I'm working in an environment. Is with environment, I think about that usually first. What I need that to look like and then I balance the light to it. Whereas when I'm in the studio, it's like I start with the key and then I add in the field light and then I do everything else. And so it's just the opposite. Neither one is right or wrong, it's just different ways to approach. And someone will tell you hey, this is, I go the other way with it. This is how I approach something like this. I address the thing that is the most difficult for me to change first, get that right and then put everything else together.
A question about powering the whole thing. Did you have short power or were you remote?
That's a good question. Especially you're like we're out pretty far, right? That was absolutely a concern of mine putting this together. We addressed this in two different ways. I said well, we can either go battery. We can use like the B1s, we can use a cordless blower that's battery powered 'cause there really wasn't a whole lot of power other than that and then, you know, this can run on battery. What we ended up doing was logistically sorting some things out with the location. So we talked to them ahead of time, they're like hey, we regularly run power to the planes out there, so we have really long extension cords, okay? I'm like, "Great, sounds good." And when we get there, they said, but we have no power in the middle of the building so you have to position yourself so that the cords are running down the side of the building. And so the way I'm actually shooting facing the plane is I'm in the grass behind where the runway ends which is on the side of the building. So everything's just a straight shot down to the plugs on the side. So it was definitely a consideration. The added benefit of plugging in versus not in this particular case is I can get a thousand Vat head or even more powerful if I'm using a power pack and I can pluck a fan in, so I didn't have to buy a battery operating blower for it. So they had extension cords, it worked out for us. Fortunately, we didn't need a whole lot of power to make this work and so we could pull, It was absolutely a consideration and something we thought about ahead of time. So we just opted to go with plugging it in because we could. You can also run stuff on generators but that gets loud and when you need to film for video, it's problematic. So that was kind of our solution.