Shoot: Film Noir Sue Style
I took this photograph of my client and she was wearing a bra and knickers. A strapless bra, that's her bra there. And her underwear was a g-string that came to there. So easy to pose somebody in a bra and knickers. And what I did was, I shut down the curtain in this room. She was sitting on a hard box, so she is sitting on her foot on the hard box. And I shot it right down, the light down and I accidentally shot, I took a shot, the first shot, about four stops, three stops underexposed. Like I'd just, as you do, you pick up your camera, you take a shot, and then you go, oh, it's my exposure, right? Even after 23 years, I still do that. What happened was I looked at the back of the camera and it was real dark, almost not there. So I walked up to the curtain and I shut down the curtain until there was only a sliver of light. Not yet, not yet. And then, there's a difference between a sliver of natural light and a sliver of natural light that is a long way from my client. Because when it'...
s a hard sliver of light, it becomes a silhouette type shot. And there is a difference between film noir and a silhouette. What I do is, I cut down all the light in the room, and I'm gonna do a shot so that you can see how bad it looks on camera, until it's shot, and then I shoot it two stops underexposed. Because you know what your camera does as soon as it gets into low light? It meters high and says, I need more light. So it instantly wants to go up, not down. So I pushed the manual button down two or three stops below zero. Then I take my shot. So I started to do it, now, this is not film noir. This is just gutsy black and white with hard light hitting my model from the window, okay? So there's a difference between this and this, and I'll explain what it is. See that there's no bright highlights in any of this image. And so I did it by, this is a photograph I took of a couple lying on the floor. She was actually wearing a g-string and I removed it on Photoshop. I didn't need to remove his boxers because they ended up being shaded in anyway. And what I did was, I took a photograph of them lying on the floor with no reflector and a long way from the light source just on carpet like this and then I drop it into Photoshop and I, instead of brightening it up, I hit it with contrast so the blacks go blacker, and then I paint the highlights with the dodge tool. So they're fake highlights and I can put them anywhere I want. And I can put them in the eyes, I can paint them on the face, and what it does is it gives this painted-ly effect and it looks so incredible. So I started to do it for all of my clients. I would shoot it low, underexposed and in the dark, and then I would bring the highlights up with the dodge tool into the eyes. See? She's got no light in her eyes and a very small, dull catch light because it's only a very small light source across the room. There's no highlights hitting her body, and then I would create highlights on her body with the dodge tool. And people started to go crazy over it. I felt like I was being a bit of an artist and I was having fun. But now what it's done is, I've got these, her image, their image, and her image as huge canvases bigger than that on my wall when you come into my place, and everybody goes, I want a shot like that. Because it's clearly there's something different about it and you can't quite put your finger on it. And so I started to play with light and started to do it, I would do it like this. I would shoot it dark and underexposed. And in fact, can you see how dark and sort of, yeah, it is dark. There's no reflector to his right hand side. There is absolutely a small light source or a dull window light coming through just enough to wash light in. I shoot it underexposed, but not enough to entirely lose my blacks. Then I pump the contrast and paint in the dodge. And it gives such a neat effect. So I want you to play with that. And it was just something, so there are a couple. And there they are in the middle. And obviously they're going to have very beautiful children. (laughing) And yeah, and it's such a beautiful series. You can see around here that there's actually dirt. I went outside and I took a photograph of the ground 'cause I didn't like the carpet and I didn't want to burn it in. I actually went and took a photograph of the ground of sand on a beach, black sand on a beach in New Zealand, and I just dropped in that instead of the carpet. So it's a beautiful series and they have it on their wall. I did it exactly the same with her. So what I started to do was, the film noir became more of a nude style, but not really nude because she was wearing a g-string as well. Something you have to be careful of is that you just don't shoot it too under because if you shoot it too under, you're just not going to get, you know, a good result when you pump your contrast in. So I do my film noir like this. So Shayna, are you in bra and underwear? Okay, so I'll, I take a hard box like this, and the reason I take a hard box yup, is because I want to be able to move her, but I will probably put a cushion or something on here just so she can kneel. Okay, that'll be enough, I think. Let's have a look. I'm gonna shut down the light. Okay, I've got a really, you need to block that for me. Just, nuh-uh, that reflector? On top. And that will just block that light. All right, so I want to take all my light source away so it's just a very light wash of light. I don't know how the cameras are picking that up for you at home, but basically, it looks like all the lights are off and the curtains are shut. And we're just using a little bit of ambient glow around there. I want you to come and sit up here, and what I want you to do is I want you to put your knee on there. So I want you to kneel on there with your other foot there. Yeah. Okay, now, whenever I photograph anybody in film noir, I'm always trying to do these sort of positions for the girls. So I want to get them into these posing positions. I really like them. Straight away, we've done this pose all week, so it works, is from here, you can actually just drop that sheet down. You don't have to take it off. You can just drop it down. Yeah. Because I can start posing you now. Now, from the front, that's how I pose my clients. I don't need them to be in anything else. I want you to bring your heel to the end so I can bring the knee up. And I want the knee to cross over in the front. So you can bring your foot across, that's a girl. Okay, I want to hug the knee, so you can bring your hands forward, that's it. And I find all of those poses here with nice, nice, nice pointed toes. Long legs, that's exactly right. Can we pin? The idea here is it's more about a form than it is about a portrait. So I'll take the hair, and I take it away because for me, when I take the hair away, it becomes the form of a woman, not a portrait of Shayna. Do you understand? She becomes less identifiable as Shayna with her hair up to the side. And what I do- Keep it big, keep it big, yeah. Is I just twist and pin. Because I want it took look just like form, to look really beautiful. That's it, so I take it there, and I do lots of looking down with this one too. So it's about closing those knees up, okay. And it's about getting a nice beautiful line. Now, I'm always trying to cover the bra. Drop this shoulder down. I cover the bra with the forearm and the knee. So from the front, when I'm down here, she looks naked, okay? And as soon as I put the camera in, you'll see. I'm just going to move your shoulders. Okay, because I don't want, that's a girl, stay there. Drop that down there, nice and low. Stay there. Perfect, nice pointed toe for me that way. Okay, so from the front, I kind of do that crossover thing. I bring the knee into the middle I bring the hand up there, now I want to make sure, I'm just going to hit this and show you. Look down your body line. Okay, Shayna? You need to bring this shoulder towards me. That's the one. And chin down, look down. That's it. So chin down this way. I kind of go, okay, chin up, just a bit. And look down. I try and hit this around here like this. So I'm shooting it nice and low. The back of my camera jumps up, no, I've still got way too much light. Okay, so what I'll do is, I'll just bring this across, no, I'm gonna shoot it right into the dark like that. So just pull that across a little bit more. Stop there. Okay, look up at me. Sit up nice and tall. Bring this hand up into here. Nice and tall. Elbow across because I want to cover that bra line. Relax fingers into the neck. Relax fingers into the neck. No, that's a girl, perfect. And I want you to bring your chin down here. So I want your hand to relax around here. Now you're talking on the phone, so just pull that away. I want your fingers to go down around your neck. That's it, stay there, okay. Now, just straighten your head up to me now. This way, that's the one. Serena, just give me more of the, oh no, we won't worry about it. Just look down this way, now. Okay, so as soon as I find this line, all I'm doing is looking for her best body line, now. So eyes down, we only have eyes up and eyes down. So, I want to just go around until I find it. And, you know, it might take you awhile to find it. You come around, just make sure you're not shooting with too much contrast here. The idea is that you're trying to get a really sort of, no light on her body type shot. But the truth is that, it'll take you a few goes. It's not a flattering shot to the face because you're putting her face in shadow. So any shadow on her face is not gonna look good. We're always turning the light this way, to the light. But there is no light source, so normally I would be here, turning her chin this way, and lifting up, and then putting a reflector in to make sure I got a perfect thing, perfect lines to her face. But what I'm just trying to do is trying to create a form, and there's lots of different side poses that I do with this. But I pretty much just keep moving around the box until I find what I like. Also, if you just step down onto the ground and take this out, step down, I'm just gonna take this out, sit down. Okay, so from there, I want you to cross your knees and give me a soapbox. Okay, so we'll put that up there. That's it, and you can cross over, but keep it high, tuck it in, and then bring your hands up and over your knees, this way. Okay, not too much. Okay, we don't want to come in. So, I want you to use the knees, point the feet, point the toes, and if it's too high, 'cause we want to cover the boobs, just step forward, that's it, until you find the angle from the front. So, it takes awhile, you gotta get this right. Another one that works is untuck your leg and just pin it there, so just pin it, that's it. And so, you can lean forward just a wee bit more, that's a girl, so even down to here, and wrap your arm around there, that works too. Just find beautiful shapes like that that work from the front. So as long as the body line works from here, okay, chin forward and down, that's it, stay there, eyes up to me, as long as you can get this shape here and shoot it nice and low, now, what you've got here, don't move, is I've shot this with her, if you look at the screen, there's more light hitting her leg then there is hitting her upper body. And so what I'm gonna have to do is I'm gonna have to even that up in Photoshop before I start burning it up. Also, what I do is I'll drop the highlight straight down out of there, I'll take away that little shadow under her eyes, because she's not gonna buy anything that looks like she's got a bag under her eyes, but that's what the payoff is to get film noir, 'cause you're shooting it in the dark. You're also shooting it underexposed. And on the screen there, it looks really bright, when the whole thing has gotta be dark. So, I'll work one of those images so you can see the final result that you see me take it to, and basically, this is something that's really cool to play with, and you'll enjoy shooting it. I'll give you a sheet. Thank you very much. Alright, any questions about that? And you can open it up.
Sue, when you're taking it to the black and white initially, are you doing like a super high contrast black and white first, or just desaturating it?
Yeah, I love really contrasty black and white. You have to be really careful that you've got lots of information in your image, because if you shoot really, push your black and whites to really high contrast, you blow out your highlights and then you start to get, you know, too much bending between your darks and your lights. Or, if you're not exposing correctly in the camera and then you are using your RAW window and pushing your files too far in Photoshop, then you never get black blacks and white whites. I kind of am really, really bad at getting that in between. I don't sit very well, I tend to hit more of a medium and then use Photoshop. And I do pay the price for that. It's a mixture of laziness and not really being probably educated enough in how I could get a better exposure in those sort of situations with using natural light. But, you know, I make it work for me. I push it pretty hard, but I do make it work. But, you know, you watch these guys that come on CreativeLive and show you how to rock out those black and whites properly and clearly, you know, I'm not the best person to ask technically. I'm more for playtime on Photoshop than, you know, than master time.
Well, it looks awesome anyways, that's for sure.
Do you burn the shadows?
Do I burn in the shadows?
Yes. If I go back to the Keynote, I'll show you something. You don't actually need to burn in the shadows. It's already a dark image. I definitely hit the vibrant, you know, so I go into my curves, I do a center point. I go down on my blacks and up on my whites, so I do get, but if you pump contrast in, you don't just make it blacker, you make it whiter as well, and I don't want to do that, because then it starts looking like a silhouette. I'm kind of getting it to that midpoint where my blacks are blacker and then I can dodge up with the dodge tool. Also, if you're really into shooting nudes, like a lot of people get into shooting nudes when they first start out. In terms of a glamour genre, I've photographed, like I said, over 5,000 women, and I've never had any, maybe one or two, nudes. But they all want to do this sort of almost nude. You know what I mean? So most people don't want a nude photograph. Most women tell me that their husbands joke, when they come to see me, make sure you get a nude shot. But most of them will go to that far quite easily, in fact, they want to do that. But I don't actually really do nude as a study in the classic sense of nude photography. And I know that it's an art form, but again, not something my clients ever request. So I don't really do nude shots, and I just kind of like this idea that it's more of a fashion style or glamour nude look. I call them skin shots, you know, you want skin shots, you want skin showing, but you're really not showing anything. And most women will happily walk around the studio in underwear, just holding their boobs like that, so. It works. It works and it's a really cool shot. In terms of black and white contrast, lots of good reflective light, always light turned toward the face when you put anybody, any girl in sillhouette. Because she looks better. And lots of black blacks and white whites. I like that old film look and there's so many great plugins now that emulate film. And all the films, you know, you can get plugins that emulate the films from the last 20 years, and it really looks like them, so you know, there's so many good black and white, but again, I'm not the person to ask about that. Any questions on the internet?
We do, Sue, we have a couple of questions about these poses that we've just done--
And different body types and not a, what about if, but would you do, would you do the faux dance with any body type, would you do the bed with any body type? Are those flattering for anyone?
Yeah, well, only a certain client will come in with a corset and a tutu.
[Brunette Moderator] True.
So someone who doesn't like their legs, you know how girls come in and go, alright, I'm really small in my upper body, but I don't like my legs, and then, some people, those, those body types don't say, I'm wearing a short tutu. Because I find pear shaped bodies, or bodies that are really small on the upper body, so easy to photograph, because what's big goes back. So obviously you can just push the booty back. So girls that are the other way around, heavier through the legs, they tend to wear the long skirts and the really tight corsets, 'cause they always have the most amazing shoulders, arms, and midriff. And then the girls who have great legs but don't want to show their middle, they can work it, everybody's got their own, you know, everybody's got their own style and they usually dress around their body type. And their body type is generally dictated by the clothes that they wear. The film noir I would shoot with a curvy girl, not a problem, in fact, I wish I'd put it on. I photographed one of the curvy girls from my demonstration two days ago, did a really beautiful film noir. And she was a classic curvy girl with a waist. Boobs, waist, and hips. So the film noir really worked for her, because I set her on the box, I staggered her knees and pointed her toes. I brought her hands to the center, which drew in her hourglass, and her body line just became very Renaissance, and I shot in the dark with her black hair coming down the side, and it just looked really old style, and really sort of, more actually, maybe Gustav, you know, that form that he always drew from the back that comes down with the nice sort of, round bum, nice tapered waist with the hair flowing down the side from behind. Looks beautiful.
[Brunette Moderator] Thank you.
Sandwig is wondering if there is a noise, is noise an issue in the noir images and shooting in such low light and underexposing.
Yeah, don't underexpose too much. Noise is not usually an issue. I don't mind noise, I'm not too worried about noise. I will shoot at 1600 if I have to. These cameras have such high ISO ratings now that when we're in low light we can just pump It right up and get amazing results. And I don't ever kick an image 'cause it has too much noise. So that doesn't happen to me pretty much ever with the 5D Mark III now.
Question from canonchick, you've kind of talked about this a little bit, but again, how do you get your clients to want a skin shoot?
A skin shoot? Show the images. Okay, so like I said, when I first did it, I put this, this is a huge shot. Like a huge shot in my studio. It's bigger than this, and it's mounted, and it's such a beautiful shot. And it's very dark, and it's very sexy, and it's very gorgeous. And I call it film noir and people just look at it, and they always say, I love this image, I love it. And I want something like that. So all I have to do is convince them that they can trust me to move their body around in their bra and underwear. It's not the easiest shot to demonstrate, but you've been going through the same poses with me for three days, so you know it's about creating the hourglass. Her arm across the front is hiding her breasts. Because I wanna cover this up. This hand has come in this way, just for body language. And I've got the knees staggered, so it really works. And that white highlight on her lips, on the top of her lip, her chin, up her nose, in her eye and on her eyeshadow line are all artificial. I've put them in afterwards. Any questions about any more, my way of doing boudoir?
How about just a quick question from a couple folks? Achue in the chatroom. Do you do makeup on more than just the face when you're doing these type of shots, like on the whole body?
Body makeup is a thing of the past. Photoshop has long since taken care of that. And now, with the plugins like Imagenomic and Portraiture I don't think I even retouch skin anymore. It's just a one press button now. It's just not even an option. When you put makeup on the body, it's just pointless. I actually have been talking to a couple of fashion photographers, and they no longer wear foundation on their models. So they only get the makeup artists on fashion models to just do eyeshadow, and there are certain fashion photographers that will not allow a base, concealer, or a foundation, or a blush put on. Because they want, when they do the big blow up and they do the skin, and they do all of the pores and make it look really flawless, there's no makeup in the way, it's not concealing the pores. They can actually get a cleaner look now on Photoshop without any makeup on. And then they can just touch any pink areas that they want to peach up on the face where you would normally either contour or pink up for color on the face. They can just pink up the lips, pink up the cheeks. So it seems to me that even in the fashion world, eye makeup is becoming the last surviving sort of thing. Eye makeup and good hair. And even now, that can be pinned on. (laughs)
Bananas has a question and it says, "I've heard that some men are not keen on their partners being photographed in boudoir style because they feel it is distasteful. Do you think it's just a matter of personal opinion, or do you think it depends on how the genre is advertised and proposed?"
I think it's pretty sad if a man's a bit upset that his wife is taking her clothes off. But each to their own, every soul walk his own path. (laughs) I don't know, how is boudoir advertised? I try and do it in a tasteful way. I don't understand, if it's, my definition of tasteful is gonna be different. I was laughing with Simona about the kids. These kids came into my place, and one of them ran up to this massive image of this girl and went, "Why is she naked?", and the mum kind of went, shh, shh, like that. And but this little kid was like, "Mum, mum, but she's naked". She was like, shh, shh. She said, "Mum, mum, she's naked," and she keeps saying it out loud, so I was like, let's talk to the child about why the woman on my wall is naked. But then I thought, you know, I never saw it as being something that anybody would go, oh, she's naked. And of course the kids point it out straight away, and the mum was embarrassed, and I was quite happy to have that conversation, but you know, everybody has their own level of what they think is sexy, and what they think is appropriate. I know a lot of women want to look like this. They want to do that skin shot that is just really beautiful. But if you look at beauty magazines, there are a lot of skin shots in beauty magazines, right? Where they've got their knees, feet crossed over in the front, where they look naked but they're not. This is a very common shot, image wise, for us to see. So, you know, I don't make it look overly sexy, it's more innocent in the face, but each to their own, sadly.