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Gene Sung

Very harsh, American Apparel style lighting

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I have this shoot coming up where they want this really gritty, lo-brow type look. The client referenced the American Apparel ads. They want something really harsh looking and dirty looking - REFERENCE ATTACHED.

How do you guys suggest lighting something like this?

I’m thinking non-diffused or minimal diffusion, frontal lighting? The highlights on some of these shots are pretty rough. Some of these pics almost have a spot light type feel. Maybe an un-diffused LED since they can have this harsh quality unlike Kinos. Or even just a straight on, un-diffused Fresnel?

Any suggestions would be grateful.

post-64342-0-42728700-1444434381_thumb.jpg

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That look comes from the on-camera flash of cheap 35mm point and shoots. the light is a tiny source, with relatively limited distribution throughout the frame. Frontal lighting is the key. Pay attention to the shadows. A single sheet of 250 in front of a small source would be a good place to start.

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LED is the wrong way- think using film and a sun gun. something llike 250D on 35mm would work. But, then again there is a lot more that goes into this look than I think you have actually considered. I also wouldn't think you could do it well on anything digital.

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"Do it well" is an odd concept in this case, this is sort of an amateur flash snapshot aesthetic, the onboard harsh camera light approach that most of us try to avoid, though it worked really well in the dream sequences in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"...

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if that is the fiona apple video in some of your references I think that is a bare tungsten bulb right above camera. eternal sunshine I know gondry didn't want move lights on set so that light is also something like a bare bulb or a clamp light sorta rig with a bare tungsten bulb.

 

I think its easy to think you need to add something like 251 but honestly probably fine just with the point source especially if it is a frosted tungsten bulb.

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Greg,

 

Maybe you could consider one of those ENG style on camera lights(?) They are a point source, bright, and would give you a source with characteristics close to a speedlight flash zoomed in. Plus, it would fit in a position just above the lens in a cold shoe, just like on a DSLR.

 

Stuart

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For the Fiona Apple look, I have a suggestion that was given to me from my Key Grip. We had an add where there was a similar vignette (spotlight look) however when shooting women, I find it much more becoming to utilize soft light rather than harsh. I took a much larger fixture (budget allowing my fixture was a T-12), softened it with a layer of diff (216 I believe), then my Key Grip took a large piece of coroplast and made me a "pinhole". Now the "pin hole" was around 3-4 feet in circumference however I could place distance between the light and the "pinhole" to find the perfect spill of light to get the effect while still maintaining a soft source. I don't have a reference on me, however If I find it I will be sure to post it.

 

P.S. - I am aware that her video, the light moves with the camera and the talent. My shot was stationary.

Edited by Kristopher S. Kimlin

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As you move more frontal with light, it can be allowed to be harder and still feel cosmetic. A side light or a front light, using the exact same source, is a world of difference in feel.

 

The Fiona Apple video had Harris Savides, ASC, mounting a MR16 spotlight right above the lens. The vignette is the natural falloff. As you come off axis with such a small source, the more it will start to look harsh. Although with a good looking model in a cool setting, it can still work very well. One of the pioneers of this flashlight look was Helmut Newton (ahead of his time in many ways) although he was often a little more off axis than some of the later photographers. Terry Richardson, Steven Klein took this look further and more front on etc.

 

I do it in beauty advertising all the time, but normally a little bigger sources. The smaller the source, the sharper the shadow, the more it looks like vaudeville spotlight and/or heroin chic. It doesn't always suit everything. If you're doing modern fashion, or slightly irreverent, then it's a good look. But it doesn't work for a soft skin Garnier moisturizing creme advert necessarily.

 

One little tip I'd share is - no matter if it's a soft or hard front light, try to place it where it creates a shadow under the chin as well as an eyelight at the top of the eye. That creates a nice shape, and it works especially well with smaller, harder sources. If you get too high, you lose the eye and have too much shadow under the chin. If you're too close to the lens, it becomes just a wash or a ring light look and you lose interest, I find. It can work sometimes, but it ends up looking like a RnB video from the 90's.

 

Here's a good example of a hard top front/side of Kate Moss at Portland Place in London. As I said, if you have a beautiful woman in great makeup, you can get away with anything:

 

mossy,lingerie,stairs,katemoss,sexy-a318

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