Hollywood LIghting

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I would like to know what is meant by the term 'Hollywood Lighting'.

Taking it further, how is it achieved, and are there any 'famous' photographers who used this technique?

Thanks in advance

David Nash

-- David Nash (nashcom@btinternet.com), May 17, 2000


Look for the names Hurrel and Willinger...(Lazlo Maholy-Willinger?...heehehe no, just plain Willinger)

-- Trib (linhof6@hotmail.com), May 17, 2000.

David: "Hollywood Lighting" or "Paramount Lighting" as practiced by the great motion picture studio still photographers used quite contrasty lighting with lots of highlights. Try to locate a old book on lighting technic from the 40s or 50s and the book should explain it. Primarily, four or five spot lights were used. The main light was to the front and high, creating a butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose (Butterfly lighting was also called Paramount lighting). There was a fill light beside the camera set for about a 4-to-1 or greater ratio to the main light, a light overhead for the hair and shoulders, and a background light. Sometimes "arrowhead" lighting was employed, which used tha main light with no front fill and a light from the rear at a 45 degree angle to the sides of the subject, forming an Arrowhead diagram. The hair light was quite "hot" and created halos around the hair. This type of lighting is quite difficult to balance and set up and you need plenty of ceiling height for the lights. A slight scrim of cheesecloth was sometimes used on the spots to cut the the raw light a bit. Be prepared to do a lot of retouching on the negative, as spot lights can be quite brutal in showing imperfections. Go to the library and try to find the book "Masters of Starlight" or a book on Hurrell's Hollywood photography or any of the great Hollywood photographers. It is probably the most beautiful lighting of any type ever done, but you need to know what you are doing to make it work right. The great thing about hot lights is that you can see what you are doing. Hot lights also make skin tones look wonderful...hot light seems to stay on the surface of the skin while stobes seem to penetrate. If you master the technic, you can make some wonderful portraits and make anyone look great. Hope this isn't too confusing. Good shooting, Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), May 18, 2000.

David: I should have read my response better before I sent it. There is an error in the "arrowhead" lighting discription. There were TWO lights used at the rear, one on each side of the subject. Sorry about that. Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), May 18, 2000.

Many thanks for your email, Doug. I'd like to give this a try. I'll need to get hold of some tungsten lamps first, though. Can you recommend any particular type?

Also, how high should the main light be, and at what angle to the subject? I'm using 5x4" with a 210mm lens (which is a bit too short for head & shoulders work).

After reading your email, I dug out an old book titled 'Lighting for Photography' by W. Nurnberg. reprinted 1957, original 1940. I think some of the techniques in there are similar to the ones you described. I'll try to find the books you mentioned.

Do you work in this style, or is it something you've used in the past?

Anyway, thanks again.


David Nash

-- David Nash (nashcom@btinternet.com), May 19, 2000.

David: I have had good results with the smaller Smith Victor spot lights. You can get pretty good results with one spot light for the front and one for the hair, and use photofloods in reflectors for fill light. I also have used the halogen shop lights, available at home centers for fill lights. Use a little diffusion in front of the shop lights to even out the light. Cheese cloth works good, but keep it a little distance in front of the light, as the lights burn hot and could scorch the cloth. You might want to add one layer of cheese cloth in front of the spots for a tiny touch of softer light, but the main light needs to be directional with sharp shadow edges. Adjust the main light directly in front of the model to give a butterfly shaped shadow under the nose. Do not let the shadow touch the lip...about 2/3 the distance from the nose to the upper lip works well. The angle should work out to be about 45 degrees. Adjust the height to get the correct angle depending on distance. Turn on the main light first and get the correct lighting, then add hair light and fill lights. Let the model get accustomed to the bright light before you start making pictures. Turn on the lights one at a time so you don't trip a circuit breaker...they pull a bit of current. Good luck. You are gonna like the results when you get the technic down pat. The 210mm will work o.k. Shoot a 1/2 body shot and crop in the enlarger. Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), May 19, 2000.

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