View Full Version : Black and White 30's Style Photography

04-14-2006, 11:13 PM
I've been really wanting to pick up this style of photography, but I'm not at the skill level yet:

Obviously, this photographer had wicked access to amazing lighting and has mad skill, but I'm just wondering if anybody has ideas to help me get closer to this style of shooting.

My current portraiture level is that I've only picked up portrait work within the past 6 months, but have been doing other areas of photography for quite a while. (See my gallery if you need a better idea of where I'm at).

Equipment I have available for this is:
Lenses covering focal lengths from 18mm-300mm.
Nikon SB-800 (I'm comfortable with wireless use, manual use, and ttl)
3 studio lights with cone reflectors.

I'd rather stick with not using the studio lights because I'm wanting to do these shots in public areas where I won't have electrical access (and not getting a generator, heh).

I may pick up a SB-600 in a month or two, depending how much more I delve into portrait work and more advanced lighting.

Lately, I've been trying to think about what lighting angles to try and what time of day would be best to shoot. I've been thinking night would be make it quite challenging, so late afternoon --> dusk would be best.

Thanks for the ideas!

04-14-2006, 11:44 PM
Hmm...there's actually quite a variety of styles there, so I'll just focus on the first page. Bear in mind that I'm still a student so I may or may not be of any use.
Lighting - the most successful of the b&w pieces have some dramatic blacks and highlights, but a nice range of rich grey-tones in between. If shooting digitally, maybe shoot in colour and then desaturate in photoshop since I think b&w setting (in the camera and photoshop) has less tones? Probably the most important for getting that variety is using a fill light, so you can use some harsher light for nice highlights and shadows without losing all the mid-tones? Since you want to shoot outdoors, perhaps actually try shooting when it's fairly sunny to get more contrast, and just make really effective use of a reflector or portable light for fill.

Also, the general look of these, to me, is more contemporary advertising than 30's. A few of them do clearly show some influence from American documentary photography of the time, but they have a lot of the somewhat fake, hyper-real effect of modern ad photography, which is an interesting look - the sort of look that results from highly directed/controlled sets and very smooth, almost mannequin-like makeup, often digitally touched-up to give skin an odd smoothness, usually very clean, crisp look to them, and when in colour, often somewhat over-saturated colours. Also, given the glowy magic-realism effects going on in several of the b&w photos, they're clearly photoshopped, and if this is the effect you're going for, the photoshopping is very much part of the process and look.

This is an interesting look to combine with 30's style-photography - even the hyper-smoothness and lack of grain creates an odd contrast. As for your own shoots, since you're outdoors, definitely have someone with you to be your reflector-person (I think it'll be really important to getting those smooth tones), take extra care with the models' makeup (perhaps even print out some of these pics for reference (especially the eye makeup), or look up actual vintage photos, since the makeup will definitely affect the look, be a director and move the model around the create the scene and atmosphere you want, and don't be afraid to go in with photoshop and amp up the hyper-real atmosphere.

Just my opinions, may or may not be of any use ^_^

04-15-2006, 12:15 AM
I forgot to mention that I was thinking about just the themed shots on the first page - thanks for clearing that up!

It seems with most digitals and the straight PS "desaturation", all channels are desaturated and weighted equally. I've found it helpful to use the channel mixer for conversions and have been experimenting with varying amounts in each channel.

There's definitely a lot of photo manipulation going on in these shots, so I am also open for ideas in that area too. It looks like the photographer has restricted and tweaked the colour palette (or shifted tones used), but I'm not sure about how to go about that. My best idea so far has been playing with the colour balance for shadows/midtones/highlights.

That's a good point about shooting when it's a bit sunnier out to get the higher contrast, stronger shadowed lighting (along with the fill lighting). I'll definitely have to try that.

*goes off to ponder some more on the rest*

04-15-2006, 10:45 AM
i know you said you didnt really want to do it with studio lights, but this book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1584281251/sr=8-1/qid=1145115796/ref=sr_1_1/104-8296642-5011122?%5Fencoding=UTF8) has a section on "Hollywood Lighting" which is basically what the black and white photos on that site are. That book is very helpful. i own it and love it.

04-15-2006, 04:16 PM
Everything mentioned here is great advice, but it also really points you to using studio lighting.

flashguns will struggle to get that kind of control, but I'm sure youve already cringed over those thoughts.

I don't know what kind of studio flashes you have, but I have some Alien Bees on the way. They offer a portable pack for under 400.00. Considering a decent flashgun can easily match that price, if you have strobes instead of floods, you may want to see what options are available for portable packs for your studio lights.


04-15-2006, 05:19 PM
i know you said you didnt really want to do it with studio lights, but this book has a section on "Hollywood Lighting" which is basically what the black and white photos on that site are. That book is very helpful. i own it and love it.
I took a peek at the index of the book - looks like there's a lot of useful information! Is it mostly about the usage of studio lights though? It's not that expensive for me to pick up just a book to learn.

Portrait work is a really small area of photography that I don't do much of, so I'm reserving my money for other things that I need rather more than specialized lights. That would be a better tripod and paying for tuition :eek:

Really just want to see what I can do with my current set of gear!

04-15-2006, 06:41 PM
Totally smart thinking Solar. Tuition is the name of the game. Wish I completed college the first time around.

And i totally hear you about money. Having a canon I cough whenever I see 'L' glass in the store. Photography is an entirely too expensive hobby. I hate being broke. I gotta win the lottery or something. Of course, I imagine I would have to try to play first. O.o

I can take a look around, canon has the same type of lighting system, and I'm semi familiar with that. If you want I can try to see what others have done with that, and perhaps you can translate that across the brands?


04-17-2006, 07:37 AM
Let me say, that I have over 400 hours in the darkroom, in both black and white and color processing. I have burned my own pictures onto paper, developed my own negatives (Well, black and white.) This was mainly in class.

I have to say,t hat I have not found the removal of color on electronic pictures to be true black and white. It seems to lack a certain style. But, you are wanting to talk about lighting.

Well, there is the right way of doing things, and the right way of doing things.

Meaning. The right way: Studio lights, and all the filters and baffels you want.

And the right way, meaning the budgetary right way. You can pick up some clamp on lamps, some fotoflood lights and some scrims very cheaply. I've done it, and still have most of them. And you may also want to consider reflectors. You can make your own. By using just some regular posterboard that you spraypainted chrome or gold. Or glue some tin foil to a peice of cardboard.

And practice. The best way, before going out and really working with people, is to get like a Barbie doll or a styrofoam wig mount int he shape of a head and see how to manipulate the light that way. I used my TRANSFORMERS. (Got a b+ to an A with all my pictures. I would have gotten an A+, but I had problems mounting the pictures.)

04-17-2006, 07:37 AM
I keep getting tempted with expensive glass too... but I'm resisting for now. Kind of put a temporary ban on myself from buying big ticket gear items.

Sure, if you find anything cool or helpful, let me know. I've also thought of making my own sort of attachments for my flash too. Something like a homemade honeycomb filter and the like.

04-26-2006, 07:04 PM
I`ve never done B/W, but it's something I love, so I can just say, go at it from all angles. Dont be afraid to fall to the floor, you might get a awesome shot from that angle. Like they said above, just practice, and you`ll find you`re own style that you love!

My Favorite Photographer

05-05-2006, 06:31 PM

Black Jack
05-08-2006, 05:24 AM
solartempest dont undeastemaite yorself you relly are a 1 of best photografers i have ever seen and i have seen a lot of photografers im shur that you master it in no time
p.s dont talk about my gramer im disgrafic