On Assignment: Antonio Beverly

I have posted a couple of the headshots from this job, but the main purpose of the shoot was to photograph Antonio in action as a dancer for the HCAC.

The combination shoot is appropriate, IMO, as what I have learned over the past few years shooting static portraits has really started to inform my more kinetic photos, too.

We had a nice-sized dance studio at nearby Howard Community College to work with for this shoot. Normally, I like to use the depth of the room to give me lighting options (i.e., shoot on the long axis.) But in this case, one of the long walls had a full-width mirror—the bane of lighting photographers everywhere.

But the mirror had a full-width set of gray curtains that could be drawn in front, thus killing the mirror and offering a nice backdrop with a little interest and texture.

So that became the background. That orientation also offered Antonio room to wind up for his leap, and me room to move the key far away from him. The key light distance is important as it gives us an even, predictable exposure across the shooting zone.

But it meant he would only be a few feet from the curtains. Maybe three feet of separation. So I treated it as if it were a portrait and lit it for good separation from the backdrop and a full tonal range.

The placement of the key is important. It needs to be on a hard angle to sculpt him and to move move the shadow on the nearby wall away from him.

So we placed a Profoto Acute head with a 10-degree grid far off to camera left, and as high as we could get it. We chose left because of the position of his head and face during the leap. The hard angle also give us great definition on his muscles.

To control the contrast range the fill was placed right behind, and slightly above, the camera. It was another Profoto Acute head in a 60" Photek Softlighter II. This light gave us legibility everywhere, and total control of the contrast range.

The latter was important, as it gave the option for a wide range of treatments in post. In this case I went with a black and white conversion and a yellow/blue duotone.

(You can see the photo before the BW/duotone conversion here.)

The compressed tonal range—and yet high local contrast—gave us the ability to push the contrast curves as far as we wanted and still retain detail in the conversion.

I never would have done this light, even just a couple of years ago. It's been lots of fun watching the lessons learned in portrait lighting creep into other subject matter.

Next: Director Joe Wright


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