It's Profoto Friday and as always, a trip through Profoto's archives produced only gold! Take the time to read through this post by Derek Galon and pay close attention to the work he's put into recreating a classical painting with the use of contemporary lighting tools and a lot of his own creative ingenuity. While I love the way he shares his thought process through the project, the most fun section for me is his lighting diagram and how he put it all together.
I've said this with just about every Profoto Friday post - their archives are an incredible resource, focusing on creativity, education and their never ending quest to help photographers raise the bar on the quality of their images. If you haven't been on the Profoto blog before, it's time you wandered through. There's no shortage of great information and solid "how-to" content.
Canadian photographer Derek Galon has always been fascinated with classical painting. But it wasn’t until a friend of his had a crazy idea that he realized how to use flashes and softboxes to combine his fascination with painting with his love for photography. Here is the story of how he did it, in his own words.
I love old paintings and have been fascinated with them for many years. But only recently, after decades of photographing, did I feel confident enough to try and recreate the type of light and mood such paintings have. It started with a suggestion by a friend, professional model Michael Ward, who wanted to shoot a Bacchus scene similar to those painted by Titian. At first i thought it may be an overwhelming project, but I decided it will be a fine challenge worth a try. All next shoots followed thanks to this first one being a success.
I’ve been lucky to have access to a large studio necessary for such multi-model setups. The studio is owned by my friend, a brilliant photographer and a lighting wizard: Jon Hoadley. Thanks to his kindness I also have access to high-end lighting system: the Profoto D1 Air and plenty of Light Shaping Tools. Without his generosity, none of these images would exist today. Casting models for this series has been easy for me. I mostly use my friends as models, experienced art photographers along with some younger aspiring models and friends from art industry, a stage makeup artist, costume designer, a fine painter, and so on.
The whole Painterly series is rather diversified, but several images are shot in style of old Flemish paintings. The one we use here as example for my lighting, is my homage to Adrjaen Brouwer – a fine painter who specialized in rough tavern scenes. He was well respected and one of Rembrandt’s favourites. To create image with distinctive feel similar to these paintings, one needs to study them and analyze separate elements. I would use a somewhat simplified list of these elements: styling, the whole scene composition and micro-scenes, plot and interactions,
This can be quite a task, but thankfully I do have access to a costume rental shop, and I work with a fine makeup artist, who became with me great with “uglyfying’ my models as needed.
3. Plot and Interactions
But how exactly was this scene lit? Well, the final image has been composed of seven separate photos. Me playing fiddle, the best of all pics showing the left group, the best of all pics showing right side trio, the best of the dog, front barrels and background barrels – which I just happened to have from some previous architecture shoot, and lastly the spilling drink which i photographed in my garden later on.
First, we shot me acting the role of the fiddler. I had a large Softbox RFi 5´Octa with a Softgrid on the righthand side, set to a low power. This was the ambient light, the fill. Then we had the second fill light: a smaller Softbox RFi 3´Octa, also with a Softgrid. When the lights were set, I had Jon photograph me while I was playing the fiddle.
Next, together with Jon lending me some of his lighting expertise, we had to set lights on the whole group. The large Softbox RFi 5´Octa was once again our ambient light. We had a smaller Softbox RFi 3´Octa on the lefthand side lighting up the flirting couple, set from a distance and at a higher power. This light was spreading enough to also cover the painter in the back, and feather the dozing man and the dog, broom and still life on the table.. Another Softbox RFi 3´Octa with a Softgrid was placed even further to the left (look at shadows of dog and shadow of drunkard’s leg and you’ll see it) also from a distance, but a bit closer, so it would lit the drunkard but fall off a bit on the brute and the girl. Additionally, there was a fourth, tiny Softbox RFi 1×1.3′ with a Softgrid on a boom on front/above the drunkard, set to low power and giving just a bit of extra detail on him.
The main idea behind this setup was to use the smaller softboxes to separate the scenes from each other, while using the larger softbox to tie it all together. Of course it was not perfect from the first photo, and tethering on a large monitor we had a chance to correct and improve lighting and scene details. I took a dozen of photos, then checked them on screen, did some lighting corrections, and shoot again.
Using small gridded softboxes is absolutely vital for such images, to avoid light spillage and bouncing, which could ruin the whole setup. It is better in my opinion to have more dark spots than a light too widely spread over all scene. Only with well-controlled light you can create that painterly feel, chiaroscuro with lots of deep shadows. Don’t forget the background separation too.
Creating the whole series is a real challenge, steep learning process, and fun, and i hope to do several more images in this style. I hope you enjoy seeing them. Thank you!
See more of Derek’s work at his website.