laura perrot

Photo Noir style with Laura Perrot

6th June 2017

Background

Laura is a talent dancer from Rouen in Normandy, France. We met through her fellow students at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds in 2016. We shot a number of experimental dance photographs in a studio in the school and then in a small wood opposite the house that I live in. Kit King was on hand for the latter creating smoke, causing mayhem and dishing out cake. It is always advisable to feed your dancers cake or biscuits during and around a dance shoot.

This particular style of photography is one that I was introduced to at the annual convention for Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers in January 2017. I am member of this society and have been attending the convention for a number of years now.

I love black and white photography and learning new techniques and ideas on how to photograph this style is always high up on my list. A huge factor on whether a photograph will look good in monochrome is dependent on how the subject was lit in the first place. You do not use a monochrome conversion just because you can or on whim. There has got to be reason. In this particular case contrasts between light and shade.

In this particular style the photographs are all about the person's face and nothing else. Only one light is used. Everything else is pretty much a distraction.

I processed a few in colour just to give the viewer an idea of how it would look like.

laura perrot dance

1. Laura dancing in the wood. This was shot around dusk, but made to look like it was much later in the day.

The shoot

The first few minutes of any portrait shoot that I am leading involves checking out the lay of the land. I took a few shots of Laura lighting her from one side (my right), but I was not happy with the look and flipped the set up. When this was done, I was much happier with the results.

laura perrot noir portrait

2. You can see how everything is focused upon the face and just a hint of texture of Laura's hair. If I wanted to bring out her hair more, I would have introduced a hair light to pass through it and separate it from the background.

I had to cheat a little bit. I was hoping the neutral grey background of my studio would drop to black if we far enough away from it, but this was not the case. I used a small black velvet back drop in the end.

The way the large strip box is placed means Laura was not lit directly, a technique known as 'feathering the light'. The light that falls on her face is far more pleasent and even. The contrast from left to right is gradual. We did use a reflector to bounce light upwards to reduce any shadow under her chin, but we found it made little difference. The strip box was sending enough light upwards by itself.

laura perrot portrait

3. A colour shot. Perhaps one to use for an audition photograph. You can see the reflection of the large strip box in her eyes a.k.a. catch lights. I slightly enhanced the colour of her lips.

laura perrot portrait

4. Laura is wearing my pork pie hat. It disappears in the photograph. Once again, I enhanced her lip colour during post processing. Please take note of the profile contours of the side of her face. How it undulates.

laura perrot noir portrait

5. By partially hiding near eye behind her hair, it narrows the size of her face and gives the photograph a coy look. Like the previous photograph the angle of her face emphasises the contours of her face.

laura perrot noir portrait

6. I think this portrait has a very piercing look and it one of my favourites from the shoot. By changing the angle of the head it causes profile to appear more like one continuous arc. By opening her mouth a little, it makes her lip look fuller. I also like the slight curl of Laura's hair near the bottom of the frame.

laura perrot noir portrait

7. Slightly over the shoulder. Once again the profile has been emphasised. Perhaps I should have asked her to do Blue Steel? I lightened her face to make it stand-out even more against the black.

laura perrot portrait

8. The idea behind this shot was to let the hair drop into the empty space below Laura's head. The back of the head merges with the background. From this angle I think you can see a hint of Laura's Asian heritage. I also love the way there is a very subtle shadow on her left cheek. This slims the size of her face as it picks out her cheek bone.

Post processing

The initial processing was performed using Lightroom to adjust the exposure and a bit of cropping. Photoshop was used to brighten the eyes, increase the highlights, darken some shadows and slightly smooth the skin (not that it needed much), but the freckles were lightened by a small amount. The details of the eyes, tip and hair were sharpened too.

Film emulations were used as a starting point for the monochrome and colour photographs and then tweaked to bring out the subtle nuances of each one.

laura perrot noir portrait

9. Towards the end of the shoot, Laura wanted to be silly. Why not?

Technical details

A full-frame camera with one lens throughout the session. This was my much loved 85mm f/1.8. The camera was set to manual with a shutter speed of 1/200s, ISO 200, f/11.

A single 80x120cm softbox (strip box) was used with a large white reflector on the opposite side was used for about half of the shots and then removed.

Conclusions

I was very pleased with this look, both monochrome and colour wise. Sometimes the simplest of set-ups can produce the most amazing results (if you know how or have been shown how to do it).

Many thanks to Laura for helping me with ziss (the way she says 'this'). She was fed with proper food and triple chocolate chip muffins. I love working with my dancer friends because all of them are fun people to be around and a laugh to work with. Especially those I have not seen for a while. What also makes them special is many of them come from other parts of the world. I love diversity.

laura perrot noir portrait

10. The muffin before it was picked apart, literally and eaten.

Your thoughts

comments

Please leave any thoughts, comments, questions or just say, "Hi!" (not literally) below. I really do appreciate feedback. E.g. What is your favourite photograph and why?

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