renee goble classic hollywood portrait

A classic Hollywood style shoot with Renee Goble.

1st June 2016


A number of years ago, I was introduced to the classic Hollywood lighting style. It was used to photograph many a Hollywood icon from Humphrey Bogart to Lauren Bacal. Even since then I have loved recreating that style in my photography studio.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

1. One of the early shots. I added the pearl necklace to give the outfit a feeling of opulence and glamour. They rarely smiled in this style of photography. It has been suggested that the actors had bad teeth and did not want to show them.

To recreate a style you need to understand the components that epitomised it. Details like: the lighting used, lighting style, how they posed, where they were shot and the cameras used. Once you have this information you can start recreate them.

Renee has posed a photograph of her online of her dressed in an authentic 1920's outfit. When I saw her on Sunday we discussed and arranged a shoot to make her look like someone from that era. This is what happened during the shoot. Renee is into history.

The shoot

Renee brought along with her friends Jess and Mary-Jo. I have found having friends in the studio often relaxes the model especially if they have never been in front of a camera of a professional photographer. They are able to converse with the model and sometimes provoke a look that looks great when photographed.

I sat Renee down in a wicker chair and arranged the two lights. One lit her face and outfit with a second lighting the background and the top of her hair.

I think this was the first time a shoot had been focused on producing photographs in the Classic Hollywood style. It is certainly the first time I have photographed anyone wearing period clothing.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

2. Whilst I was chatting with Jess and Mary-Jo, I saw Renee toying with the necklace. I told her to do that again and we created this shot. They often did not make eye contact with the camera. The photographers wanted to create a distant and aloof look befitting a god or goddess of the silver screen.

In-between the shots I tweak the lighting as Renee moved for each pose or as she shifted her weight. A lot of banter was firing between Renee and Jess too. That made the whole shoot far more fun listening to what was being said.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

3. I pulled back for a longer shot and this was the result. Notice how the streak of light on the background runs parallel to Renee's right forearm. I love touches like this. This was my favourite shot from the session. I just think Renee looks amazing and I love how the lighting draws you to her face as the fringes fade into the shadows.

Post processing

Most of the post processing happens in Lightroom to apply the black and white render to the photographs and the crop. In this case I used an 8x10 crop because the cameras they would have used would have had that aspect ratio too. I then perform a few other adjustments using Photoshop.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

4. A landscape shot using almost a touch of Rembrant lighting on Renee's near cheek. This was more spontaneous rather than choreographed. If I had I would have made the triangle of light on her cheek less elongated.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

5. Here we added some fake fur once again to make Renee look far more glamorous. By opening her lips slightly it made them look fuller.

Technical details

A full-frame camera with an 85mm f/1.8 lens was used throughout the shoot. The camera's setting were typically: 1/125s, ISO 200 and f/4.5. The camera was set to manual mode.

Two spotlights were used to create the look an Arri 300W and a Lupolux 700W. The latter was used as the key (main) light with the other as a hair light and creating streaks on the back wall. No reflectors were used as they were not used in the day.

Using spotlights meant the light was very directional and created distinct shadows under the chin and the nose. The overall effective can be very dramatic.

If I were to look to add further authenticity to these shots I would need to buy a filter to slightly blur image because the lens they were using were not as sharp as they are today. This would create a subtle diffuse glow around the edges where the light hitting the filter is deflected creating small amounts of flare. You would not able to achieve this so well using digital methods.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

6. This lighting of the this photograph was inspired by a shot of Audrey Hepburn (a personal favourite of mine). It was much harder to reproduce than I thought. Still, we loved the final result.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

7. I had Renee look over her shoulder. Here we do have Rembrant lighting on her left cheek. There is also a subtle dimple on the right cheek. The shadows create a dramatic look. The slight glow on the wall on the right side of the photograph stops the background from being too monotonous.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

8. A bit more traditional Classic Hollywood lighting in this shot with light coming from overhead and down the nose. I love the shadows that have been created by Renee's cheek bones. This slims down the face.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

9. I posed Renee for this shot and then a conversation was struck up between her and Jess. Renee had to look at Jess and reply to her cheeky comment. That is when this shot was taken. I love the subtle dimple creeping into the shot. Renee forgot to remove the wristlet after the shoot.


I really enjoyed this shoot. Having Mary-Jo and Jess around helped. I was delighted with the photographs and how the came out. It was nice to photograph someone wearing an outfit suitable to the period. I hope it is not until too longer before I organising another shoot of this kind. Next time I need to find a large ostrich feather for her head band.

renee goble classic hollywood portrait

10. Only one light was used to light this photograph. Typical to this style Renee is looking away into the distance. The spill from the light stops the wall from being completely black. The highlights in her hair stop her head from merging into the darkness.

Your thoughts


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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