Every once in awhile I get a shoot request that allows me to grow beyond healing through photography. This one in particular was from a client who is the president of the local cigar club. He wanted a classic shot with smoke. This can be challenging and I had never tried to photograph smoke so I was excited. The style of 1950s portraits of men was starkly different compared to contemporary fashion photography.
We started by choosing an outfit and finding suspenders. He had an awesome vintage jacket. I parted and gelled his hair 1950s style. In the studio I set up a beauty dish with grid and set it camera right. This lit his face and torso well but let the light fall off towards his feet. I find a lot of inspiration in Geoge Hurrell’s dramatic style of classic movie stars. Hurrell was famous for portraits deep with contrast. He used large light but was a master of using pencil on 3×5 negatives to soften and perfect skin. I chose to start with hard light and then soften it. I brought a large soft box in camera left for fill to soften the shadows and contrast and eventually used the soft box as the key light for a variety of lighting styles.
To get the cigar shots we moved outside and I used the beauty dish with grid as the only light. Since there wasn’t much wind, I got some awesome shots. The beauty dish was perfect for illuminating the smoke when I aimed the grid towards it. As far as posing, he didn’t need much direction (as most men don’t) and I didn’t want to create poses that wouldn’t look natural. 1950’s portraits of men had strong natural poses.
Editing was done in Lightroom for cropping, exposure and color treatments. In Photoshop I darkened the backdrop with layer masks and hand painting. He’s so tall I had to place him right against the backdrop. With a taller backdrop and larger foot area I could have controlled the light fall off better so I wouldn’t need to edit as much. But it was worth the extra time.
He was pleased with the outcome and feels we captured what he was looking for. It was a piece of cake with a handsome and easy going client. I’m thrilled! I hope to add more 1950s portraits of men to my portfolio soon.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, Iman Woods.