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Shooting a softbox portrait

From: Douglas Kirkland on Photography: Shooting with a Medium-Format Camera

Video: Shooting a softbox portrait

Douglas Kirkland: Hi Owen! Owen Roizman: Hey Douglas! Douglas: Hey how are you? I am glad we can do this today. Owen: Oh yeah. Douglas: We have done once or twice before; Douglas: I've been in front of your lens I think a few times. So Owen, we are going to do a Polaroid. Turn away from me just a little, yeah. That's right, maybe a little more, yeah. That's cool. That's nice, nice, nice, nice, great! If you don't mind, try the opposite side, swing the other way. You know, by the way, it's interesting, I like this side of Owen, because you will see a different look on different people. Frequently, like I have with my part I think on my hair this way, and if I was on this side, it might not be as good as if I was on that side. But you don't have to tell your subject about that; just observe it. Say to yourself, "Which is the best side?" Don't get into a big conversation about it, because remember, your subject may be very nervous.

Shooting a softbox portrait

Douglas Kirkland: Hi Owen! Owen Roizman: Hey Douglas! Douglas: Hey how are you? I am glad we can do this today. Owen: Oh yeah. Douglas: We have done once or twice before; Douglas: I've been in front of your lens I think a few times. So Owen, we are going to do a Polaroid. Turn away from me just a little, yeah. That's right, maybe a little more, yeah. That's cool. That's nice, nice, nice, nice, great! If you don't mind, try the opposite side, swing the other way. You know, by the way, it's interesting, I like this side of Owen, because you will see a different look on different people. Frequently, like I have with my part I think on my hair this way, and if I was on this side, it might not be as good as if I was on that side. But you don't have to tell your subject about that; just observe it. Say to yourself, "Which is the best side?" Don't get into a big conversation about it, because remember, your subject may be very nervous.

Nice, one, two, three, good. See how easy that was? Okay, this time I am timing 30 seconds, this time, so in a half a minute we'll see the result. And I feel pretty secure that this is going to work, so Miranda, could I have, yes, reset the diaphragm a little lower, and give me a roll please. Thank you Jeremy. And now, if Owen, or I, or anybody who is working with me doesn't like the Polaroid, we will make changes.

The Polaroid is square. It's not framed vertically, as I am doing here, because most of the work that I do on this campaign, in fact, I think almost all of it--oh, there we are--has been vertical. Okay, here we are. Okay, what I like is this is our blocking shot, so to speak, because I will allow you to move around a little and everything as we get moving and shooting. I like the separation we are getting from the back light, and it's gray over here, just from the distance it is for marquee. And yes, you are right to observe that reflection on your glasses.

I have been watching it very carefully, and how much fill light do we want? I want some, but I don't want it to be a one-to-one. I don't want you to be flat. But what I will do probably with my camera as we shoot is come in tighter, and you will be free to move around, but this basically shows you what our square one is. Owen: Great! Looks good to me Douglas. Douglas: Thank you. Am I hired? Can I keep my job? Owen: Yeah. Douglas: Thanks. Now what happens if you lean on a hand? No, I mean like so. Yeah, don't-- by the away, anything I ask you to do that does not feel comfortable, just let me know, because the object here is to make you feel comfortable. Okay, just, that's good, that's good, that's good.

There is frame one, now, okay great! And notice, I keep talking. I am not quiet. Oh, what you did, I just observed what you did there. Yeah, I love that. I love that. Yes, yes, yes. Now this is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Yeah, I just saw a natural move, and it's a wonderful one. I love that. I am coming in tight, because I want to get it really tight. I am on the long end. I am at 200 on the zoom, and you will see me focusing out there. Okay. This is good! This is a hotbed. I feel good! Oh, I feel really good.

And Miranda, can you give me the 1x4 multiplier, please? I want to just go to a slightly longer lens. I am putting the 1x4 multiplier in, and I'll increase the exposure one stop with it. What does it do? It makes the 200-millimeter lens become a 280, Douglas: okay, and so one stop open. Miranda: So you're on eleven and half, Miranda: so I'm thinking you want eight and a half, Douglas: Yeah, thank you. You know, it's interesting how things evolve. And again, I am talking to you Owen, as well as my other friends out there, because--this is nice. This is nice.

This is what really excites me about photography. I am may be photographing the most beautiful woman in the world, or a friend like Owen, but at this moment when it's really clicking, I really truly get excited. See, you'll notice me tipping the camera. Nowhere is it written that everything has to be up and down, because especially on a portrait like this, it's where the excitement--just imagine if you were cropping a print or something. Well, I am doing that in the camera. This is very, very special. Okay.

Now ask yourself Mr. Photographer-- that's me at this moment-- I always do, everything is locked down and wonderful. Owen is great. Everything he is doing--if you stay there, I'd appreciate it, but I am watching everything he does. Oh, consider what else, what happens if you push your glasses up for a moment? Just push them up. Look, yeah, yeah or put them up. Just lift them up, just lift them, Yeah, yes, yes, one hand, that's nice. That's nice, that's nice, that's nice. Now we found another picture here. And so, ask yourself a number of questions as you're shooting at this point.

You say, is there something? Lift a little higher please, push them up a little. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, that's wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! I am going to go wider. Just stay there, Owen, if you can, and then I'll do a Polaroid. What I am doing is seeing the great picture, but I am also saying to myself at all times, is there something I should be looking for beyond this? And that's part of the key. I am happy again once we see the crop vertically, and I've got a closer version as well.

Douglas: I hope you like it--I do. Owen: Yeah! Douglas: and then we have a closer version when we come in really just on your face, because you have a great warmth in here which I love. Owen: It's very nice. Terrific, thank you. Douglas: So, thank you! Douglas: You know, we have done this two or three times before. I think today, strangely, and I mean this genuinely, we are going to have the best pictures ever. Owen: Thanks, well, we're finally learning. Douglas: Yeah, exactly, we keep practicing. Douglas: Here I am 20 years later, I should, because I think you were one of the first guys I photographed in this series, an early one, and then I photographed you Douglas: once or twice later, Owen: Yeah.

Douglas: with your son, Eric, is that his name? Yeah, it was great! Owen: Yeah, yeah. Douglas: Eric, his son, is a wonderful cinematographer as well. It runs in the family. Anyway, great! Okay, let's go out. Let's take a break and do another setup.

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