Recreating ‘Hollywood Portraits’


Joan Crawford was an American actress who began her career as a dancer in mobile theatrical companies previous of debuting as a chorus girl on Broadway.

A lot of her films were released in the 30s and 40s and she was photographed by a lot of photographers on the red carpet or in various locations and studios for promotion of her films. Crawford was photographed by numerous photographers and one of them was George Hurrell.

Hurrell was a photographer who contributed to the image of glamour presented by Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s.

I was tasked at college with recreating a portrait of someone from this era and the ‘golden age’ using continuous lighting, the light was tungsten light also known as red heads. The golden age had common stylistic techniques that link these images together mainly low-key images with strong direct hard lighting provided by the tungsten continuous lighting. Rembrandt lighting is quite common and so was Butterfly lighting. The poses are very thought about and staged too with the men looking suave or very serious and the women having slight smiles to them and makeup done with eyelashes showing.

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Above is an image of Crawford who I intended to recreate into my own photograph. It is a Low-key image and I liked the way the face was surrounded by black.


Below is the way I set up the lighting for the shoot, the lighting was Ponting down from the angle shown in the diagram to give the shadow under the nose of Kez the model. when I took the shots I was on one knee to get down low to try and get the right angle.




Below is the camera settings I have used to get the shot.

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kez hollywood.jpg Below left is the recreated image of Crawford after I had edited her in Photoshop. All I did was soften the skin by reducing sharpness and then brushed black around any light areas at the bottom of the image.










If I would have shot the image again I would have asked Kez the model to flatten her closed eye a little more to get the eyelashes to show more but other than that I am pleased with the result and I think I have made a decent effort to get the lighting correct before exposing any images. I used my Nikon D850 with the 24-70mm f2.8 lens to get this image and I shot 6 images to get this one, as that was one of the requirements of the exercise. To get the lighting right before you start shooting and concentrate. Good lesson I think!

Bye for now!

One thought on “Recreating ‘Hollywood Portraits’

  1. i’m so please you understood the reason behind limiting your shots! just because digital allows unlimited you should still concentrate on getting right first time, this will help in the future to reduce work flow.

    you definitely got the lighting spot on, just the angle of her face needed tilting forward and to the side.

    Great Job!

    Liked by 1 person

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