Every so often I do a self portrait ( I’d rather experiment on myself than on a paying customer ) to try and play with lighting and learn some new things. Today I decided to try and learn an old thing. I wanted to see how closely I could mimic the lighting of one of my favourite ever portraits.
It’s the iconic, and simple portrait of Max Von Sydow used to publicise Ingmar Bergman’s, 1957 film The Seventh Seal.
I enjoy the process of taking lighting apart in other people’s work, and seeing where it takes me. Even with just one light, the process can be quite lengthy, I ran out of time to get this perfect but I think I came fairly close.
There are some caveats though:
a/ I don’t look like Max Von Sydow, no matter how hard I try! This kind of lighting really accentuates angular, symmetrical faces. My face is not one of those. That being said this kind of lighting can imbue undramatic faces such as mine with a modicum of dramatic impact. His extremely fair hair really helps with the texture and shape of the image as well.
My beard does not help.
b/ I think that my lighting, now that I can directly compare the two should have been even more directly above my head. There is something odd about the positioning of the lighting in the original which makes it seem as though much more of his face should be lit on the “dark side”. I suspect it was a bit more central, higher up, angled down and I suspect the key element that’s missing from my lighting is a gobo to dramatically cut off the light on the other side of the face.
I concentrated on getting the shadows right by positioning the lighting to the side. I think I’d have been better served by using the lighting to create the highlight and a gobo ( essentially a black card ) to create the shadows.
It’s noted now as a potential trick up my sleeve should I find a Scandinavian with an angular, perfectly symmetrical face.
Lighting diagram below.
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