By March 21, 2013 1 Comments

Hollywood Lighting and Posing

Hollywood Lighting & Posing - Photo 01

Hollywood Lighting & Posing – Photo 01

We all know that Hollywood lighting and posing evolved about 1920. It was then that photographers started to experiment with lighting, textures, and posing.  Deep shadows were the norm and so was heavy contrast in every image. As I look at some of the old books, I identify what I learned from my mentors. It’s clear posing and lighting has never changed; in fact if you go to a Art Gallery or look at Rembrandt’s Collection of Art, it is staring in your face!

Just like I was taught, the pose is either a profile or it’s a two third’s view to the camera. After reading this article, please practice on developing your two thirds view, the lighting will all make sense later.

Here are the steps for posing and lighting this shot:

See photo 01.

Hollywood Lighting & Posing - Photo 02

Hollywood Lighting & Posing – Photo 02

Pose: Have her lean back her body to create body language. Have her brace herself on the one hand until she’s comfortable and there is a nice body tilt. I am not concerned with the hand to the right; it will be covered by a vignette as you will see later. 

 Lighting:  I am using two lights to accomplish this image. The main light is this cool little light my wife bought at Bed Bath and Beyond store. It’s nothing more than a continuous light source that is daylight balanced and only uses 2 AA batteries.

See photo 02.

Hollywood Lighting & Posing - Photo 03

Hollywood Lighting & Posing – Photo 03

The second light source is a Quantum Trio that is on my camera set on my hot shoe.  I know I need another light that will open up my deep shadows but will still give the appearance that I only used one main light. I point that fill light to bounce off the ceiling and I also have lowered the power to 1/8. I am in manual mode on my camera and my on-camera flash. My exposure is ISO 800 at f5.6 at 1/30 hand held.

If you don’t have a Quantum light, an SB800 or whatever you’re working should be fine. I had my assistant take the main light and move camera right of her face.  Then I instructed her to get the main light high enough so that the light would cause a small shadow under the nose, called a butterfly light.

Hollywood Lighting & Posing - Photo 04

Hollywood Lighting & Posing – Photo 04

See photo 03.

Look close you should only see a small sliver of skin on the far side of the bride’s face and no ear visible. Now you can see what a real two/thirds view to the camera looks like.

Hollywood Lighting & Posing - Photo 05

Hollywood Lighting & Posing – Photo 05

See photo 04.

Remember whatever light source you decide to use (whether it’s a video light or a simple flashlight) you may have to consider custom white balancing the image prior to shooting. This image was shot in a hallway and there were a lot of overhead lights that were making this image yellow. Custom white balance takes yellow, magenta, or blue out.

If you don’t have a fill light, then once you have developed the light direction with the main light, add a reflector to bounce light back into the shadow area and that should work fine.

See photo 05.

Eyes need to have a specific direction; I think it’s important that they look higher to have more life and sparkle. Smiling is up to you. I, personally, think it takes away from the image. The only thing left to do is to add a sepia tone to antique the image and give it a feeling of an era gone by. The treatment I used is a NIK Filter; basically I used a sepia tone tool.

In the next couple of month’s I will be doing more of the 1940’s look. I’m looking into buying more props that will help bring the feeling to the era.

I hope you have enjoyed this simple exercise.

Resources Books:

Jazz Age Beauties

Marlene Dietrich

Please let me know what kind of articles you would like to see me write.

Please come to my free show at WPPI on March 12 at 4 to 5:30 for Progressive Posing

I will be shooting live!

Check room listing for my show

Email me at

Thanks for supporting

About the Author:

RICK FERRO is a Certified, PPA Master Photographer who was honored, together with his wife Deborah, with the Photography Service Award at the United Nations in New York in 2002. During the 1990's he helped develop the Wedding Photography Department for Walt Disney in Orlando. In 2009 he came back to Disney as a contractor and is still working for Disney Fine Art Production Co. Rick owns and manages a studio in Jacksonville, Florida with a client list that includes the Miami Dolphins, Pepsi, and Mercedes Benz. He is an author and writer for the highly acclaimed reaching over 130,000 viewers each month, has published 7 books, and is a top acclaimed world-wide speaker. He also produced a series of educational videos for Quantum Instruments. Rick is currently focusing his art towards hybrid imaging, Talking Portraitures and LED lighting. Rick Ferro is a master of photography and loves to mentor his craft to inspiring photographers of all ages.

1 Comment on "Hollywood Lighting and Posing"

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  1. justinrphillips says:


    I am a huge fan of “classic” lighting and am constantly striving to capture classic looking B&W and Film Noir looking images. Great article, and funny enough I have one of the little tripod lights myself.

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