‘Golden Age’ Hollywood Portraiture

For this workshop i was asked to find a picture of a hollywood star from a choice given to me that i would like to recreate (lighting and pose, not really the look of the person) i chose to do two portraits of Lauren Baccall.

Key charchteristics of the type of images we looked at today are:

  • Dramatic
  • High contrast
  • Sharp shadows
  • Atmosphere – linked to character
  • Sculpt the subject with where the shadows fall
  • Minimise flaws with lights
  • Some areas were blown out to hide wrinkles and blemishes
  • 8×10 large format camera was used – extreme shallow DOF
  • created out of focus backgrounds
  • Posing was important
  • Very little direct eye contact
  • Hands were strategically placed to frame the face
  • Some of the poses were for convenience due to the long shutter speed
  • The lighting was so strong that it was known to cause skin problems and retina damage
  • Camera angles were different – tilting
  • Fresnel lights (stage lights typically) with glass over the front to adjust focusing – less even – tungsten

Due to there being no ‘social networking’ like there is today their social networking was done in person at events or meetings/interviews which is why the images were so important as they portrayed them as a character and showed them at their best which is how they sold them selves, it was all about their looks, especially as then the cinema was a very big deal with it being one of few nights out that people would see those that had ‘made it’ on the big screen.

One of the photographers of that time was George Horrell

Here i found a fantastic website telling you all about his life and how he became the master of hollywood glamour photography.


My chosen images to recreate:

Lauren Baccall Lauren Baccall

Lauren Bacall was born September 16, 1924 her real name was Betty Joan Perske, She began her career as a model, she was also an American actress known for her characteristic husky voice and sultry look.

She first appeared in 1944 as a leading lady in the Humphrey Bogart film To Have and Have Not. She continued her film career in a number of other films, Bacall also worked on Broadway in musicals, earning Woman Of The Year in 1981 and Tony Awards for Applause in 1970. Her performance in the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996 earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination.

Lauren Bacall died on August 12, 2014.

I chose the images above as they both had a different type of lighting which meant i had two images to think about rather than just one, i really wanted to try a couple and I’m glad i had time to do that (although as usual not long enough).

So first of all i had to do a test shot of each pose (they are not great quality and not in focus but all i wanted was the actual pose) before i got technical.

test shot 1 test shot 2


These were my test shots

Set up 1 Set up 2

These were my lighting set ups for each shot.

LightingSetup 1    LightingSetup 2


i then had to crop my images in photoshop and edit them so they were black and white, i did a bit of skin smoothing also and emphasised the eyelashes/lips

final bw 2 final bw

These were my final images i am happy with them although i think if i had more time i would have spent longer with my model to ensure her pose was spot on as i do not feel it is quite accurate, but otherwise i really like how they have turned out, and i would definitely do this style of shoot again, but in more detail and more props/makeup/hair.


This was a really good workshop its a shame we couldn’t research/ spend more time doing it, as it was something i feel could have been even better than the outcome has been, i am happy with my images and happy with how my shoots went, but with more time i would have sourced my model properly, and ensured that make up and hair was done and, made sure the model knew what i wanted them to wear for the shoot, but overall i feel i was successful in this workshop, i look forward to reading any feedback that you may have.


2 thoughts on “‘Golden Age’ Hollywood Portraiture

  1. I think you observed the lighting in the original images well and really tried hard to recreate the images. The poses are done really well however I think the closer cropped image on left could of been cropped less. Otherwise great effort!

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