The early 20th century was an awesome time for photographers, especially the Hollywood photographers. I love the photographs of the old silent film era, all the promo pieces with low light and dark backgrounds. I love to try and create images that are remind me, and others, of the old silent films we’ve seen.
This is how I set up my lights in the studio to create those awesome images. These twin models were kind enough to let me photograph them three years ago in Denver at the Denver Turnverein. They are Tiffany and Stephanie; you can contact them with the links to their Model Mayhem pages.
I usually use just one light for this kind of work. If I have to use more than light it is usually to separate their hair from the back ground. But this image has a light back ground that is kind of depressing if you think about it and it has a lot of negative space; placing the models in the left third of the frame. I am setting the light in front of them but lower than their heads and pointing upwardly. That’s it, all you need to do is that, but play around with where the lights should be for the various poses. But the light does need to be at an upward angle, even if just slightly.
Now that we’ve spent several hours photographing the subject let’s load Photoshop and get to the editing. Fun!
Open the image you want. Remove all the blemishes, sharpen and clean it up, and don’t forget to enlarge it. We’ll reduce the size later if we have to. Convert the image into black and white with the Channel Mixer, go to Image>Adjustments>Channel Mixer and click the Monochrome in the lower left of the box. Set the values as 20 red, 40 green and 40 blue then click ok. Now create a new layer by pressing CTRL+J and call it the Working Layer. Select your burn tool and set the brush to 40 pixels, set the Range to Midtones and Exposure to 50%. Zoom in 100% and go over the hair. We want the hair to have the same consistency and only show some of the highlights. Don’t go outside of the hair, if you accidently hit the back ground of face correct it by pressing CTRL+Z to undo that action. We only want to hit the hair.
Let’s work on the lips now. We want to bring them out but with out destroying the image. One of the most popular looks from that era are the cupid bow look. Deep reds accentuating the curve of the lips. This is something that be done with make up but we can also do it in photoshop. Select your Clone Stamp Tool set the Hardness to around 60%, choose the Mode setting as Lighten and the Opacity to around 80%. We’re going to sample the lip color on the side of the mouth we’re working on; now reshape them but try not to go over the original shape of the lips.
Crop the image to tighten it up a bit and flatten the image by going to Layer>Flatten Image. We’re going to create a new layer again with the same method and call it the Working Layer again. Work on the hairs that are reaching out from the head. All those stray hairs need to be removed, they will just distract your eye and the image quality will be in question.
Now create a new layer of the Working Layer and call it the Diffuse Layer. Use your Gaussian Filter setting the pixels value at 4; go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Create a Layer Mask by clicking the icon in the layers palette, choose your Brush Tool and no Hardness, set the Foreground Color to Black and the Opacity to 50%. Paint over the models face and only the face. We want the models face to be in focus more than the rest of the image; this is adding a bit of softness and we want her eyes and facial features to be what you see the most.
Flatten the image again. Now go to Filters>Distort>Diffuse Glow; lenses from this time produced halos to any bright spots or lights. Set your Graininess to 3, the Glow Amount should also be set at 3 and the Clear Amount should be 10 or higher, but not much different than that. Now let’s finish up with setting this image to a Sepia style monochrome. Go to Image>Adjustments>Variations, when the box appears add a slight Yellow and Red to the image and click the Lighter.
You’re Done, I hope you like the results from this method.