Photographers get inspiration from many places. One friend finds it in old master’s paintings; I get the inspiration for many of my images from the movies. Recently I watched Frank Capra’s 1937 classic “Lost Horizon” and was struck not just by the cinematography but by the still images used to illustrate a “making-of” video on the DVD. The examples here clearly demonstrate why the 1930’s and 40’s was the golden age of Hollywood still photography.
All this was going through my head when I was making some glamour images of Stevie who I though had the classic look of a 1940’s film star. Most cameras not only lets you shoot directly in black and white but I’ve found that black and white images are more difficult to retouch and prefer shooting RAW+JPEG. With the camera in monochrome mode, I have a black & white image to show the subject and a color RAW file to retouch
Old Hollywood glamour images had several things in common, including tight head shots but there are also two other characteristics that are easy to emulate. After testing 25 different ways and products for converting color images to monochrome (for an upcoming Shutterbug column) I found Silver Efex Pro to be the best and most versatile. It also lets me apply different colored camera filters, add grain (I used to go with none but now add a little (very little) for softness. Other characteristics include:
Vignetting: When converting an image to black and white I use Silver Efex Pro’s vignetting capabilities but I also like the Burning and Dodging features in Pixel Genius’ PhotoKit2, especially the Four Corners Burning command.
Soft focus, diffusion: There are many ways to do this as well but my favorite (and what was used with the portrait of Stevie) is the Glamour Glow filter that’s part of Color Efex Pro. Tip: You can’t overdo this feature because if you apply it to a separate layer, you can then lower that layer’s opacity in the Layers palette to suit the effect you are trying to create.
I’ve always been a big fan of monochrome photography and even wrote a book about it—Creative Digital Monochrome Effects. The book is now out-of-print but new copies are available from Amazon for $9.99 with used ones selling for $2.55, a bargain for one of my favorite books.