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actor head shot for Kevin Mangar

Actor Head Shots for Kevin Mangar

Actor head shots for character and variety

Kevin Mangar asked me to take some actor head shots (and also some other photos, but I will talk about those another day).  Some of the resulting images are conventional actor head shots, while others are more “portraits”.

Kevin Mangar often lands roles as villains. Do you think he looks the part?

Well do you, punk?

Curiously, immediately after writing the above sentence I googled “Kevin Mangar” and discovered he played a character called “Eastwood” in the film The Take Down.  What an extraordinary co-incidence! (For people who don’t know “well do you punk” is an iconic line spoken by Harry Callaghan, played by Clint Eastwood in his “Dirty Harry” movies. Look at this clip and then this clip).

According to film buff website IMDb Kevin Mangar is also known for roles in Spider Man 2: Another World and Redcon-1.

What is an “actor head shot”?

Actor head shots are intended to give casting directors an idea of what an actor or actress looks like. However Kevin and I didn’t want to just limit ourselves to conventional actor head shots. So Kevin played some roles, and I fiddled with my lights.

Lighting for head shots and portraits

One light

Here are five “head shots”. In the first, I lit Kevin’s head with a single key light located directly above the camera’s line of sight. You can see the reflection of the key light in Kevin’s eyes. The flash was modified by a gridded white beauty dish. Just the one light (technically this kind of lighting is called “butterfly lighting” because the shadow beneath the nose might look a bit like a butterfly. Allegedly.

very simple actor head shot

Three lights

In the next photo the key light is exactly the same, but I have added two additional lights, one on each side of Kevin’s head.  The photographer has to be quite careful where s/he places these lights in order to create the desired effect. I was using two tall slim soft boxes fitted with grids.

Actor head shot of actor Kevin Mangar

Two lights

Kevin’s third “head shot” shows what happens when the key light is turned off, and the two lights on either side are on. This isn’t really an “actor head shot” at all, because you can’t see the detail of Kevin’s face. But the image makes a very atmospheric portrait nevertheless. I think you will agree this lighting creates a sinister mood? So, not really an “actor head shot” but definitely a “portrait”.

sinister portrait of actor Kevin Mangar

Two different lights

For the fourth head shot in this series I moved the key light to one side, a bit higher than Kevin’s head. It is still modified using the same white gridded beauty dish. I have also moved one of the tall gridded softboxes further back behind Kevin, and brought it’s brightness down. These are the only two lights on Kevin in this photo.

Actor head shot of actor Kevin Mangar

Three lights

Next I threw some light onto the black background, making it grey. The purpose of this is to make Kevin’s outline more visible. I call this Kevin’s “Patrick Stewart” picture.

actor head shot of actor Kevin Mangar

I call this Kevin’s “Patrick Stewart” photo. I assume both actors will find this flattering…

A softer look

As I wrote above, Kevin Mangar often gets typecast as villains. He does a “hard man look” very well. But why don’t we bring out his softer side too?

Kevin Mangar - actor head shot Kevin Mangar - actor head shot Kevin Mangar - actor head shot Kevin Mangar - actor head shot Kevin Mangar - actor head shot

Photoshop post production

Just in case anyone is interested;

Photoshop editing was kept to a minimum.  I made a small number of global adjustments to  basic variables like colour balance, the tone curve, clarity, and maybe one or two other of the sliders that adjust the entire image. I also did a very small amount of eye brightening – very subtle. Otherwise Kevin’s head shots and portraits are as the camera captured them.

Acknowledgement

I thank Kevin Mangar for asking me to take these actor head shots, portraits and other photos (I may write about some of the others later).

flour photo shoot in Kingston upon Thames

Flour photo shoot in Kingston upon Thames

Why do a flour photo shoot outdoors?

Flour photo shoots make a LOT of mess! Originally I invited model and performance artist Katie Berns to do this photo shoot in my studio, which is in Kingston upon Thames. But after doing a bit of research I realised just how much mess it was going to make! So I changed my plan, and we did the flour photo shoot in the garden. This was very easy to arrange, because the studio opens directly onto the garden through some wide doors.

The day after we did this flour photo shoot, there was a lot of flour in the garden, and because it had got damp, it was sticking quite stubbornly to plants and other things. All my clothes pegs got flour stuck all over them. There are still signs of the flour now as I write these words, three months after we did the flour shoot.

What made this flour photo shoot so challenging?

What made this particular flour photo shoot really challenging was the extreme cold. We did the shoot in early March, and it was VERY cold by (South East) British standards. Although it was above freezing, it was only above freezing by a few degrees, and the air was damp. It felt extremely cold even to me, and I was fully dressed. Poor old Katie – I was seriously worried about her wellbeing. But she was extremely professional, and totally dedicated to capturing some stunning images.

It was also threatening to rain the whole evening, but fortunately the rain held off – all except a few small drops. If it had rained hard, we would have abandoned the flour part of the photo shoot. (We also did some ballet and dance photography in the studio, earlier in the day, before it got dark).

When Katie got too cold, she put on my thick fluffy dressing gown and headed indoors to warm up and stop shivering. She was very brave, and I was very impressed by her professionalism and fortitude. I have to add that she could have stopped at any time.

How to do a flour photo shoot

From a technical point of view a flour photo shoot is very straightforward. You don’t need a particularly high shutter speed. I was using 1/200s, so there aren’t any problems with syncing a studio flash.

As with any other photo shoot, the photographer will arrange the lighting according to the image you wish to create. The flour in flour photo shoots is usually lit from behind, against a dark background. But this is just a matter of taste. I think when the background is dark, or black, the contrast of the white flour against the dark background is extreme, so this tends to give dramatic images. My personal preference was to avoid putting a powerful light on my model from the front. I wanted to have sufficient light to see Katie, but I wanted most of the impact of the images to be from the light on the flour, and the rim lighting along the sides of Katie’s body – and through her hair.

When I was researching how to do a flour photo shoot, I discovered there are quite a lot of descriptions available on the web (now there’s a surprise!) I am not the first photographer to do flour shoots by a long chalk.  If you go online you can find images similar to these. However next time I intend to add a bit more photographic creativity!

Because I wanted a dark background, it made sense to do the flour photo shoot after dark. Next day my neighbour said he had wondered why there was so much lightening during the night, but no thunder!

Is it possible to hire me to do your very own flour photo shoot?

Absolutely. This would be a “standard photo shoot”, so visit this page to see my rates.

flour photo shoot in Kingston upon Thames, photography by Ian Trayner, model is Katie Berns

Flour photo shoot with Katie Berns performing amazingly in freezing cold and damp conditions

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Technical information

F8, ISO 400, 1/200s

I used three studio flash heads. It doesn’t matter which ones you use, but I had the luxury of using three Ilux 600 Summit heads. These are 600 Watt flash heads, and they are battery powered, so they are fully portable. I bought mine from Photomart, and rather annoyingly, they have come down a lot in price since I bought mine!

The flour was lit from both sides behind Katie. This had the effect of putting bright lighting on the flour,  and they also cast a beautiful rim light on Katie Berns’s body. The modifiers on these lights probably aren’t critical, as long as you can control the spread of light. I was lucky because I could use a tall thin soft box with grid on both sides.

I also had a fill light in front of Katie, near the camera. I don’t remember the ratio of the fill light to the rear lights, but the rear lights were significantly brighter than the fill light. In a situation like this, I would recommend experimenting with the lighting ratios to see what pleases you most.

My recommendations if you want to do your own flour photo shoot

  1. Do it outdoors if you possibly can! If you have to do it indoors, be aware that you will have a fine dust of flour covering everything, and a thick pile of flour on the floor. And be aware that flour gets very sticky when it gets damp, so I recommend cleaning it up as soon as possible after the shoot!
  2. Think about the set. Do you want it dark? Will it be necessary to do the shoot after dark? If you are not sure, test it. Although we did this shoot after dark, I don’t think that will be necessary if you have some powerful flash heads. It may even be possible to make use of the sun, if there is direct sunlight (best from behind the model I think).
  3. Have a look at flour photos on the web, and then try to add your own thing. For example I found this youtube video quite interesting;
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcSZaPXHSJ0
  4. Avoid throwing flour directly into your model’s face! Check that she (or he) doesn’t have any reactions to dust, or flour. Don’t let your model freeze to death if you are working outdoors. Ho ho.