Photographing in the style of another time period is a great exercise in nearly every area of photography. You're re-creating lighting, wardrobe, editing and, in some cases, the very media you're using.
And while pinup isn't exactly something that's lacking on the interwebs, going back around 70 years to an art style that fell out of common usage long ago is one of the coolest things I've done this summer.
I chose pinups because of the huge range of imagery possible-the different styles, mediums, and even purpose you can choose. I decided the logical place to start is with the classic pinups mostly inspired by Alberto Vargas. While I decided to go with girls wearing more clothing than he normally depicted, the pure white backgrounds, popping colors and an incredible sense of light are all true to his paintings. Part of the editing process even brought in a painterly feeling for that little disconnect from the modern digital photography that captured it.
Check out more pictures, the lighting setup and some processing after the jump.
Planning these shoots was fairly straight forward. My models were told to research Alberto Vargas, Bettie Page, and the pinup genre in general for clothing. Hair was simply curled and taken up for most of the shots, let down for others. The one absolute necessity to me was having the deep red lips. We took test shots before makeup, and you could tell something just didn't look right.
The lighting setup was one of the larger setups I've used for something that looks deceptively straight forward, and I still haven't perfected it yet. Total count-6 lights, or rather, every light I own right now.
Three lights on the background, two in softboxes on the side and one magic-armed to the ceiling with a bare reflector nuked the background to nearly pure white. I could have pathed out the model off of any background, but some of the flare from the background gave me part of the look I was looking for.
Two lights in grids were positioned behind the model at an angle. It was important that these two were never actually visible to the camera-way too much flare if they were. The background softboxes provided gobos, but light stands with poster boards attached would have worked if I needed to change the angles.
The main light was in an Alien Bee PLM system, which is really a glorified bounce umbrella. It's supposed to be more efficient, but I never had to test that since I shot relatively open at f/6.3-8, never straining my lights at all. Faster recycles, less eye strain on the model and a shallower depth of field are all bonuses.
Where I was lacking light was a fill which would have been positioned right next to me in front of the model. The PLM is huge, so it has to be pretty far to the side. The opposite side of the model would go dark pretty fast from the light falloff, so a fill would have given me slightly less of a ratio, but still be really nice, sculpted light.
With the background nearly pure white, the PLM was lighting my model and foreground. The tileboards I put down on the floor disappear into the curve of the 9' seamless paper, and the bottom half gets painted over in photoshop, as do any gaps or irregularities.
The light makes the picture look like it's straight off a page of watercolor paper, and then I enhance it even more in photoshop. First, stray bits of background are painted white, covering the bottom of the background, sides peaking around, and anything that shows up that isn't supposed to be there. Skin is retouched if required, and liquifying is done now, so we don't change masks later.
A layer of curves brightens the whole image, skin tones and background. If an area like a knee or an elbow is blown out, it will disappear so I mask those areas back in, and then brighten them individually with the dodge tool.
A second layer of curves pulled down, only affects the model, since our background is 100% white. This provides a punch of color, contrast, and usually, too much red. A hue/saturation layer with the red channel selected pulls down the reds just a little, and I mask in red clothing, accessories and lips.
Then I just go crazy with curves, using them to increase contrast or brightness in individual areas. Legs and eyes usually get brightened a little, hair gets added contrast, and the overall image is brought up to near the final look. Masks are on every individual part so I can fine-tune as much as I want. Dodging and burning is done on a 50% gray/softlight layer, usually on clothing to give it some pop and depth.
If the photoshop didn't scramble your brains a little bit, here's the finished product to finish the job for you.
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