03 Shoot film noir style
Looking for a portrait photography project with a difference? Try mooching around your local streets at night to create moody film noir shots.
The classic Hollywood film-noir period was in the 1940s and 1950s, and crime thrillers of the sub-genre are notable for their shadowy cinematography and air of mystery.
To recreate the effect in stills photography, you’ll need to find a suitable location that offers a strong contrast between shadows and highlights. Expose for the highlights, and let the shadows become black and featureless.
“Mood and atmosphere are very important for this genre,” explains Italian photographer Emiliano Grusovin, who has built a striking collection of film-noir shots. “Use underexpose to create the ‘closed’ shadows, and shoot into the light if you want to create intriguing silhouettes.
“Often my shots are straight out of the camera, other times I apply a crop or a slight adjustment to the brightness – although these really are only small adjustments.
I don’t do the black and white processing in software either; I simply use my Sony NEX 3’s ‘high contrast black and white’ picture style.”
The trench-coated character in Emiliano’s pictures is the photographer himself. “I don’t head out at a specific time,” he says, “but late night is better because there’s less chance of encountering other people on the streets.
I have run into other people during my solitary photo sessions (I work with the camera on a tripod, triggered by the self-timer).
Sometimes they look at me as though I’m a bit crazy, especially during the heat of summer when they see me walking around dark alleys in my trench coat and hat.”
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* Watch some film-noir masterpieces for inspiration, such as Night and the City and The Asphalt Jungle.
* Pay a great deal of attention to the way in which the shadows fall in the frame.
* Have a go at shooting in mist and rain for added atmosphere.
* If you’re shooting self-portraits, keep to areas that you know well.
* Use the in-camera black and white picture style to instantly see how the shot will look.
PAGE 1: Shoot twilight portraits
PAGE 2: Shoot still life photography with personality
PAGE 3: Shoot a film noir style
PAGE 4: Shoot quiet landscapes
PAGE 5: Shoot out of focus
PAGE 6: Shoot faces in unusual places
PAGE 7: Shoot pictures of weather
PAGE 8: Shoot wildlife with long exposures
PAGE 9: Shoot baby sheep
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