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| p.1 #4 · how to get this look? |
The emotional triggers are all related to the fact the lighting clues are not "normal" looking: downward modeling vector, enough fill to see detail in even the darkest parts of his skin and clothing.
Here the light is coming from a vector lower than the "normal" perceptual baseline, about eye level on the left (as evidenced by the catchlights reflecting the source(s) and lower than normal highlight placement on his nose).
Relative to the front of the face the clue to placement is now it hits the eyes and nose. There is light in both eyes and it is not spilling over to the side of the head on the near side (part of what makes it dramatic). You get that highlight placement on the face when the key light creating the modeling is about 45 degrees from nose, 90 degrees from camera axis in this oblique facial angle.
The light sources appear to be a small light (upper catchlight) and a horizontal reflector (larger catchlight below) but there isn't much fill evident here. Either the shadows fell below what the sensor can capture (when exposed for detail in the highlights) or they were burned in during PP. Likely a bit of both if the photographer pre-visualized this result at capture.
SOOC the parts of the scene nearer the sources would be lighter due to the fall off so the wall and other non-highlight areas where most likely burned in. The overall look was high contrast SOOC due to the lighting ratio, but it was likely adjusted in PP also.
In terms of emotional reactions what lighting ratios and modeling direction do beyond the clues of 3D shape and texture are imply whether the mood and environment is "normal" (i.e., safe) or not. Use low angle, high-contrast lighting like this when you want environment to look scary and the subject moody or dangerous. In terms of body language the relaxed expression and fact he's looking up and away reads "thoughtful/moody" straight into the camera would have created a different reaction with the same lighting: aggressive if scowling, friendly (despite the lighting clues) if smiling.
Photos "work" when all the lighting and body language clues look "right" for the holistic context of what is seen: subject / clothing / location / pose / expression. We reach to those clues sub-consciously all the time. The challenge for a photographer is to become CONSCIOUSLY aware of them in order to know how to set the lights coach the subject to created them.
I did this exercise in lighting / perception to show how clothing and background context affect the impression of lighting strategies on faces. The shot was for an employee of the month poster, taken by standing on a chair in my office to get the "normal" looking downward modeling vector forward out of my scoop diffuser over the camera on a bracket and the diffuser pressed to the ceiling to blast max. "spill fill" off the ceiling and walls of the office to keep the shadow on his face and the one on the wall light and open, "normal" looking...
Here's the same file with the clothing and background changed to brown. The face was not changed:
In terms of overall look the dark background shot seems "harder" than the white background but still in the range of "normal" because there is still detail in the shadows on the face and clothing. I'd use a similar strategy for an environmental portrait like the posted example where I wanted a moody / scary background with a more or less normal looking face in it by lighting the photo SOOC based on the normal face criteria then in PP darken / blur everything other than the face to get the desired mood and balance in the overall impression of the scene.