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Thread: George Hurrell lighting

  1. #1

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    George Hurrell lighting

    I am preparing myself for for a few portraits of friends and family. One friend, an attractive middle aged girl, is a singer and she really digs the arts. She asked me if i could do a portrait of her like the old hollywood style portraits. I of course said that it would be no problem. I am looking forward to the project. So I have been studying Hurrell images since he was always one of my favorites. I just love George Hurrell's work. But sometimes I have a hard time trying to figure out what lighting sets he used on some of the images. It seems like the lights are coming from everywhere. I read that he used as many lights as he could get his hands on. My research continues.

  2. #2

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    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    Yes, you can drive yourself crazy trying to locate all the lights in his setups. Instead, it might be more useful to simply identify the lighting pattern/ direction of the main light, lighting ratio, and quality of the light. It's almost always, Butterfly, 1:2, or less, and hard. You can throw in a few kickers, hair lights and background lights, but I think the real challenge becomes controlling all that light spilling everywhere, so add at least as many flags/gobos as you have lights. And shoot with a big Verito!

  3. #3
    William Whitaker's Avatar
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    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    This is a good primer:
    http://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Port...1259119&sr=1-2

    Not specifically Hurrell, but then there were several very talented photographers of that genre.

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    A family member has a big 40X60 Jane Russell print. I think Jay has the
    right idea. And at least one of his assistants is still alive and I've chatted
    with him. I don't try to copy what he did, but have been able to arrive at
    a similar effect at times. I just use big sheets of polyester or silk as semi-diffusers, then place a big Arri focusing fresnel light behind them, which is
    old movie-style and very fast to control the diffusion. Add a few reflectors
    and a fill-in hot light or two, and it seems to work. I'm not a portrait pro
    by any means, but am perhaps more skilled in the dkrm for the final necessary tweaks. I would be curious if anyone knows his actual lens selection. I know that at times an 11X14 camera was involved.

  5. #5

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    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    There are not many pictures of him in the studio working but a few that I have seen show four light set ups and always a boom light. He really liked that boom. It's also interesting how strong and hard the lighting was, but yet the pictures had that intense glow.

  6. #6
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    I would be curious if anyone knows his actual lens selection.
    I've always heard a Verito early, and a Celor later on.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  7. #7

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    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by Will Whitaker View Post
    This is a good primer:
    http://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Port...1259119&sr=1-2

    Not specifically Hurrell, but then there were several very talented photographers of that genre.
    I will be ordering this one for sure.

  8. #8

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    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    One of my favorites is one of his later portraits. I think the the woman, Shannon Tweed, was a model or an actress. The lighting seems more simple in the later work.

  9. #9

    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    Attempting to create the Hollywood portraiture look of the 1930's is more difficult than it appears. Hurrell, C.S.Bull, Robert Coburn, Ruth Louise, and others had a great understanding of light, light quality, an amazing ability to "see" light and had masterful compositional skills.

    In trying to recreate the Hollywood look of the 1930’s keep in mind modern flash units cannot replicate the “hardness” of the fresnel focusing spots nor produce that wonderful intense glow created by the high UV content carbon-arc lights of the 1930’s. These lights rendered lips dark and made rosy complexions look more dramatic than they were. Now, having said this, an easy way to mimic this “hardness” look and intense glow is to bring your lights close to your subject. You may find you have to feather or skim your lights to mimic the effect of the spots. Additionally, you may find it necessary for your model to wear heavier than normal lipstick and blush.

    Hurrell sometimes employed as few as one light and as many as five or more in his set-ups. It was not the number of lights, but his ability to “see” light coupled with his compositional skills which made his work great.
    Although I have never seen Hurrell's actual lighting ratios, his images suggest a ratio range from 2:1 to around 9:1 or higher. With today's film combined with modern coated lenses, I would start with an 8:1 ratio (3 stops) for dramatic character portraits and somewhere near a 4:1 (2 stops) for soft romantic images.

    Finally, Hurrell’s basic lighting scheme centered upon three distinct styles, butterfly (called paramount in the 1930’s), loop and Rembrandt. He employed other lighting schemes but these were his default patterns.

    To Good Light.
    Harrison

  10. #10

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    Re: George Hurrell lighting

    In the classic image of Hurrel leaning over the big studio camera, the lens is recognizably, a Cooke knuckler. Somewhere I read it was an 18" Cooke on the 11X14. The picture with the lens by his head, seems to be a Goerz lens. I'll just bet he had 'em all! Heck, all I lack is talent and pretty women.

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