Charles Lanteigne Photo

The Gentleman

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I had been wanting to take a picture of my friend Mathieu for Movember, as he traditionally sports an impressive moustache, but the timing wasn't right. I ended up bringing my equipment to his place a few weeks later to make a tongue-in-cheek portrait of him. I let him decide which clothes he was going to wear, and I wasn't disappointed!


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From a previous visit to his apartment, I already knew where I wanted to take the picture and I had an idea of where I'd put my lights. I also knew I wanted to play with colors and smoke, but that was going to be experimental. Standing in the doorway to his tiny living room, with him sitting on the edge of the couch, this was the way the light looked (a lamp hanging from the middle of the ceiling):

The ambient light in his living room.

Needless to say, I was going to kill that light and create my own lighting from scratch. The first light I placed was a small (24"x36") softbox with a CTB gel in it as the main light, to my left, as high as it could go in the doorway. The idea was that by correcting for the blue gel of the main light, all the other lights (not using any coloration) would naturally become much warmer.

From a single light to the final light setup.

Next, I put a second light in the opposite direction (on the other side, slightly from the back) in a small strip softbox (with egg crates, to avoid spill and flare) so as to clearly separate him from the background and bring up texture in his suit. A third light (in a simple reflector), at low power, bounced on the left wall, was used to wake up the room, which was otherwise much too dark. (The yellow spot in the window is from a street light.)

I am using a 50mm lens, with the camera set at 1/125th, ƒ/2.0, at ISO 100. The choice of lens was more or less imposed by the very limited space available, so as to include just enough of the background not to reveal the library, flat screen TV and other elements that would have been distracting.

As a final touch, I plugged in my fog machine in the room and let out just a tiny amount of smoke. It doesn't take a lot of it in such a small space to have a massive effect, as can be seen below, so we waited a minute or two for the excess fog to dissipate.

No fog, too much fog, just a touch of fog.

What makes the image work, for me, is a combination of all the elements. His choice of clothing (the color of the suit and bow), the color of the wall and wood, his pipe, all working together with the warm light around him and the fog to create the "billiards room" ambiance.

This was a lot of fun and I was quite happy with the result (especially considering the space constraints!)

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