Chiaroscuro Self Portrait: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


Hi everybody welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography right here on AdoramaTV. I’m Mark Wallace in Cairns, Australia. I’m in a really awesome little apartment and I’m here because well there’s a cyclone just outside and it is raining, raining, raining, so I’m stuck inside but I know that’s true of a lot of people right now because it’s almost summer but not quite yet. That’s okay because there’s all kinds of things that we can do inside and so today what I’m going to do is I’m going to create a self-portrait, something that I can use for a profile image or maybe self-promotion from a ride around the world and I’m going to pull a Gavin Hoey where I have some props to make some kind of energy in this image. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to use two tools to do this. I’m going to use the inverse square law and chiaroscuro. Now the inverse square law is something I’ve covered quite a bit in past episodes of Exploring Photography so if you’re not sure what the inverse square law is I’ve included the links to those videos in the description of this video so watch those because it’s really magical once you learn about this stuff. The other thing chiaroscuro, oh well that’s an Italian term that was sort of introduced during the Italian Renaissance and it means light/dark. It’s when you have a really light area and an image that is almost completely black. chiaroscuro: light, dark. You can see this in old pictures by Vemeer and you can see them like for the Mona Lisa, got a really bright area surrounded by a really dark area. So we’re going to do that using the inverse square law and we’re going to use an artificial light source, so you can do this with a speedlight. I’m going to be using a Profoto B2 so it doesn’t really matter what you use but you will need a softbox and a grid. So we’re going to set up this apartment and then we’re going to show you all of the things that I’ve used to set this up and we’re going to get going, so let’s do that right now. Now that the room is set up, let me show you how I have the light set up and then we’ll get to the camera here in a second. We want to control this light because we want that light, dark, chiaroscuro look and so what we’ve done here is this light is at a weird angle. It’s almost at a 90 degree angle to our camera. We’ve done that on purpose because we want to make sure that we control everything now just as a note this is a Profoto B2, that’s what is powering this head right here in this small softbox. It doesn’t really matter you can use a speed light or whatever but I’m using a Profoto B2 and I’ve got this nice two-foot octa box here and a grid on the front of this. iI’s going to really control the light. Notice though how close this light is to this chair. I’m going to be sitting right here in this chair about right here with this helmet on, so it’s really, really close. That’s about, I don’t know less than a foot. We’re doing that because of the inverse square law which says that when a light is really close the lights going to be exposed properly here but then it’s going to fall off really rapidly so everything else is going to be dark. So we have chiaroscuro, light, dark, we’re also putting this at a 90 degree angle to the camera because we don’t want to light up the back. So back here we have this wall back here that’s white, so we don’t want to light that up so that’s why the light is facing this way. The inverse square law is going to take care of most of this. This isn’t going to fall completely into darkness but it’ll be dark enough that we can clean it up in post-production. So that’s all fine. Now what we need to do is make sure that our camera isn’t capturing any ambient light. We want to make sure that the only thing that the light sees is the light from the flash, so to do that I set my camera to F/11, 1/180th of a second and ISO 100, so we need to make sure that the flash matches that so I’m going to do is turn on my meter here and then once that’s on, I just meter to the light. Normally I’d meter to the camera but I just want a meter for the highlights. So I’m metering to the light in this instance so I’ll hold up my light meter, I will take that reading that meters right at F/11 because I set it in advance, so normally you might have to do some adjustments but this is meters at F/11, let’s talk really quickly about the camera itself. So the camera I’m shooting with my Leica M10 and what I’ve done here is I’ve set this to aperture value of F/11 I’ve set this to ISO 100 but I’m manually focusing, so let me show you how to manually focus this. So what I’ve done here, I’m going to put this on top of my camera so it will trigger the flash, is I’ve used Live View and Live View allows me to look and I’ve got this thing called Peaking your camera probably has it as well but when I focus my camera, the thing that’s in focus is going to show up all red, so I want to make sure that the entire chair is showing up red and it does and that means that the entire chair is going to be in focus and because I’m going to be sitting in the chair that means I’m going to be in focus. The other thing I want to do is change my drive mode so that it is on a self timer of 12 seconds, so I have that set up. Now when I push the shutter release on my camera. I have 12 seconds to run over, sit in the chair, strike a pose. The flash will fire, I’ll do my self-portrait and then we can look in post-production and clean everything up. So everything is set, let me put on my riding gear and let’s get started. I am suited up and now I’m going to start by pushing my shutter. I have 12 seconds, and strike a pose. I’m going to look into the light, cross my arms, look macho and I wait for it, boom and there we go. So let’s look into the camera and make sure everything is right. We’ll do a few more and then we’ll have the post-production. I’m already in the develope module of Lightroom and this is the image that is the winner from the images that I shot. Now to save time I’ve already made some very basic tonality adjustments. I’ve de-saturated, increased the clarity, change the blacks and the shadows, just a hair but that’s about all I’ve done. Now this is a good start but we have some image issues. We have me centered. We don’t want that. The left hand side of the image still has some light spill so we also need to fix that and I want to add a little bit more punch to the image. Let’s start by fixing the light spill on the left hand side of the image. We can do that by grabbing an adjustment brush and I’ll set the exposure here to negative 4 and I’ve got a nice big brush, I can just brush out the left-hand side of this image and clean that up very, very quickly. Now we’ve got this perfect chiaroscuro look; an absolutely black background with me highlighted dead center. I don’t want to be dead center. I want this to be more of a 16 X 9 cinematic look that you know, I love and add some more negative space on the right and get rid of some of this on the left. Now to do that we’re going to be changing pixels and so to do that, I need to hop over into Photoshop so I will right-click say edit in Photoshop CC 2018 and now my image is going to open in the Photoshop application.Now that we’re in Photoshop I just need to do a couple of things. The first thing I need to do is take the background that’s my image here, I’m going to double click on it to change that into a normal layer. I’m going to change the name of the layer to Mark that’s me and then I’m going to add another layer and I’m going to name that one background, alright and then I’m going to drag background underneath Mark, so now we have our layers set up. The next thing I want to do is grab my crop tool. So I’ll grab that and I want to set this to a 16 X 9 aspect ratio, so we just do this right up here at the top 16 X 9 and then what I will do I will drag me over to the left and then I will increase the size of this so it matches the image, oops, matches the image, like that, okay so now we have me on the left-hand side, lots of negative space on the right. Maybe I’ll just drag that something like that and I will accept that. Chunk, now what we have is this negative space on the right but it’s got nothing in it, that’s why we created this background layer so all I need to do is make sure that my colors are set to the default so I can do that by hitting the D key and then I need to make sure that black is the background color, I’ll do that by hitting the X key and then I can say command delete to fill the background with black. Command, delete to do that. Now I’ve got me on the left hand side, I have filled this in with black it is wonderful, so all that’s left for me to do now is to save this so I’ll hit Command S to save and that is going to save this back into Lightroom where we have one more thing to do. Alright now back in Lightroom you can see this is the Photoshop edited image. So we’ll double click that, so now we’re back into full-screen view. Then I’ll right click and I want to edit this one more time but this time I want to edit this in Analog Effects Pro 2 because it has a nice finishing look. So I’m going to choose my default menu options here. My default file settings and things like that and click Edit Analog Effects Pro 2 is going to pop up. I’ll make sure this is full screen and once this loads in there’s just one small thing I need to do. Now I have created all kinds of presets so I have one called Arai Selfie, I’ll click on that. It’s a very, very simple preset that I created specifically for this image and all it’s done is, I’ve used the basic adjustments to do some detail extraction, change the contrast just a bit, a little bit and desaturate this.That’s it, that’s all I’ve done, but I like the finishing look of this image. You can see it really sort of gives me that motorcycle grungy look. So I’ll click Save and that image will show back up in Lightroom. Now we will go to the develop module in Lightroom and we’re doing this so it’s non-destructive and there’s one more thing I want to do. I don’t like my hands in this image. We don’t have a nice enough crop, on my eyes, in my face, we need to get in much closer, so I’m going to get the crop tool by hitting R, R is still at the original which is 16 X 9 but just to prove it I’ll choose 16 X 9 and then I’m just going to bring this into about right there, so it’s a much tighter crop much, much tighter. I like that better. There we go just like that that’s good, I’ll hit the enter key to accept. I’ve got this little highlight right there that I don’t like, so once again the adjustment tool it’s already at negative 4, make this much smaller just to get rid of these highlights up here on the top and now just like that our image is done. Thanks for joining me for this episode of Exploring Photography. Don’t forget to subscribe to AdoramaTV, click subscribe right now. Also you can check me out on Instagram and you can see how I put my photography tips into everyday use. Thanks again and I will see you again next time.

34 Replies to “Chiaroscuro Self Portrait: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace”

  1. First motorcycle selfie ever made with a Leica.

    Nice final image, and will remember the tip on resizing to a larger canvas.

  2. 1:04 not to pick the nit, but what you describe there is "tenebrism", and the Mona Lisa is an example of "sfumato".

  3. Thank you for the inspiration. I’ll do something similar for myself. Isn’t this funny, becoming one’s own model.

  4. Might have a cyclone but at least we don't have any snow…Go Queensland! back in the 70's myself and a mate had a photography business called Chiaroscuro Photography ,needless to say we concentrated on …B/W . Enjoy my home state and keep up the good work.

  5. Hi Mark, I always enjoy your videos and tutorials. I recently started shooting with the Leica M10 and loving it. Quick suggestion: you might want to try out Leica M app (currently only available in Apple iOS) instead of self timer. You can connect directly from the iphone to the camera. It works really well! 🙂 Thanks for putting these useful videos together!

  6. Why you pre defind the crop tool in PS, then complete the image. It's better just drag que BG then paint it Black?

  7. Actually not Monalisa, but chiaroscuro is almost the trademark of Caravaggio: his studies of light are mesmerizing!

  8. I have watched literally hundreds of your videos. This is the first one to disappoint me. Like, what are you talking about? Low key, maybe, but not DaVinci or Vermeer.

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