You may or may not be familiar with the original Hannibal Lecter Saga (the movies Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon). In 2013 a series inspired by these movies started and is now in it's third season set in the time before "Silence of the Lambs" and starring danish actor Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal.
The photo below is the cover of the current issue of the Red Bulletin (Red Bull's Magazine) and shows a portrait of Mikkelsen taken by the amazing danish photographer Kenneth Willard.
We thought it would be fun to try to replicate this image style, so in the next couple of lines I will describe how I went about trying to do that and in the end you'll see if we got any close.
First I tried to figure out possible camera settings that were used here. There is not too much depth of field going on and the image shows no distortion that would be caused by a wider angle lens. I assumed that an 85mm lens (on a full frame camera) should be fairly close to what was used here. Depth of field for that lens was likely to be around f4.0 or so, given that the hand and eyes were in focus but the brick wall in the back was already soft and slightly out of focus. f1.8 would have the tip of the nose (and the hand) already out of focus, f8 would also render the wall sharp.
Second: lighting. In the image above I noticed that overall, the lighting was rather harsh, high contrast but there were no overly blown highlights.
One possibility would be sunlight, I was pretty sure that this was not shot outdoors since the shadows fell at an angle that was rather low - almost parallel to the wall. Also the color of the shadows was rather black and colorless.. not slightly blue as you might expect from skylight being bounced around.
So the remaining option was a rather small lightsource above the subject - almost centered based on the shadows under the nose.
I chose a speedlight (Yongnuo YN-560 II Speedlight Flash ) and arranged it centered and above the model using a lightstand with a weighted arm. I decided on using a beauty-dish for a first try.
As you can see the shadow under the nose is way too long. I repositioned the dish much lower - almost in front of her. It also seemed that the light was not hard enough at the top of the head so I positioned the dish closer to her head.
I felt the shadow below the nose is pretty close to the original so I kept the setup of the beauty dish in this position.
Next to this main light light in the original photo there is also a strong rimlight on one side of Mikkelsen face (the white light outlining the cheek where the blood is smeared). Usually such a rimlight is achieved by positioning a light or a reflector behind the model on one side to prevent lighting it up too much. Given that he was standing directly against a wall however, this seemed odd.
I tried to achieve the effect with a reflector but it was not possible to get an angle where I could get a strong rimlight on the cheek. So I figured I would try to make the lighting work with the rimlight by positioning the model further from the wall and using a flash with a scrim - this way the shadow would not look the same as in the original but I can fix that in post if need be.
This is the shot we went with:
You will notice that in the original photo the colors are quite desaturated and there is a lot of contrast going on. So I went on to edit the photo in photoshop.
Before we go into editing: here is the complete light setup we used:
The beauty dish is from roundflash - fairly cheap and foldable (available here ). One reflector 1 is a DIY reflector, reflector2 a 5 in one reflector - also foldable (available here ). There are two Yognuo 560 II flashes in the scene, both are triggered by the flash of the camera (Nikon D610) which I set to lowest power. For the rim ligfht flash I added a little scrim to prevent light hitting the white background (just taped onto the flash - McGuyver style). The lightstand for the main flash is from Dynasun and The rimlight flash is actually held by a refurbished microphone stand.
Would I do the setup again then I would probably position the dish even lower and almost directly in front of the model. But it worked decently as it was I think.
Here is the starting image:
While still in Lightroom I pushed the whites up a bit (+33), darkened the shadows (-5) and increased overall exposure slightly (+0.70). I then exported to photoshop.
First I shortened the shadow behind her by making a copy of the image on a new layer, shifting it to the side and creating a layer mask to paint the rest of the background in.
Next I wanted to increase the highlights a bit (a process usually called "dodging"). One way to do this is to create a copy of the background layer, run Filter>High Pass (I used 114.8 pixels for my 24MP image) and set it to overlay mode. I reduced the opacity of this layer to 20% (otherwise the effect would be too strong).
I deasturated the image slightly (Hue/Saturation Layer with saturation set to -15) and added a background image (a brick wall) which I blurred slightly using Filter>Gaussian blur.
Compared to the original there was a slight shadow under the hand which I painted in. I also brightened the bow of the nose slightly and finally toned down the forehead a bit using a new layer set to blending mode "color" on which I painted some skin color with the paintbrush tool over the forehead area. I also slightly painted over some areas on the face and hair to lighten the nose and her brow slightly. Here is the final image:
So there you go. Next time you want to look like a serial killer, maybe try this setup ;)
Follow my blog with Bloglovin