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Easy Studio Lighting for Noir Portraits

By Chris Nachtwey on April 9th 2014

BTS-Noir-Portrait-Lighting (1 of 2)

Noir portraiture – timeless, sleek, and mysterious. A product of Hollywood’s film noir period of the 1940’s and 50’s, noir portraiture has the ability to tell a story in a single image. To create a timeless photo and add some serious punch to your portfolio, check out the video below from AdoramaTV for a simple yet affective way to achieve fantastic results.


The Noir Portrait Technique

The technique used in the video is one that you could easily replicate in the studio or in the field. The use of constant light sources really allow you to see the the light and help you create the mood for the image long before you click the shutter. Noir portraits call for some form of “texture” in the image. The addition of a gobo to create a pattern behind the subject is essential if creating a image like this in the studio. When in the field, you could use a brick wall or fog machine to create the”texture” that adds a little extra punch to the image.

noir-portrait-bts (1 of 1)

 Gear Used

Arri Junior 300 Tungsten Fresnel Light
Arri Four Leaf Barndoor for the Junior 300 Watt Fresnel Light Unit
Dedolight DLHM4, 150 Watt Tungsten Zoom Focus Light Head
Dedolight DLHM4, 150 Watt Tungsten Light Head
Dedolight Mono 150W 1-Light Tungsten Kit
Bowens Set of 12 M-Size Gobos
Dedolight Framing Shutter Blades


Coming from a videography background, I love the use of constant light sources. I’ve always found them to be the best when I need to mold and shape the light quickly or need to use my lighting to tell the story. While you could achieve the same results with strobes, I think adding a few constant lights to your kit allow you to create images where the light lends to the storyline.

Personally, I’ve always been drawn to noir portraits. They instantly ignite my imagination and I start creating a story in my head. For me, noir portraits embody what photography is; the ability to tell a story in a single frame.


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Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Greg Avant

    Can you go over how to do this with flash

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  2. Greg Faulkner

    Thanks for the share Chris. I’m spotting loads of articles I missed since the site got changed :)

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