The Portrait Sessions : Marques Toliver

Hi gang,

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Had a lot of shoots, some portraiture, some modelling, some uncategorized!

First of all, finally had a chance to shoot Marques Toliver. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re a fool. Look him up on Spotify or something.

Marques' Ghost

He’s a ridiculously talented singer, musician and performer. Originally from New York where he spent a lot of time busking in the streets, he quickly made it to London and the rest of the world. He often performs with Lianne La Havas, another really talented singer you might have just heard of.

We got in touch through a mutual friend, Youri Luyten who is a design intern at Love is the Law Magazine. A new magazine, by the hand of Tom Minor that celebrates the sensuous in art, literature and life. Marques needed some promotional images, press kit stuff. A great portrait session in other words.

We quickly established what was needed during a pre-production meeting and set a date.

Marques is an incredibly kind person, that knows what he wants.

We started of with some basic portraits, perfect for warming up. No matter how skilled either party is, there is always a warming up period. You could be Annie Leibovitz and George Clooney (how many times have they teamed up for portraits? A hundred times perhaps?) there will always be that ice to break. Seeing what you get.

First portait is lit with 2 lights. Rented the Profoto 7b for this here in Antwerp at Calumet. 2 1200W/s heads. One Beauty dish and one Softbox. White background. Lights blasting at low level of power, no light on Marques. This creates this awesome silhouette that you see. Image was captured on a Nikon D3X. Amazing camera, incredible files. It’s not as good as the D3S in terms of noise performance at high ISO’s but it delivers 24MP RAW’s, which is double the size of the D3S’. Perfect for promotional material, you never know in which format those things are going to be used (albums, posters, …). I’m curious to see how the D3X holds up to the D800. DxO Mark sets the D800E as the best camera available in terms of dynamic range, EV, etc… Even higher than the highly-coveted PhaseOne IQ180. Crazy right? I’ve got a shoot coming up where I’ll be shooting the D800E and i’ll post the results after on this blog.

A Violinist's Soul

Next we decided to switch it up a bit. Lit with a the Profoto beautydish (or as they call it the Softlight Reflector Silver) We used the Silver one, because it creates a more dramatic skin texture, which is great for men. If you’re shooting women or beauty images, go with the white one. It’ll give you a very smooth light. It was positioned on the high left of Marques. No diffusion cloth on, and no grid. You can clearly see the highlight on his head. Usually this is to be avoided, but we decided that the complexion of his skin allowed for such a ‘blown out’ effect, and loved the results so we kept rocking this set up for a while. There is also a softbox at his right providing the fill. Used the standard 4×6. It’s perfect for adding a simple fill to someone, you can easily light a whole person with it. It’s just a standard softbox, but still.

_STU2665

Same setup, only now I gridded the beautydish for a much more focused, thight beam of light. You can see there’s less much spill on the sides, and the face is much more defined by the constrained light. The fill-light softbox was scaled down to it’s lowest output setting.

_STU2688

Once again, the same beautydish setup. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the shadows and harshness a BD provides but it is by far my favorite lighting instrument. Also placed a light behind Marques on the floor, to light the background evenly. You can clearly see the effect of the beautydish on his face now, the lights falls off so quickly!

Marques' Complexion

Marques-089

Marques-086

These are perhaps my favourite ones. Once again, the gridded beautydish. Friggin’ LOVE that light diffuser. On the first one, it was the only lightsource. We killed all the other lights (We had some Nikon Speedlights provide a tiny bit of light here and there, nothing major) and the effect it gave was just amazing. His facial expressions in these 3 shots are just amazing as well, very powerful yet understated. This is portraiture at his best in my opinion. When you’re able to convey so many emotions into one still frame, you’ve succeeded on both ends. This is why photography is such a powerful medium. It’s unparalleled for this kind of sessions.

Here’s a lighting scheme for the basic setup.

Light Scheme

I also shot with a Mamiya 645 Pro TL. Shot rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 & Kodak T-Max 100 . Lovely stuff, really digging the imperfections of film. Ordered a case of Tri-X & Tmax. Really believe it’s going to be revived big time. Digital has become kind of boring to me, it’s too perfect. It’s flawless if you know how to work your equipment and lights. That’s also why here we decided to go for harsh, blown out looks that normally would not be ‘acceptable’. Follow your vision, it’s endlessly more important than gear! Some of my favorite shots were shot on & 15-year old Mamiya!

The 7b-1200 performed wonderfully well. It was the first time using Profoto gear, but I know now why I’ll rent them in the future. Incredibly fast recycle time, reliable color stability, great light and durability. It’s not their latest pack (Their flagship pack is the 8a I think) but it was still quite an amazing step up from any other brand. Didn’t get a chance to play with the Air Remote as this was shot using a sync cable, but I hear amazing things of it. Maybe in the future. Just glad I finally got to work on such important portraits using them!

If you want to check out Marques Toliver on Spotify, just follow this link!

Marques Toliver – Magic Look

He also did an awesome song with producer/DJ Compufonic that you can check out here!

Anyway, now it’s family time. Time to look back, enjoy and stare at a spider-infested fire hazard filled with lights 🙂

I wish every single one of my readers a fantastic newyear, and merry christmas!

Cheers!,

MM

MM

M

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