Thursday, September 6, 2012

Girl with a Pearl Earring - or - Look Ma, No Studio!

Photograph © Rick Sammon
One of my favorite paintings is, "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. The painting has been referred to as, "The Mona Lisa of the North." Hey, I like it even better than the Mona Lisa.

One of my favorite movies is "Girl with a Pearl Earring," starring Scarlett Johansson.

Both the painting and the movie inspired my "Girl with a Pearl Earring - The Photograph" shoot.

I wanted to recreate the lighting and look and feel of the portrait with my digital camera and bit of Photoshop work. I made the portrait in my office. I don't have a studio, but I turned my office into one in about 15 minutes. We shoot here during my Croton Creative Worksop.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots and a bit about what went into making the photograph – which was a ton of fun, by the way!


The first step was to get the props - two scarfs from Macy's. My niece, Brooke (a very, very new mom!) taught my wife, Susan, how to wrap the scarfs. We had a print-out of the painting on hand for guidance.


Before my model, Maggie (my neighbor's daughter) showed up, I set up a very basic lighting system. One Canon 580EX II Speedlite in a Westcott Apollo soft box. I fired the flash with my Canon ST-E2 Wireless transmitter. I shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 100mm lens.

I shot tethered, using Canon Digital Photo Processional to see my pictures on my MacBook Pro. The Beatles looked on, from a poster I got in 1967 - I think. I had a print attached to the soft box, and one next to my computer, for guidance.


When Maggie arrived, another neighbor's daughter, Zoe, helped with the wardrobe. Again, a print of the painting was on hand for guidance.


It was finally time to shoot! My wife, Susan, helped set up the shot, while Zoe held a Westcott black panel on the opposite side of the soft box to deaden the light.


I only took 25 pictures of Maggie. Having my light set up – and tested – in advance reduced the number of variables. The entire shoot took less than 1.5 hours.


I did a bit of work in Photoshop: cropping, increasing the contrast, dodging the earring, and using the Color Replacement brush to change some of the colors in the image. I spent maybe one hour in Photoshop.



We had a blast making the photograph. And, my friends, here is perhaps the most important tips when it comes to portraiture: Make it fun for your subject.

What really makes this image so cool is Maggie. Never underestimate the importance of a good model - and the right model. I knew Maggie was perfect for the part.

Here the gear I used:

Canon 580EX II Speedlite



Black Panel in Westcott 6-1 Kit

All my gear is listed on my Gear page.

For cool digital effects, including skin softening, check out Topaz Adjust. Info on my Creative Plug-ins page.

Explore the light,
Rick

P.S. You'll find more lighting tip in my apps.



30 comments:

Rick Lewis said...

What a wonderful image! She really looks like the girl in the original painting!! How convenient:-)

David Henderson said...

This is very cool. Again, thank you for showing how you did your magic. Awesome!

dmone said...

Stunning. She does make the title more interesting, and she could really be the monalisa of the north. :D Love the shot!

bellavocediva said...

This is great! I love the painting and your photo is stunning.

newelly said...

very nice,thanks

miro said...

excellent blog. I enjoyed reading

Ahlamm said...

its cool and clever photographing i like it

foosion said...

Nice work.

The artist is "Vermeer" not "Vemeer."

Bill Mueller said...

Hey Rick,great post. I loved seeing how you created that shot. It's amazing what you can do without a ton of equipment when you know what you're doing. Thanks for teaching.

Lucy-Ruth said...

Such a beautiful portrait, you've done the painting justice.

SciReg said...

oh, it is a great post! I really like it!^_^

Scarlet said...

I find thematic photography and experimentation with new looks, absolutely interesting and fulfilling. The model and photographer, you both deserve the Thumbs Up Three Cheers for the success and beauty of this depiction. I agree with Lucy when she said you did justice to the painting- you brought it to life! :)

thanhtam said...

very beautiful !i love your site !thanks...

miptog said...

Thank you for sharing. What I have learnt from it:

1-Simple lighting can be really effective
2-To have a vision of what you want to achieve
3- Its a collaborative effort of the photographer, model, stylist.
4- The importance of finishing touches in post process

Anonymous said...

Great image and tutorial. Thanks alot Rick. Begs a question though? How do you get the EOS 580II to fire inside the Westcott speedlite softbox using your camera-mounted Canon ST-E2 when one can't see the other?

Rick Sammon said...

Anon... (What is your real name :-) )

I use a STE2 controller.

Best,
Rick

Jim said...

Hey Rick,
Not new to your photography but new to your blog, I enjoyed this "situation" with the portrait. Her laughing is almost as "good" as the other; I think you know what I mean. To make people smile is in many ways priceless.
But yes the portrait is great!!
Jim C

Joseph Stanski said...

Rick - you have learned a very valueable lesson with everything, I sure in your life, that is, "In order to keep it, you must give it away". And you sure show us all how's it done buddy. Joseph :o)

Joanie said...

Love seeing all of the steps and the people who helped! Thanks for sharing!!

Casandra said...

One of my fave paintings and movies too! And the model is a great likeness to the original art. What a great, great inspiration this blog has been!!!

Ivan said...

Absolutely stunning. Thanks for de-constructing the picture for us!!

Alan Carr said...

I love the Vermeer painting. Recreating it as a photo is a great idea. Have a look at British photographer Tom Hunter's 'Woman Reading a Reposession Order' - a brilliant take on a Vermeer classic - a wonderful image that I never tire of viewing.
http://www.readingwoman.org/en/cols/2005/8.html

Jim Martin said...

@miptog - Yes, I agree that vision is the key!
I'll bet Vermeer didn't have a softbox. Wouldn't a big window have also done the trick, Rick, as in the original?

Rick Sammon said...

Jim.. I'll try a window next time it's sunny :-)

Seriously,you are probably correct.

Thank you and thank everyone here!

Best,
Rick

Kelly Mann said...

Simply wonderful...Thank you SO much for sharing. I am a big fan of you and am delighted to see you dip into art history, and make a connection between the centuries. Great portraiture is timeless, and the Old Masters have much to teach us if we only open our eyes. Splendid...

Anonymous said...

It is BETTER than the original painting.

Anonymous said...

Rick, your image is exquisite! While it is not the same as the painting it is still a significant accomplishment to make a photograph like this. I have taken a similar portrait like this on film but it is entirely contemporary and does not even remotely resemble the painting. Your image is simply stunning and represents a significant achievement.

Jim Meldrum said...

Rick:

You ought to do a book on the making of the Girl With A Pearl Ear Ring photograph. There is always a story behind the story and this image is simply stunning. I've done a similar image on film but it is completely contemporary and resembles the painting only in passing. Yours is simply superb.

Jim Meldrum said...

Rick:

Your website for the Girl With A Pearl Earring photo portrait is one of my favorite sites and a constant source of inspiration.

Pat Morrissey said...

Excellent - thanks for the walk-through.