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Portraits like Martin Schoeller:that's what makes them so special

Martin Schoeller besondere Portraitfotos

Good portraits require a lot of practice and the right hardware. As for accessories, ring lights and flashlights have become particularly popular in recent years. With these gadgets and a certain technique, the photographer Martin Schoeller, for example, has achieved some notoriety. We had this technique explained to us by professional photographer Mario Dirks.

1. Why is the Martin Schoeller effect in the eyes so exciting to look at and has helped the photographer achieve such success?
2. Why is light in the eyes so important in portraits overall?
3. What does the studio setup look like, with which you can realize such an effect?
4. What kind of post-processing would be needed for this kind of portraits?
5. On which factors does it depend whether to use a ring light or a rod light?
6. What technical requirements should the respective lights meet??

 

1. Why is the Martin Schoeller effect in the eyes so exciting to look at and has helped the photographer achieve such success?

Martin Schoeller has become famous through his series of portraits of famous people.

Using this technique, he has portrayed many celebrities around the world. Bill Clinton, Angelina Jolie, Sting, Jack Nicholson, but also George Clooney and Angela Merkel, to name just a few.
They're close-ups. The faces in the photos fill the format and appear very intense due to the frontal and emotionless gaze into the camera.

Schoeller's technique is always the same for this effect, he brings the camera to eye level and uses two neon tubes that softly illuminate the face from the right and left.
The light reflections make the eye look cat-like and thus magically attract the viewer's gaze. This fascinating view is supported by the shallow depth of field, so that the focus is very much on the eyes.

 

2. Why is light in the eyes so important in portraits overall?

Highlights in the eyes make it look alive. Eyes without light reflections usually appear dull, gloomy and lifeless, almost as if the person were already dead..
When you photograph with continuous light, the pupil usually closes more than when you photograph with flash. That is why the eyes and also the iris appear much more intense with their color in continuous light.

Portaitfotografie Mario Dirks 

3. What does the studio setup look like, with which you can realize such an effect?

It's actually relatively simple.
You need a stool for the model and a white background. As lighting for my set I have two Lumen Sticks used by Rollei, which I positioned relatively close to the right and left in front of the model. The light reflections in the eye became visible directly to the right and left of the pupil.

The color temperature of LED lights I set it to daylight (about 5600K). How light or dark the background becomes depends on how close I place my model and the lighting in front of it.
I photographed with 85 millimeters and apertures between 1.2 and 2.0 in order to achieve the shallowest possible depth of field. Because the focus has to be on the eyes.

Portraitfotos mit den Lumen Sticks

 

4. What kind of post-processing would be needed for this kind of portraits?

In fact, almost none, the photos already look impressive from the camera. You could still minimally adjust exposure, white balance or contrasts in the RAW development.

But as far as I know, Schoeller doesn't edit the pictures either, because he says they should be honest.

Rollei LED Lumen Sticks Portraitfotografie

 

5. On which factors does it depend whether to use a ring light or a rod light?

I think it depends on what result you want. The ring light provides very soft illumination, as the light falls evenly on the subject from all directions.
If I photograph or film in the middle of the ring light, then I also have almost no visible shadows on the photo or video.

One ring light can be used, for example, to shoot YouTube films with little effort or to optimally illuminate products, for example for sales portals on the Internet.

LED Ringleuchte Portraitfotos

I take pictures with one ring light portraits, then I get an intense round light reflex in my eyes. Incidentally, it should be placed in such a way that it encloses the pupil.

Portraitfotos mit einer Ringleuchte

 

6. What technical requirements should the respective lights meet (ie, as far as CRI and Co. are concerned))

They should be infinitely adjustable in intensity as far as possible. The color temperature should also be adjustable so that it can be adjusted to the ambient light, for example.
When I used to photograph or film indoors during the day with the available light (bulb), the automatic white balance would adjust to the relatively warm light. But as soon as a window became visible in the picture or daylight fell in, I immediately had a blue cast in the picture due to the different color temperatures.

All the settings should be easy to read and the light should be remotely controllable. Ideally via a remote control or even better with a mobile app. The lamps should be able to be operated with both mains (studio) and battery (outdoor) and still be as light and compact as possible.
In addition, they should be able to shine in all colors so that they can also be used as an effect light.

Note: Please note that the Lumen Stick RGB shown in the photos is the previous version without an integrated and non-removable handle. The technical specifications of the new model with integrated handle are identical. You can use the new Lumen Stick RGB for a shoot in the same way as described and shown here.

Portraitfotografie mit Effektlicht


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