Portrait photographer Alexander Alexandrov likes somber moods and stories, and he knows how to use lighting to achieve that effect. For instance, he recently made a gridded softbox look like a barred window. Read the story and learn how.
Alexander Alexandrov was born in Voronezh, Russia, but moved to the United States in his late teens. It was here that he discovered his love for photography – for people photography in particular.
“I like to shoot people,” says Alexander. “I wouldn’t say just portraits, but close to that. I like character-driven visual storytelling. Even if it’s a cool location and high fashion wardrobe, the eyes are still “the window to the person’s soul”, as the saying goes.”
In terms of lighting, what would you say is the most important thing to remember as a people photographer?
“I think it’s important to always try to do it in a way that doesn’t call attention to it and doesn’t distract but adds to the photograph. Most importantly, if you can understand your setup and it feels right to you and you understand why, then you got it.”
Do you have any personal preferences when it comes to light?
“I tend to like somber moods and stories, likely because I grew up in an inner city environment with more of a gloomy feel to it. This translates emotionally into characters as well. I can’t say I favor soft or hard light for example, as such things can only be said specific to a task at hand, and I’m glad to take on any task I can relate to. But my heart lurks in underexposed semi-silhouettes keyed from the back closer to the character’s real soul, rather than perfect commercial beauty, selling some product I may have no passion about.”
Alexander’s portraits of ex-convict turned model and family man Sly Vicious are good examples of the above-mentioned style of lighting. The lighting is quite detailed and dramatic, yet you don’t really notice it until you look for it.
“Sly is a unique person,” says Alexander. “He was paroled last year after a lengthy prison stretch and remains clean and sober to this day. He recently celebrated his first wedding anniversary with a wonderful woman who took a chance and married him while still incarcerated. They are expecting a baby boy in June, and he is already the father of three boys and three girls. In addition to modeling, he works at a regular job to pay the bills, but every photo shoot makes the difference between having to tell his kids yes or no when they’re asking for something.”
So how did you light these images?
“I used three Pro-B Heads powered by two Pro-7b battery generators. The key light was equipped with an octagonal softbox. The backlight was usually positioned above and behind the subject and equipped with a strip softbox with a grid. You can see the softbox in the image where Sly is leaning forward. It looks like a window with bars, but it’s actually the softbox with a grid. The third light was a bare Pro-B Head, flagged off with some black foil. The head was lying on the floor, lighting the background. I also used a small LED light in some of the shots to create the catch light in Sly’s eyes.”
What was the greatest challenge of the shoot?
“The greatest challenge was to actually make it happen. This is often the case with a personal project such as this. First of all, it’s hard to find an assistant to help you for free. Neither was I able to scout the location the day before, and I knew that Sly wouldn’t be able to stay for very long, so I pretty much had to execute the shoot on the fly in a very short period of time. Luckily for me, my friend Austin Herring came on board to help me, and I was able to pre-light the set with him as a stand-in. Once Sly showed up we got all the shots in less than 15 minutes. So yes, there were a couple of challenges. But none of them greater than the joy of doing a something like this – something honest and personal.”
See more of Alexander Alexandrov’s images at his website.
Trackback from your site.