A gruesome portrait, if ever there was one | Profoto (CA)

A gruesome portrait, if ever there was one

16 December, 2015

Written by: Jens-Linus Lundgren-Widén

When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol he might have created one of the most spiteful characters in literary history. Ebenezer Scrooge is really the face of selfishness and coldhearted greed. A face that photographer Matt Austin captured in his ghostly and grim images.

Ebenezer Scrooge is everything you don’t want for Christmas. Yet he keeps coming back every year. This season, Exeter Northcott Theatre is putting up a play based on the story, with actor Derek Frood as Scrooge. Dorset based photographer Matt Austin was commissioned to shoot the publicity images.

Known for his dramatic and punchy imagery, Matt arrived at the theatre equipped to shoot some strong and intense promotional pictures.

“90% of the time I shoot on location and the Profoto B1 Location Kit is perfect for this, so easy to set up and get on with the shooting.

“Having spent years as a press photographer, forced to keep my images reasonably ‘safe’, it is great to now be able to really develop my own style and start making images the way I want to. Using lights is a big part of creating a signature look and feel to my images. After a while people and clients start to book you for that thing you do and it’s a great feeling.”

Matt had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do from the start and he and Derek/Scrooge could play around with the setup quite easily.


Since Matt got access to a fog machine and fake snow, he could get creative and improvise a bit. As key light he installed a Profoto B1 with an OCF Softbox 1,3×1,3′ on a boom above the subject. The other light was a hard colored light from a second B1 with an orange gel. He wanted to give the impression of a street light or the light from an old oil lantern and add highlights. To color the fog he used a couple of stage lights.

The actor Derek Frood is a lot younger than Scrooge. That might not be visible on stage, under all the makeup, but a close up portrait might give it away. In order to enhance the effect of the make up, Matt wanted a soft key light positioned to highlight the actor’s wrinkles and add some depth to his face.

“The real challenge for me comes from just angling the lights to get the effect I was looking for. Just slight changes in the positioning of the lights make such a difference to the feel of the images.”

“Shooting with a fog machine is sometimes tricky. It only works when the fog is behind the subject. We had to stop after a few frames, to clear the fog and re-fill the snow machine.”

By adjusting the power on each B1 individually Matt balanced the flash output, keeping it low not to cancel out the stage lights.

For some of the tighter headshots he used the modeling lights as continuous light. That way he could keep a shallow depth of field and knock the falling snow out of focus.

But sometimes simple is better. Matt’s own favorite it the side on profile portrait.

My favorite is probably the side on profile images “It was one of the last ones I shot that day and it was an add on really, just using one B1 and a Softbox.

“But I love the way the light falls on the face and the catch light in the eyes making them look like glass. Derek’s great expression all made for a classically recognizable Scrooge shot.”

To see more of Matt Austin’s images, visit his webpage.

Learn more about the Profoto B1 and the OCF Light Shaping Tools.









Written by: Jens-Linus Lundgren-Widén