Vermeer effect

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by tom beard, Sep 24, 2009.

  1. tom beard

    tom beard TPF Noob!

    Mar 2, 2009
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    So. Cal mountains east of LA
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    I have always been fascinated by the use of light in Vermeer's paintings. Several of them were torso portraits in front of a single open window. Also, in 2003, there was a movie on Vermeer titled "The girl with a pearl earring". The film was photographed by Eduardo Serra. The lighting and cinematography throughout the film was beautiful. I've looked at many photographic portraits, and never really seen light used so well as Vermeer painted it. The figures are rendered sharply enough, but the light seems to soften the overall feel of the painting. In the age of digital photography, how would one achieve this effect? Would it be with lighting and camera technique only, or in post production? Or is it even possible to duplicate this effect?

    Tom Beard

  2. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

    Oct 30, 2003
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    Hermosa Beach, CA U.S.A
    Certainly there are many ways to go about it. Personally I would say soft, controlled light is the way to go. Two pieces of foamcore with the light source in the middle is a good start.

    Love & Bass
  3. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Jan 7, 2005
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    Kankakee, IL

    Yes, its possible. And it's sad we don't see it more often.

    Part of my initial, basic training (30+ years ago) included the approach that when creating lighting for a portrait it should appear that there is one primary source of light. Fill lighting should not appear as another light source, casting its own shadows. Accent lights (hair light, skim light) add texture and highlights to specific areas. The background light affords separation of the subject from the background.

    The main light provides shape... modeling... by creating shadows. Without shadows, shape is not communicated.

    These days, many (if not most) self-taught photographers are not aiming for this goal. That's why I often state here that there is a huge difference between "adequate" lighting and "proper" lighting of portraits. Its why a single, on-camera light source is not a good way to light portraits.

    In the illustration below, both objects are globes. The first object appears to be a disc when "lit" without shadow.


    Last edited: Sep 25, 2009

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