Blade Runner Photo Shoot 2

Send in the fog!

The second shoot in this series featured Eric Julien, who is a co-worker of mine. We shot at Studio4Fun’s Lenoir studio, and it was my first time working with a fog machine.

The goal in this session was to recreate two strongly-backlit images — one in blue, the other in golden tones. In one, the subject was a silhouette against the window, while in the other, the subject is lit separately from the light flooding in the window.

Eric had never modeled before, but he cut a rather James Bond-ish figure in his suit, and was terrific to work with. My wonderful wife Uzema took all the behind-the-scenes pics. All told, the session on March 23 was about four and a half hours long.





The illustration below is the lighting diagram for the first series of photos, which follow.


The light from the windows is ordinary daylight, so the key to colouring the light was simply to adjust the white balance in the camera while shooting, in this case to 2500 Kelvin. This turned the white daylight into a deep blue. A small tweak to the tint in Lightroom afterward shifted the blue into an aqua so that it somewhat resembled the sickly light of cheap fluorescents.

I used the movable flats available in the studio to block most of the windows, leaving a narrow strip above Eric’s head. A single flash was attached to a pipe on the ceiling to provide the rim light on Eric, and the dramatic diagonal shadow in the fog. The ladder was used simply as a prop.




Working with flash in the fog can have unpredictable results. The fog picks up the light and scatters it in all directions. It usually generates unwanted glows and flares. We had to position the flashes carefully for both sets, and they usually had to be flagged so that there would not be a direct line of sight between the flash and the camera.

The illustration below is the lighting diagram for the second set of photos. Here, the flats have been removed, and the camera’s white balance set to 10000 Kelvin, colouring the daylight a bright yellow. A tweak to the tint in post production shifted the yellow into orange to simulate the light from a sunrise or sunset.


Eric was lit with four flashes. Two bare strobe were placed behind and to either side of him to produce the harsh rimlight. A small softbox with a full CTB gel (to colour the light blue) was placed in front of Eric. This was to provide light for his face and to neutralize some of the yellow colouring, allowing something approaching natural skin tone to come through. Finally, Uzema held a single flash set to low power to provide a catchlight in Eric’s eyes. This last bit was important, as his eyes would appear rather dead without it.

And once again, some of the studio equipment was used as props to balance out the shots.



The next session in the series is in April.

9 thoughts on “Blade Runner Photo Shoot 2”

  1. Your finished shot doesn’t actually look like the Blade Runner scene provided. So, the point of your exercise is what?

  2. If you change the White Balance to 2500 Kelvin, how do you get skin tones? Or greys?


  3. Tom: The point of the exercise is to deconstruct the lighting used in the original photography, and replicate the mood of the original shot. Taking the extra steps of replicating the shot in its entirety… perhaps in the future. That would require extra costs in sets, casting, and costuming, which is not in my budget. Right now, my focus is on expanding my toolkit of lighting techniques, and to produce some interesting portfolio material, by imitating a master.

    I also want to capture the image entirely in camera, and not resort to heavy post-production. The original yellow-backlit closeup of Harrison Ford in Tyrell’s office was probably a bluescreen shot, as it included a miniature of the office building. If I wanted to replicate some of these shots more closely, I could go for shooting against blue or green screen, but that would become as much an exercise in effects work as photography. For this project, I want to stay focused on the light.

    But thanks for taking an interest. I think, as far as imitating the mood and lighting, this session with Eric was more successful than the session with Chantal a month earlier. The pics of Chantal are nice, but a little too far from the original.

    Sarah: To neutralize the yellow cast when shifting the WB of the camera, you need blue light. Eric’s face is lit with a small softbox with a blue gel. This shifts the light on his face back toward normal. But I decided that I did not want to normalize his skin tone completely, as I suspect that the resulting photo would not have looked natural.

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