Elvis Presley




Iconic Image One Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley (1935 – 1977) was a teen idol in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He became one of the world’s highest paid superstars and was an icon of film and music. Even forty years after his death his estate still makes millions of dollars a year in royalties.










Let’s zoom in to look close at the image and try to work out the lighting used.

Looking at the catch lights in his eyes it looks like the main front light, possibly a square soft box, was almost on axis with the camera. Or maybe a few degrees camera right as signified by the shadow from his nose. There is also a smaller lower powered light coming from a low angle camera left. To Elvis’s right (our left) there is a very bright hard light and to his left (our right) the same again. Although I think the one on his left is placed further back just to bring him out from the background a little due to his dark hair. The light camera left is quite hot and has caused a loss of detail in the skin though it brings out his jet black hair quite nicely. The rear light camera right is set further back and just kisses his hair.  It also fills in his shirt over his left shoulder.

Elvis was seated with his body turned towards camera left, head turned towards camera and leaning forward slightly. Probably with his right arm draped over an armrest of a chair and his left resting on his leg.

The image looks quite hot in places and I wonder if this was intentional to help hide any texture in the skin making him look young and youthful. I also wonder if the inner baffle of the softbox was removed to help cause this center line hotspot.

Here is a diagram of how I envisaged the lighting set up.

My take on the Elvis picture

This image was shot in front of a dark backdrop with a studio strobe each side of the subject set to 1/8 power. I used my Godox 360 with a small softbox on it for the front light and set this to 1/2 power. The studio strobes are much more powerful and were bare bulb with the basic reflector. The camera was a Canon 6D with a 24 -105 F4 lens. My settings were 55mm ISO 100 1/50 sec at F8.0

From the above, you will note that I missed out one light, the small front one. The reason for this is that I only had a small image to work from on my phone and did not see any other catch lights at that time.

I edited the image using Lightroom, Photoshop, and Niks Silver Efex Pro. The image has purposely been blurred and, using dodge and burn, over exposed in some parts of the shot to try to recreate the feel of the original image. Also extensive skin smoothing was applied to give the same texture as the original photo. I then exported to Silver Efex Pro just to add some extra black and white processing to get as close as I can to the original. In Photoshop I used liquify to make my models face fit more to the dimensions of the original. Then some final adjustments in Lightroom before exporting as a jpg.

Below is the image unedited direct from the camera.