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Self Portrait (Homage to Martin Schoeller)

Self Portrait (Homage to Martin Schoeller)

Earlier this fall my wife and I visited the photography museum in Stockholm Sweden (Fotografiska Museum). On display was the Martin Schoeller exhibit. I was already familiar with Schoeller but seeing his work ‘Up Close’ and in person is inspiring to say the least. The combination of his unique style, the incredible detail and sheer size can only be truly appreciated in person.

I find Martin Schoeller’s work to be so inspiring and have been wanting to try and recreate one of his Close Up portraits ever since seeing it in person. I decided to do a self portrait in his style, with some help from my wife. While this photo is clearly done in Martin Schoeller’s style, I made the conscious decision to add some very subtle differences to my take on his work. I purposefully added a subtitle expression. You sometimes see this in his close up portraits, but most are almost expressionless.


The equipment used by Schoeller is completely different then what I have available. While this probably results in a slightly different look in the final image, creating something fairly similar is still pretty achievable.

To light this I have two large softboxes creating a narrow V shape in front of the subject (me). By a ‘V’ shape I mean that if you were to draw a diagram and look down at the softboxes they would form a V like shape but with an opening on each side. This creates really nice, flat lighting.

What I found worked for me was to have the light on a pretty low setting so that the subject can stand close to the lights on the larger opening side of the V configuration. Standing closely allows the light to fall off pretty quickly so the face is exposed correctly and the back of the head and neck start to get slightly under exposed. I also found, what worked for me, is to have your subject standing where the feathering of these two lights converge. Now, this might not be exactly how Schoeller sets up his lights, but it's what seemed to work for my oversized softboxes.

The camera is set up on a tripod point in between the two softboxes located on the narrow side of the V configuration. (Because my lens isn’t quite long enough and my softboxes are a little big for this setup the lens and camera is actually protruding in between the softboxes. Simply putting a lens hood on prevented any glare.)

Finally, I have a bare bulb firing on the background. its situated behind my back, just below the shoulder line and angled upwards toward the background. For the background I bought a large sheet of thunder grey mat board and hung it to my basement rafters. I adjusted the strength of the background light until the shade of gray was about what I wanted.

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Photo taken on 23 January 2016 (© ZTW1 / Flickr)

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 zach werner, studio, strobe, flash, martin, schoeller, martin schoeller, self portrait, portrait, people, person, headshot, close up

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