Jill Greenberg Portrait Project

I have been told on countless occasions throughout my acting career that I remind people of Michael C. Hall. Regardless if that is the case or not, when I decided to tackle Jill Greenberg, it only seemed fitting to go after her extremely famous portrait of him as Dexter.

If you haven’t seen Dexter, it’s definitely worth the watch, the first few seasons of the show are brilliant, I would say it’s worth it’s weight in gold all the way up to the end of season 4, at which point, I like to think the series ends. The second half of the series is a great example of why the American television format is broken, stale and sucks every piece of creative ounce out of a project for the dollar dollar bills. The British know how to make tv, 3 seasons and a Christmas special. If Dexter followed that format, Season 1, Season 2 (skipped Season 3) and then Season 4… it would be a masterpiece….but I digress.

I had planned to use a white collar shirt for this project and then to just push the tint in post, but once I was set up and ready to go, after the first test shot, I knew if I went any further this image wouldn’t meet the standards of what I was building. So, I grabbed my jacket and raced to the closest thrift store to find an alternative. Luckily, I found a shirt that would work, it didn’t have the cotton texture that harks Florida retirement colony, but the collar and colour was more than sufficient and I was super happy.

Next hurdle was the blood. Luckily from my time as a professional actor, I remembered that fake blood is 1 tps flour, 0.5 tps red food colour, 1 tbsp corn syrup and a tiny drop of blue food colour. I planned to just take a paint brush and try and flick it on in hopes it would do the trick, but my wife halted those plans and encouraged me that painting on would be a better approach. I’m glad I listened, cause I only had one shirt to get it right.

Figuring out Greenberg’s lighting setup isn’t that hard now-a-days with the internet. With a few clicks you can get elaborate video’s discussing in detail how she creates her signature lighting. For this shot, I had two kickers - single diffusion with deflectors. A hair light above the subject single diffused with a deflector, directly behind the subject a snoot aimed at the backdrop. In front, the key was a small beauty dish with a deflector, no diffusion. A large 6 foot octabox behind the camera for fill, and a 2x2 softbox below, for uplighting and fill.

UPDATE: this study in Jill Greenberg helped influence a series of my own. Check it out here. Can you tell the influences?