How To Shoot A Mini Noir Scene On A Table Top

This entry to the How I Took It contest by Cheyne from Firebird Photography a studio specializing in retro portraits completely took me by surprise. I loved the final image and was very impressed with the atmosphere. Little did I know, it was taken on a coffee table.


The first month of the contest is just about over, if you want in on our fabuouls set of prizes, this is how you enter.

This was shot entirely on my coffee table using miniature cutouts (including one of me) and lots and lots of flour.

And here are some behind the scenes photos illustrating the three step process needed to achieve this epic photo.

Step 1 – shoot a self portrait with film noir lighting to match the final photo. I used a homemade snoot fashioned out of a sheet of black craft foam to get the tunnel of light on me. And no noir portrait is complete without some hairlight, so I used a second light @ 1/16 power to get that.


Step 2 – cut out miniature photo. The photo of the car is a cutout with holes for headlights so that my backlight can shine through, giving it a realistic effect. (photos from my instagram. Follow me: @supercheyne)

Step 3 – shoot photo on coffee table using lots and lots of flour. This was definitely the most challenging part. Sometimes flour looks like snow/fog and sometimes it looks like flour particles. Getting it at the right consistency was time-consuming, but worth it. The entire process took me 2-3 hours.

Lighting notes:

My keylight was high and behind the car miniature. I wanted to simulate a street light, hence the long shadow on the car. I used a second light @ 1/16, snooted on the head area of mini me. This helped me to pop out a bit more. Printing the mini me on semigloss photo paper really helped to catch more light.


this post is a submission to our How I took It Contest. you can see some of the other submissions here.