Welcome to this post on “pastel portraits”. I am going to reminisce a bit, then show you my updated 2011 version, but first some history.


Back in the early 1990’s, yes… the dark ages for many of us, I was creating a portrait style called “Pastel Portraits. Many other photographers also enjoyed creating these emotional portraits. Basically they were created using 35mm 1,000 ISO Kodacolour negative film, with an adjustable softening device, called a “Pictrol”. The Pictrol was originally designed as a darkroom  enlarger softening device, but many photographers converted it to fit tele prime lenses. (85-135mm)


Lighting was with a 500 watt (or 250 watt) tungsten floodlight through a starfish or softbox  positioned close to the subject for the softest light and large catchlights. As the tungsten light was so warm, a 82B blue correction filter was used to bring the light  close to daylight balance, but still retain some warmth. Most portraits were shot close and had a very dreamy warm feel, extremely good for babies and young children with perfect skin. Retouching these was not an option, make up prior was a better solution if necessary. The “pictrol” created softer edges and a slightly sharper centre where the eyes would be.


Flash wasn’t an option as we needed to shoot at around F4 and with the light so close for the required softness, the “pictrol” wouldn’t work at F8 or F11. Besides, tungsten has its own special look and was ideal for this style.


The style was ideal for large moody and grainy portraits; no smiles, just soulful  expressions with captivating eyes that would follow you.  They were also suitable for High-Key and Low Key portraiture. Kodak for some reason discontinued the film and replaced it with a 1600 ISO film which didn’t have the same grain structure that gave the original “Pastels” its uniqueness. Many photographers tried other films, but the grain was too fine.


I always loved the “Pastel Portraits”, so unique. They required a lot of work to set up and I have to say, a higher level of studio skills to get it onto the film first go. No peeping available. So, I had to practice and get it formulated, before testing it on my clients.


Fast forward to 2011. I am always looking for new ideas but the problem is, it’s usually been done before. I am a true believer that “the pathway to the future often lays in the experiences of the past”, so I started looking at things I had done before, that I could reinvent. Pastels jumped up real quick. I was never going to get the same effect, as the Kodak film grain was unique even in its day and the softening device over the lens is totally different to using Gaussian Blur.  Photoshop offered its own opportunity to create a new “hybrid” Pastel Portrait style, but this time, in the High-Key style. Not the same grain and warmth as the originals, but a soft and desaturated style.




In part 2 next time I’ll explain the Photoshop techniques.

So till next time, happy shooting


PS ….. feel free to make comments, thank you.

6 Responses to “HIGH-KEY PORTRAIT…..”PASTELS” 1”

  1. Gaye Edwards Says:

    Superb and so sensitive. No one knows portraiture like you. Can’t wait for next steps! Thank you again for sharing.

  2. Steve Chastain Says:

    WHAT! “To be continued…” LOL
    I really enjoy your articles Wayne, thank you so much for your willingness to help those of us trying hard to learn. Looking forward to seeing you in August.

  3. Jo Says:

    Now we have to wait? I like this look. I hope the second part is coming soon.
    Thanks for your articles.

    Jo from Germany

    P.S. your e-book about portraiture is one of the best i´ve ever read

  4. wayne Says:

    Thanks Jo,
    just a reminder that Part 2 is posted.
    I’m pleased you enjoyed the ebook.

  5. Hayley Says:

    Love this look too Wayne and it’s one I have been wanting to integrate into my ladies portraits as it goes well with the softness of a woman.

  6. wayne Says:

    Hi Hayley,
    thanks for the comment, and yes this is perfect for the soft elegant female portraits also.
    Give it ago.

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