Keith “Clizark” Clark (Hip Hop Producer)

Keith Clizark Clark

Keith "Clizark" Clark

I had the pleasure yesterday of photographing multi-platinum hip hop producer Keith “Clizark” Clark, in the warehouse of a music-library company called Big Fish Audio. Keith has worked with Snoop Dog, Dr Dre and others. This shoot was for the cover art of an upcoming hip hop music library called “Platinum Essentials III”.

[click “continue reading” below for more…]

[Edit: Since it’s been requested so many times, I’ve made a more detailed tutorial of the photoshop effect used here and elsewhere, and blogged it here.]

The shoot went very smoothly, even though the warehouse we were using was pretty hot…it was in Valencia, and it was probably 100 degrees outside (no air conditioning inside). I wanted him a little shiny for the shoot, so that didn’t bother me as long as he wasn’t dripping! Keith might not have been so comfortable, but he didn’t show it. Cool and collected for the couple of hours we shot.

The main set up was a black background, using four lights. I had envisioned this in pre-production, and it was immensely satisfying to take the first shot of my assistant as a stand-in, and realized I’d just about nailed it. A couple of tweaks with positioning and light, and we were all set.

Here’s a picture of the set up:

(click image for larger version)

I’ve got the black velvet backdrop held up on two C-stands. Left and right I have two Nikon SB-20 strobes, with cardboard flags on the sides, as edge lighting (primarily on his face). I also have a Sunpak 333 on a tripod in back of Keith, firing at his back to provide a rim light. The tripod and light are hidden by Clark’s body in the shot.

The main light is a homemade beauty dish, made from a plastic plant pot, a bulk DVD case lid, and a few miscellaneous parts. It is suspended from a boom in front of and above the subject. You can see how the boom is bending under the weight of the dish and Nikon SB-28, and is counterweighted by a ‘super clamp’ and a bag of A-clamps.

Note my Bronica ETR-S on the extreme right of the photo too. Gotta keep it real for film!

The lead photo in this post was done as a secondary set up, using a white wall as backdrop. I don’t have a photo of this set up, as we were in a hurry. The main light was a sort-of snoot, made from an oatmeal container, using the translucent lid of the container as a diffuser half way in the middle. It basically throws a tight-ish spot on a subject, with an even light and quick falloff. I could (and should) turn this into a grid-spot. Anyway, this was up pretty high, about ten feet in the air, firing downward. It also lit the wall in the back a little. And an edge light (SB-20) to camera left, with a car-sunshade silver reflector to camera right (bouncing some of the SB-20 back to fill some shadows). A Sunpak 333 was firing a slash of light down the back wall, with a blue gel, but it’s not visible here. The halo around his head is a result of my post-production.

And finally, here’s a shot (below) on the black background again, which we had torn down and then had to hurriedly set up again as we hadn’t exhausted Keith’s wardrobe changes. This is without any post-pro, just simple adjustments made. Still looks pretty good!

[Edit: As per a request in the comments, here is a version of an image above, straight out of Lightroom, before retouching or cropping.

Unretouched Image

Unretouched Image

23 thoughts on “Keith “Clizark” Clark (Hip Hop Producer)

  1. Thanks for your comment, George!

    I’m not sure I understand your question. But if you’re asking how did I get the look of the first photograph, well here’s a quick explanation. There a lot of things going on in the photo to get it where I wanted, so I won’t bore you with all the details.

    – First off, the lighting. A Nikon SB-28 stuck into a homemade snoot made from an oatmeal container, with the lid of the container used as a diffuser half way inside. This gives a very defined “cone of light”, which I put up high on a stand and aimed down on the subject. I then stuck a Nikon SB-20 to camera left, behind the subject, to get the edge light on the side of his face. I had a reflector to camera right, which doesn’t seem to have done anything (or my contrast adjustments removed any shadow filling). I had a Sunpak 333 with a blue gel on it, putting a slash of light down the wall. It’s not obvious here, but I did use it as a starting point when picking my color cast (see below).

    I did have a splash of light on the back wall. I have intentionally vignetted this on the image to accentuate it.

    I smoothed out his skin using a technique called “degrunge”, which you can google.

    His shirt is a khaki color. I made a blueish tone to the image by adding a hue/saturation layer, selecting “colorize”, picking blue (as the background was blueish from the SUnpak 333). I then set the opacity of this to something around 50%, so it was only adding a litle blue. And I added a mask so that it was not hitting his face.

    The overall effect that people keep asking about is done using these steps (copied and pasted from my strobist comment):

    – Merge to a new layer using shift-cmd-opt-E (or the PC equivalent).

    – Image/Adjustments/Desaturate

    – Filter/Other/Highpass, with a value of 100.

    – With this new highpassed layer you’ve created, select layer type to “hard light”

    Use it judiciously. Dial back the opacity to something reasonable, and perhaps use a mask so fleshtones don’t get too weird.

    Also consider desaturating some or all of the final image, for that uber-fashionable fashion look.

    I hope that answers your question.


  2. P.S. I’ve used the highpass technique in other shots too, but much more subtly. Like for example my most recent post…I used it on the background and on the subjects’ clothing, but kept it completely off their skin. And I didn’t desaturate at all. So it gives a crisp dramatic feel, without being too over the top. Different subject matter, different end usage, therefore different approach.

  3. Very stunning work, Matt. I am very impressed with your skills, lighting abilities and finishing work. You are a master at lighting and that is what
    I would love to become. Your work gives me a lot to aspire to. A big thank-you
    for sharing your techniques. I hope you publish a book…. soon!

  4. Thanks for your kind words, Sheila. “Master of lighting” is surely an extreme hyperbole, but I appreciate your comments anyway. 🙂 I’m still feeling my way on this, but the practice is starting to pay off. The book will have to wait until I have a few more years of experience!

  5. Hi Matt
    Just want to say thank you for opening the door on this technique
    i have been looking all over the net to see how this is done’
    please post more or do you know of any link i can go to’ thank you again
    Irven Lewis

  6. Thanks Irven!

    I’ve found to be a useful source for some other photoshop tidbits. I’ll post some of my own tips, including a more detailed version of the ‘highpass look’ I mention above (it might have a different official name, but that’s what I call it) in the coming weeks.


  7. Thanks very much for posting how you did this, I’ve used high pass before but your method looks much better than what I was doing.

  8. Hi Matt, love the photos and thanks for your post work instructions over at Could you post a link to the out of camera images or pre post images here or at Strobist. As a nob I only see the images after post and never where it started and have no idea how the image should look prior to post work. Again, excellent work, thanks.

  9. Thanks Tracey. I’ve posted a ‘pre-retouched’ image at the end of the post above, as per your request. I boosted the contrast and brightness in Lightroom, and changed the white balance a little, but that’s about it.

  10. Thanks Matt nice Shot as is. However I know you knew I was gonna ask, wheres the retouched shot for comparison. LOL. Thanks for your patience. Great Work!!!!! Just an idea, can you post how to make the signature on your photos in photoshop. Thanks. Never mind about sending the link I found it and you are bookmarked.


  11. The retouched version has already been posted. It’s the second image down. It has been cropped a little, so might look like a different image. Or are you pulling my leg?

    I use Lightroom to put the watermark on. It sizes it automatically. It is possible to do i in photoshop, but it’s a more manual process because you have to resize a logo for each image. But basically, just set some text and make it either partially transparent, or set the layer to “overlay” and adjust transparency to taste.

  12. ELOL, no Matt I wasn’t pulling your leg just a little green in having the photo eye. They are so far apart, by the time I scroll I forget what the other one looked like. (If that makes any sense.) Thanks for the patience. Both photos are sweet.


  14. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Keith! I’ve added a link to your site in the main post. It was great working with you, and thanks for your kind words.

  15. I like the tracks that you made for my friends…Draroc, Sambo, amd Durance.. ..I would like to know if you can make some R & B tracks..thanks..

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