Channeling Martin Schoeller






Martin Schoeller is a very famous portrait photographer with a unique and instantly recognizaable style.

At right is a portrait he took of Jack Nicholson, which is pretty representative. Schoeller is shootng up close to his subject and uses two vertical strip lights, one on each side of the camera. Notice the two catchlights in the eyes. The expressions tend to be serious or almost blank. The eyes are in very sharp focus but most of the rest of the head falls out of focus fairly quickly.

His subjects are almost always squared up to the camera. And the background lighting is always brightest close to the shoulders and less bright higher in the image.

Here’s another portrait Schoeller did, of Timothy Geitner, for the New York Times Magazine cover last weekend.





I’m intrigued by Schoeller’s work. It certainly causes the viewer to look twice. And there is a strong connection between the subject and the viewer.


You can see more of Schoeller’s work here.

I think the technique works better for men than for women. Cate Blanchett was likely game for this picture, as there are thousands of flattering images of her. But I’m not going to try this lighting technique on my female clients unless they ask for it!

This morning in the studio, I experimented with Schoeller’s style with a few selfies. I had some with the blank/serous look, but decided to edit one with at least a hint of a smile.

I’d love to know what you think.








Working both in the studio and on location, photographer Blake Robinson serves the Connecticut communities of Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport and Greenwich.

“Individual, Indelible, Iconic Images”



4 Responses

  1. Ann Meschery says:

    Great selfie. Love that smile.

    • Blake Robinson says:

      Thanks, Ann. I had one with more of a blank look – which would have matched more closely the Schoeller esthetic – but couldn’t bear it! Look on Facebook and see the ticket M just scored for me for tonight!

  2. Will says:

    Hey Blake, I like yours much better! I photographed a guy the other day who sat for Schoeller and he told me a little about the experience. Not a style I really like, but I did enjoy his show in Seattle.


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