Taking a strobist approach (off camera flash, aka "jumping off")
Tips to create an easy, dramatic lighting effect film noir style

What you will need: a piece of black velvet material, an off-camera flash unit, either an off-camera shoe cord or a flash slave set which includes a transceiver and receiver unit. You will also need to understand the principles of film noir, which you can read about here.

Black velvet is the perfect material for a back drop for this kind of shot. It soaks up light to give you a deep, rich, black background, and won't bounce back the light from your flash. You can get a piece of black velvet at any fabric store. If you don't have stands to hang it from, you can attach it to a wall with thumb tacks, or method of your choosing.

The basic idea is to get a dramatic lighting effect that increases tension and contrast. Instead of shooting with a flash attached to the top of your camera, we're going to take the unit off, and shoot the flash from a different angle and location.

There's a couple ways you can set your flash unit up. 1) on a stand with your slave units- easiest hands free method. 2) hand-held with off-camera cord attached. The stand/slave combo. will give you more effect options, and a larger area of placement options. It is also the "safest" for your equipment. The hand-held option is a little trickier to juggle, but if you're not someone who ever shoots with slave units, it's the cheaper option for you.

flash unit (on mini stand, for table top use)
off-camera shoe cord

slave unit transceivers

Position your flash off to the side (of camera and subject) and below where your camera will be, and face flash upwards. Keep it at a close distance, but not too close. This will create harsh shadows, supply hard directional light, and if done properly won't blow your image out. Try different positions and experiment. Controlling your aperture, shutter speeds, and ISO will also play an important role in this process so that you don't allow in extra light from other sources. If you're not as comfortable with these, then I suggest shooting in a space where you can control the amount of available light easily, and just use a slightly dim light source so that you can focus properly, but that won't throw a bunch of extra light onto your scene.

Now that you understand the lighting part, the styling, mood, and models are up to you!

© Jenn Alexander Fletcher more shots here