Annie Leibovitz lights Keith Richards for Louis Vuitton with only a Softlighter

March 22, 2011 — 20 Comments

annie leibovitz's photo lighting of keith richards for louis vuitton

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of keith richards on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

Annie and Keith go way back. Way back. She toured with the Stones in their heyday and shot some pretty amazing imagery. With only about 10 minutes to work with Keith, Annie went old school with her lighting. Simple. Moody. Elegant. And somehow made Keith look (dare I say) “good,” with only one light.

To see a higher res version of the shot click here.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III with 24-70mm lens, handheld six feet back. Shot at 1/60, f5.6, ISO 200.

Lighting: The key light is an inexpensive Photek Softlighter at f5.6 handheld on a boom by an assistant. It’s four feet to camera left and eight feet high. Though the lamps and light behind the door appear to be strobes, the light was amplified in post.

Comments: Both avid potholers, Annie and Keith spent a good part of the shoot discussing their favorite secret caverns, halogen vs. LED helmet lights and whether a figure-of-eight knot was stronger than an alpine butterfly. All of which helped distract Keith from the fact his cup of tea (English Breakfast) had been empty for minutes.

  • You can view a video of the shoot here:

    Or just type it into Youtube.


  • Alistair

    I’d dispute the English Breakfast tea, Lapsang Souchong maybe :0)

    • Thanks for the insight.

      Every comment thread has to have one of these.

  • I wonder what she’s got in that softlighter that goes down to F/5.6 at what looks like 4-5 feet. I’m sure it’s a Profoto something, but the regular Profoto packs would nuke a subject that close, even at their lowest setting.

    • Raphael

      Yep, would be great to know what kind of light is used there.

    • Neutral density gels???

    • Will Bremridge-willbphoto

      bit late for me to reply to this but Annie quite often puts extra diffusers on her softboxes so she can get them super close. I’ve seen her use a towel like material to really reduce the output.

  • corkie

    Just found the website and love it (bookmarked). I wish I knew how you decipher the back lights or lights on side with no catchlights

  • Mike

    I want more!!

  • Davey

    Keep them comig, best blog on the net!!!

  • Peter Chong

    hi Ted…anxiously awaiting next installment…

    thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Vicki

    Are you never coming back?

  • christian

    a summer break is fine, but it’s over soon, right?

  • hi everyone. i’m back and ready to guess like a fiend.

  • Simple lighting, so my attention was drawn to the large monitor and the fact that she was shooting tethered. Anyone know what monitor that was, or what capture program she was using? Also looks like she had a filter in the lens? Can’t believe she cared much about protecting the front element, could it have been an ND? Maybe it was a rental/loaner lens and just came with one?

    • it’s capture one pro set to white in preferences… 😉 monitor might be eizo..

  • Leopold

    Looking at the high res version of the shot I couldn’t help feeling the tea cup, and especially the book with magnifying glass, and even the tray with tea pot on the chair in the back ground all shared a different ‘horizon’. Can it really that these have been shopped afterwards?? Looking at the vid on youtube there is a book, but different position, no cup, no pot??!!

  • Will Bremridge-willbphoto

    One thing i don’t think anyone has mentioned yet is the curtains are left open during filming to allow more light into the room however in the finished shot they look closed. The glow through that translucent curtain has been erased in post so that all the light looks like hotel room light rather than daylight.

  • Nick West

    I just posted this on Fstoppers put I figured you guys might appreciate it being posted here also; My two cents: If you look at the frame they show on screen in the BTS video it certainly looks like this is the select for Keith’s pose, but look where the suitcase is on the bed in this frame compared to the final image.. also the position of the book differs and the cup of tea isn’t even visible! While it’s possible that just those items could have been moved in post, I think it is more likely that she captured Keith’s pose under those lighting conditions in one frame and then additional frames of the scene were captured before/afterwards. I wouldn’t be surprised if Keith was a complete cut-out here. What do you guys think?

    I would still love to know how it was actually created, and if any additional lights were used. Maybe we can find out who did the retouch?

  • Perhaps Keith is lit by one light, but there is definitely more than one light for the scene, and I’m not referring to the lamps.

    The tea cup and saucer are lit by at least two. One from above and behind, casting the large shadow on the luggage, and one from ahead and slightly to the left, which lights the underside of the saucer. This same frontal light is also illuminating the front of the luggage, but not Keith (at least not obviously).

    The chair in the left background seems to be casting two shadows on its right, one from above and one from below. The curtain is casting a shadow to its left from a light source at its right. All of these casts are from lights that are much cooler than the practicals.