Michael Thompson rocks Rihanna with his softly beautiful lighting

September 20, 2011 — 9 Comments


Michael Thompson's photo lighting of Rihanna for GQ on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of rihanna for gq on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Michael Thompson.

Rihanna may currently be entangled in a dab of plagiarism controversy over her latest video, but that doesn’t take away from the utter sexiness seeping from this January 2010 GQ cover. Michael’s soft, backlighting paints a glamorous yet angelic picture of this rock and roll siren. Five strobes did the trick.

Camera: Hasselblad H3D-39 and 100mm lens, handheld 10 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 50.

Lighting: The main light sources come from the sides and behind. A large softbox at f16 ½ (+2 ½ stops) is positioned behind a framed, one-stop diffusion silk to camera left and behind Rihanna. Another large softbox at f8 ½ (+ ½ stop) with framed silk sits similarly to camera right. A medium softbox at f5.6 (-1 stop) sits four feet to camera left and eight feet high. Two white umbrellas at f11 (+1 stop) light the white background from both camera right and left, in the rear.

Comments: Both avid potholers, Michael and Rihanna 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 Rihanna from the fact her shorts, although very cool, wouldn’t zip up all the way.

  • Franksterling

    you’re back!

  • brec

    yeah, you re back and tackling some great shots, sweet!

  • Jvharten

    So glad you’re back!

  • Natalia Kaul

    I personally don’t think there is a  softbox on camera right. If you see the picture, there is a stark difference in how the two sides of her body are lit. The camera left clearly shows the soft light contouring her body from head to toe, like a rim, clearly showing the light from a softbox. While on the other side, that is camera right, I think a large reflector has been used instead of a softbox. The light is so soft and diffused, it doesn’t seem to be coming from a direct light source. 

    • Studio

      yep, I agree with you Natalia – camera right side lit with reflection of camera left key light.    Plus I think the fill is pretty much on-axis with the camera

  • Debbi

    Love it, glad you are back!

  • Alistair

    So they like to explore the cave of the unknown… Interesting. Glad you’re back.

  • Guest

    Oh nice, thanks for your