Ellen Von Unwerth’s old-school Hollywood lighting for Absolut

September 22, 2011 — 2 Comments

ellen von unwerth's photo lighting for Absolut vodka on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of von unwerth on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Ellen von Unwerth.

When Absolut Vodka asked ex-model-turned-fashion-photographer-extraordinaire Ellen Von Unwerth to tackle their new ad campaign, she jumped at the opportunity. Working with Kate Beckinsale and Zooey Deschanel, Ellen brought a playful, enchanting aesthetic to the imagery (makes me fancy a tall glass of Absolut right this moment, actually). This enigmatic still (I’d like to be a fly on the wall of one of Ellen’s dreams) was created with four HMIs.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III with 70-200mm lens, set on a tripod 15 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a 6k Arri fresnel HMI at f11 ½ (+½ stop) set on a highboy roller directly above and behind camera. A set of barn doors helps focus the light on Kate. A 1.2k Arri fresnel HMI with barn doors at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) sits just out of frame to camera right. This light is aimed at the Absolut bottle and creates the alluring highlight on the side of the bottle. A 1.2k fresnel at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) with a full CT orange gel aimed at the rear wall rests just off the ground, directly behind Kate. Another 1.2k fresnel with barn doors at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) sits on the floor behind Kate and is focused upwards at the rear wall. This creates the whitish glow on the wall as well as the floor.

Comments: The set designer for this shoot loved the creative concept but had some logistical problems with its execution. Born into an incredibly superstitious family, she was not willing to chance seven years bad luck (or worse, the death of a family member) propping the broken mirror. As a compromise, she agreed to watch via a video feed from a nearby room and direct her assistant over walkie talkies.

  • Natalia Kaul

    Without fail the bottle has been photoshopped and added here..No way you can get this effect on the bottle directly on this location! Its a complex lighting, requiring a separate set up altogether. Even the dimensions of the bottle are a give away..

  • Tom

    That’s true Natalia. The 6K HMI would blow out this bottle (6K HMI have 4x more light like a 6K Halogen! Maybe it’s crazy flagged and co. but i don’t think so – too clean). 
    The Rimlight comes not from a 1.2K HMI from the side – if the bottle isn’t photoshopped, the rimlight is from the 1.2k HMI behind Kate! (reflection: entrance angle = exit angle!)
    And that’s the point where it is photoshopped, because: no orange reflection from the CTO HMI in the bottle! ;)

    Maybe the hand is not a real hand, i think it’s a stand, so Ellen photograph the bottle without Kate and the CTO HMI + 2 more rimlights for the bottle, and then with Kate and the CTO HMI.