Albert Watson lights Steve Job’s now-famous portrait

February 27, 2012 — 12 Comments

Albert Watson's photo lighting of Steve Jobs on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese lighting diagram of steve jobs on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Albert Watson.

Steve Jobs was the man. In so many way. But he granted very few interviews and photo ops, apparently due to camera shyness and being uncomfortable in the public eye. With Steve’s passing, Albert Watson’s 2006 portrait catapulted to fame overnight. It became the defining image of the intense genius behind Apple’s rebirth. Originally color, the now b&w shot says what Steve knew all along: I’m going to revolutionize so much more than just computers. The image was created with three strobes.

Camera: Arca-Swiss F-Line Misura with 150mm Schneider lens and Kodak Portra 160nc 4×5 film, set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/250, f32, ISO 100.

Lighting: Albert is certainly old-school and this set-up is nothing shocking. The key light is a white umbrella at f32, high and six feet to camera left. Two umbrellas at f16 1/2 (-1 stop) are placed behind Steve to the left and right. They evenly light the background and remove any shadow there.

Comments: Before getting underway, Steve and Albert jabbered about computers, iPods and the future of the music industry. Still a fan of analog (cameras, records, etc.), Albert was still skeptical of keeping his entire music library on a tiny, electronic device. He did, however, think it would be cool to someday have a phone that would play music, keep appointments and help him track the sun’s trajectory during the day.

  • Bart

    I think there was a reflector on the right side of his face. You can see something reflecting in his eyes… and it would make sense to lift shadows on the right side of his face… 

  • Awesome as always! Thanks!

  • Peter J. Crowley

    At some point Albert took out the color. I would have assumed he shot in B+W but he didn’t. Great shot.          enjoy pjc

  • John Slemp

    It looks like there was also a flag near the top of Steve’s head.  Otherwise, there would be light hitting the top of this head as well…

  • John

    Congratulation. Fantastic blog. I really love it.

  • jameskatt

    The left side of Steve’s face is not dark in shadow. The shadow is a medium gray. Therefore there must have been a fill light to the right of the camera set -3 EV relative to the keylight – perhaps another softbox or reflector.

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  • Anonymous

    Not even close my friend! @john slemp had it right with the flag above his head, but they’re two more on each side of his face! I won’t give up albert’s light but I can tell you, he doesn’t own one umbrella or soft box or an Octabank!

    • wjwallis

      Anonymous is right. I read an interview with Albert Watson in school and he only uses hard lights with black flags to get the effects he wants. He never uses softboxes or umbrellas

  • good!