Nadav Kander’s sick lighting for NY Magazine (as if Brad Pitt needed to look any cooler)

September 14, 2012 — 8 Comments

nadav kander's photo lighting of brad pitt on guess the lighting blog

Ted Sabarese photography lighting diagram of Nadav Kander

copyright, Nadav Kander.

Back in August of 2011, New York Magazine hired Nadav to shoot both Brad and Jonah Hill. The reason? A little film called Moneyball, the true story of Oakland A’s general manager Bill Beane who used quantitative analysis and computers to build a winning team and fight huge payroll inequities. The film almost didn’t make it to screen (to learn why, go here). It took nearly 10 years, 3 directors and 3 producers to complete, with Brad jumping on board in 2007 and seeing the film through.

Nadav managed to shoot this compelling portrait in 1 day, in 1 studio but with 5 lights.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 80mm lens. Set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8.5, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a gridded, white beauty dish at f11 (+ 1/2 stop) set high and 10 feet to camera left. Nadav was careful to position it precisely, keeping both of Brad’s eyes in the light. No fill light was used to ensure the strong contrast between light and shadow, which is pretty freakin’ killer. Behind v-flats (black side out) two white umbrellas attached to a c-stand at f8 (- 1/2 stop) were set behind brad to camera left and right. This creates the perfectly flat background. Now, quite a bit of post work was required to get this final look, but that’s a whole different blog.

Comments: It’s well-documented how Brad goodheartedly, yet relentlessly, pranked Jonah during filming. Let’s see. There was the giant, male genitalia placed on the back of his car before Jonah drove home on the freeway. Brad also shrink-wrapped Jonah’s golf cart bright pink (yes, movie stars get their own cart to cruise around the sets).

So for this shoot, Jonah decided he’d get a little payback, conspiring with Nadav and stylist Cheryl Konteh. When Brad arrived at the studio, they brought him through his wardrobe for the first shot: Black leather thong and matching tube top. Brad’s jaw dropped to the floor, but being a good sport and bowing to Nadav’s expertise, he took the outfit and changed in the dressing room. When Brad walked on to set donning his leather, Jonah jumped out, took a pic with his iPhone and yelled, “this is so going on my Facebook page, man. I mean, I think it is. Unless you don’t want me too. Okay, I’m deleting it now. Sorry, Brad.”

  • Jim Furkmire

    How do you know the exact f-stop for these photos? I’m assuming you don’t have access to EXIF. Where do you get f/8.5 from? Same with shutter speeds. So exact!

    • hey jim. remember, these are “guesses” i’m making here 🙂 but they are educated ones. to guess the f-stop and shutter speeds, i look at things like the depth of field, overall sharpness, ambient light, etc. a lot of it also comes from my own experiences and what i probably would have shot it at.

      • +1.. Also on a Hasselblad(or any true medium format camera) you would need at least f8 for decent D.O.F.. even f8 on a blad is quite shallow,the equivalent of f4 on 35mm format.. try f8 on a hassy hc 210.. its very shallow… love the site Ted..

  • DJ

    Looks to me like Brad was shot against a white or gray seamless, cut out, and then placed on a background the same colour as his really cool top. Take a closer look at his hair and you can see it was composited.

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  • James J. Gardiner

    You mention briefly how much post work went on with this image and say that’s ‘a whole different blog’. Could you recommend/ know of any ‘Guess the Lighting’ style blogs about image editing? Cheers! p.s. love the blog!

  • Eric

    Hi is there any chance doing a blog on the post production of this image?:)