Mert & Marcus light gorgeous-voiced Adele for US Vogue, gorgeously

January 14, 2013 — 23 Comments

Mert & Marcus photo lighting of Adele for Vogue on Guess the Lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of mert & marcus adele vogue

copyright, Mert & Marcus.

Thanks to everyone who sent in (and continues to send) pics of their pooches. Now back to the lighting guessing.

It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like or don’t like. I don’t think anyone can disagree that Adele has an angelic voice unlike any other. A voice that can seduce you one second, then grab you by the shoulders and shake you silly the next. The more interviews I see, the more I really like her. She has a refreshing honesty and self-deprecating sense of humor not found in many megastars. It’s unbelievable that her career was nearly ended by necessary throat surgery. Our collective ears rejoice that it was not.

Mert & Marcus’ drop-dead gorgeous and dramatic story for the March 2012 US Vogue couldn’t be more fitting of Adele and her voice. The photographic duo combine unbelievable styling, propping and lighting to create an image I’m sure Adele’s mum has taped to her fridge. They certainly nailed it. And with a combo of 4 hot lights and strobes.

This image was suggested by Joel Bedford. Thanks, Joel.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 70mm lens set on a tripod 12 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f11, ISO 50.

Lighting: For starters, I want to acknowledge there’s quite a bit of retouching in this shot. But I don’t believe it affects the light sources. The key light (if you can call it that) is a 2.5k Arri fresnel HMI at f16 (+1 stop) placed 8 feet to camera right and 6 feet above Adele’s head with narrow focus. It’s aimed directly at her face and hits very little else. A similar Arri fresnel at f16 (+1 stop) sits low, 12 feet to camera right nearly perpendicular to the couch and aimed slightly upward. This light illuminates the branches of baby’s breath, purple fabric, her hand and dress. A gridded, medium strip light at f11 with a full CT blue gel is boomed in above Adele and aimed at the back wall. It has also been flagged to stop light from spilling onto her. A Profoto XL white umbrella at f4 (-3 stops) is set high and directly behind camera to provide a hint of fill.

Comments: During the little downtime she had between shots, Adele battled Alec Baldwin (he’s a big fan) in a Words with Friends game. She first made him promise that he wasn’t currently on an airplane of any sort, though.

  • the lighting is great… but the COLOR is what makes it!

  • Guest

    thanks man!

    but does is has to be the ROSCO 3202? or can i also use a blue filter from LEE?

    is there a difference?

    • nope, no difference. whatever you can get your hands on.

  • What would be your suggestion for a type of light with which I might get close to this look without the $12,000 each price tag? Thanks for this analysis. Just stumbled on your blog and am really looking forward to reading it in the future.

    • hey daniel. you could certainly pull this off with strobes, too. i would try it with grid reflectors to have a narrow beam of light.

    • disqus_TOrJw3w7NB

      Like Ted said, any light will do. They just used the high powered HMI’s because, well, they have the budget to rent high end gear, and it’s far easier to use continuous lights than flash or even strobes with modelling lights. To match the look perfectly Elinchrom, Profoto etc offer fresnel attachments but they are massively overpriced, you may as well just buy some cheaper used fresnel lights on ebay.

  • Garrett Byrum

    awesome photo / great breakdown.
    how can you tell, or why do you guess, they used hmi’s?

    • hey garrett. i’m guessing they used HMIs since the light is so focused and they could see exactly where it was hitting adele at all times. Plus HMIs have a nice punch to them.

  • Joel Bedford

    Great post – thanks for using my suggestion too – cheers

  • Domain Admin

    thanks for sharing this Ted. Couldn’t the key light on her face and the set be coming from one source? I’m not convinced there’s one on her face and one for the rest of the set.

    • it’s possible, but since the light on her face is so focused with very little fall off anywhere else on her body, i’m thinking it’s another light.

    • disqus_TOrJw3w7NB

      I agree. I think it was one light and there was some cutters used to break it up a bit.

  • Lpoper

    I love your drawings as much as the images they illustrate. Nicely done Ted.

  • Kit

    This is great! Thank you !

  • Sheamus Warior

    Found your blog excessively interesting indeed. I really enjoyed studying it.

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  • Joel Bedford

    A year late on an inactive blog (sniff) but I was looking at this image again noticing the backrest of the couch. The low fresnel would be casting a nasty shadow behind Adele, would it not? I’m guessing the back rest was separately lit (maybe with an fresnel from high right, near her head, and comped in later in post production. The shape of the beam, plus the bit of light behind her head speaks to the assumption of masking in post…just sayin’…

    • disqus_TOrJw3w7NB

      5 years later still, but I noticed the same thing. I’m quite sure this image is more a product of post production than lighting it exactly as it appears here IRL.