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Okay, this isn’t a lighting guess. But it’s pretty funny. And somehow seems to fits in here. Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe everyone just uses the Lumix. Or not.

*SPOILER ALERT* Don’t read any further if you’d still like to try to guess who the two photographers are. If you have already guessed or have no idea what I’m talking about, read on.


terry richardson meat skirt lady gaga

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of terry richardson lady gaga meat skirt on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of hunger pains on guess the lighting

copyrights, Terry Richardson (left), Ted Sabarese (right)

So there you have it. Terry shot the meat Gaga and I shot the meat skirt with potato skin top. But how?

GAGA: This Japan Vogue cover inspired the Lady’s full-on beef evening gown at the MTV Music Awards. Terry created it with one, on-camera speedlight.

Camera: Nikon D3x with 50mm lens, handheld. Shot at 1/60, f5.6, ISO 100.

Lighting: One on-camera flash. Lots of assistants watching.

Comments: The meat dress was originally more filled out, but Lady Gaga snacked on the mid-section when craft services ran out of Goobers.

MEAT SKIRT: This image from my “Hunger Pains” series is one of five outfits representing a meal that the model was craving. It was created with two lights. And this isn’t a guess.

Camera: Hasselblad H1 with 80mm lens and Leaf Aptus 75 back, set on a tripod 12 feet back.

Lighting: The key light is a gridded, white beauty dish at f11 six feet to camera left and eight feet high. The fill light is a large strip bank at f4 1/2 (-2 1/2 stops) with the bottom half flagged to keep the focus on the model’s face. It’s set six feet to camera right and slightly in front.

Comments: Watch the behind-the-scenes video.

I’ve received a bunch of questions asking what I mean when I say things like:

“The key light is a silver beauty dish at f11”

“Another medium softbox at f2.8 is four feet to camera right”

“The fill is a medium strip at f5.6”

All of these f-stop numbers are the individual light levels your light meter will read at the listed shutter speed and ISO. For example, if I’ve stated that the image was shot at 1/125, ISO 100, the f-stop number (i.e. octabank at f8) is what that octabank reads on your meter, with those settings, when fired.

I don’t comment on the power level of the actual light pack because that won’t do us much good in recreating the lighting setup. Power levels are arbitrary and vary depending on too many things (pack power, distance of light from subject, light modifiers, etc.).

Hope that helps more than confuses. If someone can explain it better, please take a crack at it.

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of octabank on guess the lighting blog


Starting today, I’ll post in a new, simplified format. No more of the automatic picture slideshow. If you were a huge fan of that, much apologies. I think the new look allows you to better compare the photo with the lighting diagram. And some older computers didn’t handle the slideshow very well.

The post will be up shortly. Let me know what you think.

Well, here it goes. Time to  scour the internet for cool images and methodically and scientifically figure out the photo lighting setups. I can’t divulge my entire method, but I will say it involves an iPad, an analog calculator with paper tape, trigonometry, a large loupe, 2 interns and a light meter (of course).

Please feel free to comment. Let me know if you’re 100% convinced or if you beg to differ. If you’re the artist who created the image, give us the whole scoop. And if you have a pic you’d like me to work on, email it over.

Let the “guessing” commence [sound of gong follows].

Ted Sabarese of Ted Sabarese Photography