mark seliger's photo lighting of shatner on guess the lighting blog

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

copyright, Mark Seliger.

There’s something about this image I just love. It could be Shatner’s complete commitment to his character. Or that he might be the closest thing to a modern-day cowboy we have. I’m not sure. But Seliger has captured the indescribable perfectly. And with only one light (plus some late-day sun).

Camera: Mamiya RZ67 with Phase One P45 digital back and 110mm lens, handheld 12 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f5.6, ISO 50.

Lighting: With the sun beginning to dip behind the treeline, Mark didn’t have much time to capture this shot. The key light is a medium softbox at f5.6 set high and six feet to camera right. The ambient light is at f4. There’s definitely quite a bit of post work here, too.

Comments: On three different occasions, Mark caught Shatner replacing the blank ammo with live shells. When the once Captain Kirk was taking a bathroom break, the prop stylist removed the firing pins from the pistols, just to be on the safe side.

professional photographer magazine heidi klum on guess the lighting blog

One thing that’s happened during my hiatus is pretty cool. After many emails and a couple phone conversations, the editors at Professional Photographer Magazine in the UK have asked me to contribute monthly. Starting in this February’s issue, I’ll have a new GTL page in print with completely exclusive content (sorry, you won’t find those guesses here). Pretty exciting stuff.

If you’d like to subscribe to Professional Photographer (which is a top photo mag even before adding GTL), you can do it here.

Special thanks to editor Grant Scott for reaching out and giving me such a super opportunity. He also has a photography blog with thoughts, observations and tales from the world of professional photography: Dreams, Themes and Photography Schemes.


ted sabarese photo lighting diagram sorry illustration on guess the lighting

GTL, will you ever forgive me? I brought you into this world and cared for you tenderly. Then suddenly dropped off and left you to fend for yourself. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.

But I’m back.

Actually, it wasn’t that I had lost any love for GTL. Or was caught in mountain cave. Or had gone on a sixty day computer fast. It’s more of a good news/bad news thing. The good news is that i’ve been busy. Very busy. I recently wrapped up shooting an international photo library for a group of big brands. And I’ve been plugging away on a personal photo project. The bad news is that I’ve barely had time to open mail, get a haircut and, least of all, blog.

Since things have calmed some and I’ve caught up with those neglected day-to-day tasks, I’m ready to saddle up and get my guess back on.

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in with support and pleads to not abandon GTL. I’m happy this material makes you happy.

Now back to my Wacom.

gary salter's photo lighting of elderly footballers on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of gary salter on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Gary Salter.

Gary’s well-conceived and beautifully-lit image illustrates the aftermath of a seriously-senior football match. Every detail is accounted for (I personally love the prosthetic leg hanging off the back wall) and the casting is superb. Gary shot this with 5 lights.

You can see a higher-res version here.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III with 35mm lens, set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light on our foreground hero and his blood pressure-checking teammate is a medium softbox at f11 boomed high above and slightly to camera right of the pair. A silver beauty dish at f16 (+1 stop) is high out of frame to camera right and positioned half way between camera and the rear wall. This produces the strong highlights atop their heads and their sides. Another beauty dish at f11 is boomed from camera right five feet off the rear wall and aimed toward the players resting on the back bench. A 7” reflector at f16 (+1 stop) is boomed in from camera left near the rear wall and is aimed downward and left. The fill comes from a magnum reflector at f5.6 (-2 stops) shot through a 6’x6’ silk, positioned six feet to camera left.

Comments: An avid footballer and fantasy football coach himself, Gary named the squad “Zimmer” for a not-so-random reason. Barry Zimmer’s fantasy team had badly beaten Gary’s two weeks prior. And Zimmer, never a gracious winner, made sure to rub Gary’s nose in it.

Payback is a bitch, Barry.

michael thompson's photo lighting of juliianne moore on guess the lighting

The Grand Odalisque on guess the lighting blog

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

copyright, Michael Thompson.

This portrait taken in 2003 for the cover of American Photograph magazine pays tribute to Jean-Auguste Ingres’ famous 19th-century painting La Grande Adalisque. Michael was originally supposed to shoot Julianne in a couture dress, but was so inspired by her flawless skin he switched directions. To this day, there is much debate over which is sexier. My two cents: who cares?

This is lit with one (count it, one) light.

Camera: Pentax 67 II with 90mm lens and Kodak Portra 160 film, set on a tripod 10 feet back. Shot at 1/30, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a large octabank at f8 set eight feet to camera left and slightly in front. Michael added an extra diffuser to soften the light even more.

Comments: The final select here was taken moments before the scraggly tree caught on fire (the prop stylist had positioned it too close to the oil lamp). Which then fell into the blue curtain, which set ablaze. No one was hurt and the fire was quickly extinguished, but many happy onlookers ogled in joy as a naked Julianne Moore ran outside the studio. “Wow, she really does have amazing skin,” was heard more than once.

mert & marcus' photo lighting interview mag for guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram diane kruger on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Mert & Marcus.

This shot from the September 2009 issue of Interview Magazine mixes the provocative fashion of Eyes Wide Shut with German military regalia. Like only M&M can do. It was created with 4 lights.

*Special thanks to Alex MacPherson for the suggestion.

Camera: Hasselblad 553 ELX with Phase One P45 digital back and 80mm lens, handheld 10 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: Since this image relies more on shadow than light, the key is actually a silver umbrella at f16 (+2 stops) to camera left of Diane and slightly behind her. A large Octabank at f2.8 1/2 (-2.5 stops) behind camera serves as overall fill. Two small strip lights, both at f8, are behind Diane to the left and right. These are aimed down at the floor and provide some separation from the rear wall.

Comments: Fresh off the Inglourious Basterds set as Bridget von Hammersmark, Diane was constantly pressed for some good Tarantino gossip. She wouldn’t tell anyone about Quentin’s love life or if they got together while shooting, but she did finally find out what was in that briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Apparently after drinking one too many black russians, Quentin confessed that the golden glow wasn’t Marcellus’ soul or anything deep like that; but, an Oscar statue he assumed he’d win later that year.

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.

tony d'orio's photo lighting of baby for Huggies ad on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of tony d'orio on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Tony D’Orio.

This ad for Huggies wipes portrays the young, otherwise cute baby as a serious, demanding, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer CEO of his parents’ lives. I think this matches a pose Lee Iacocca made for Forbes Magazine back in the 80s and was created with 3 lights.

Camera: Hasselblad H1 with Phase One P45+ back and 80mm lens, set on a tripod 5 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a small softbox at f11 boomed directly overhead of the baby and aimed straight down. This creates the contrast and the dark eyes (very unique for baby photography). A white beauty dish at f4 1/2 (-2 1/2 stops) is boomed above the camera and serves as a slight fill. A standard reflector at f16 (+1 stop) is sitting low on the ground behind the boy and aimed upward at the backdrop. This creates the glowing gradient.

Comments: Tony had four, 3-month-olds on set, but this boy instantly became the star. Though he couldn’t yet speak, his body language talked at great lengths about his disappointment with the prosecution’s handling of the Enron scandal, the differences between a 10 and 18-year-old scotch and how derivatives weren’t the devil they were made out to be by the liberal media.

richard avedon's photo lighting of dekooning on guess the lighting blog

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

copyright, Richard Avedon.

This portrait of de Kooning taken in 1969 is a prelude to Richard’s American West series. Though it may seem it was taken in the studio, it was actually snapped outdoors in natural light. White paper is taped to the side of a house for the backdrop.

Camera: Deardorff 8×10 with 360mm Schneider lens and Kodak Tri-X 400 film, set on a tripod 8 feet back from the model. Shot at 1/125, f64, ISO 200 (pulled 1 stop).

Lighting: The key light is non-direct sunlight. Richard taped his backdrop to the north side of a house.

Comments: Richard and Willem had been playing an intense game of high stakes lawn darts (while drinking numerous Pimm’s cocktails). The loser had to pose for the other artist. In this image, Willem is slightly upset because Richard wouldn’t go double or nothing.

lydon wade's photo lighting room 107 series on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of lyndon wade on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Lyndon Wade.

The Room 107 series is pretty sick. There are 12 or so different scenarios that take place in the same motel room. Everything from porn shoots to kidney harvesting to gangster shakedowns (how about that super realistic blood splatter?). This image was created with 6 strobes and 4 room lights. Check out a hi-res version here.

And yes. Lyndon is David Lindsey’s brother.

Camera: Canon D1s Mark II with a 50mm lens, positioned on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: I’m guessing this was a set built in a studio with more room to tweak light than an actual hotel room. The puncher and punchee are lit with a small softbox at f8 boomed high out of frame and slightly behind the two. A small softbox at f8 is boomed high above the man sitting on the bed and aimed toward the camera left wall. A small softbox at f8 is positioned similarly to camera right. Another small softbox at f8 is boomed high and center near the back wall, aimed downward. A standard reflector at f16 (+2 stops) is bounced off the bathroom ceiling and casts the highlights on the rear, camera-right wall. For the perfectly creepy, blueish fill, Lyndon used a silver beauty dish at f2.8 (-3 stops) with full CTB gel. A separate plate was shot at 1 second to capture the glow of all 4 lamp lights and composited together during post.

Comments: To heighten the sense of reality, Lyndon hired a real gangster “debt collector” as an on-set consultant. He proved invaluable in pointing out subtleties such as where the blood splatter should land, the precise ratio of water to cement mix and that duct tape has 1001 uses, from gag to handcuffs to noose.