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dimitri daniloff photo lighting of ps2 ad on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of dimitri daniloff ps2 ad

copyright, Dimitri Daniloff.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall of Dimitri Daniloff’s imagination. His volume of work goes from cool to shocking to what the #$@*? It’s highly stylized, highly conceptual and usually with quite a bit of compositing and post work. Which makes sense since his college schooling consisted of mathematics and science, instead of photography and art.

This image entitled “Rebirth” for Sony’s launch of its PS2 game station won lots of critical acclaim, as well as the Cannes Grand Prix for Advertising. I’m going out on a limb and guessing the man’s head and shoulders were not shot in-camera. The lighting is achieved with a mixture of HMI and strobe lighting that Einstein, himself, would be proud of. If Einstein were in to photography. Dimitri used six lights in total.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 80mm lens set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f16, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a 6K HMI fresnel shot through a 6×6 silk at f16. The light is positioned high and 10 feet to camera right. Let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend the man’s head could be where it is. A gridded, silver beauty dish at f22 (+1 stop) is high, just to camera right, and aimed down toward his newborn face, with a more specular feel than the rest of the lighting. Dimitri has a ring flash on his camera at f8 (-2 stops) for subtle fill and a nice layering of light. Another 6K HMI fresnel shot through a 6×6 silk at f18 (+ 1/2 stop) is set 12 feet to camera left and slightly behind the mother. This gives her just a touch of rim/high light on her arm and neck. Two standard reflectors in white umbrellas at f22( +1 stop) are aimed at the background, blowing it out just a touch.

Comments: Coincidentally, the “mother” model’s sister was actually giving birth to a baby-sized boy at the exact moment Dimitri was shooting. The sister’s husband was stationed overseas, so she was alone in the delivery room. The third assistant rigged a cell phone (set to speaker) to an autopole and dangled it just out of frame. The model was able to yell “push, Chloe, push” as the entire set was privy to some of the most unbelievable cussing imaginable. A trucker, delivering supplies to the studio, hadn’t even heard a few of those peaches, before.

ellen von unwerth's photo lighting for Absolut vodka on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of von unwerth on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Ellen von Unwerth.

When Absolut Vodka asked ex-model-turned-fashion-photographer-extraordinaire Ellen Von Unwerth to tackle their new ad campaign, she jumped at the opportunity. Working with Kate Beckinsale and Zooey Deschanel, Ellen brought a playful, enchanting aesthetic to the imagery (makes me fancy a tall glass of Absolut right this moment, actually). This enigmatic still (I’d like to be a fly on the wall of one of Ellen’s dreams) was created with four HMIs.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III with 70-200mm lens, set on a tripod 15 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a 6k Arri fresnel HMI at f11 ½ (+½ stop) set on a highboy roller directly above and behind camera. A set of barn doors helps focus the light on Kate. A 1.2k Arri fresnel HMI with barn doors at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) sits just out of frame to camera right. This light is aimed at the Absolut bottle and creates the alluring highlight on the side of the bottle. A 1.2k fresnel at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) with a full CT orange gel aimed at the rear wall rests just off the ground, directly behind Kate. Another 1.2k fresnel with barn doors at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) sits on the floor behind Kate and is focused upwards at the rear wall. This creates the whitish glow on the wall as well as the floor.

Comments: The set designer for this shoot loved the creative concept but had some logistical problems with its execution. Born into an incredibly superstitious family, she was not willing to chance seven years bad luck (or worse, the death of a family member) propping the broken mirror. As a compromise, she agreed to watch via a video feed from a nearby room and direct her assistant over walkie talkies.

mert & marcus' photo lighting for dsquared on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of mert & marcus on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Mert & Marcus.

This image from Dsquared2’s “Aseptic Chic” fall/winter 2010 ad campaign is actually relatively tame compared to the others. The dark and haunting sexiness juxtaposes quite nicely with the sterile, glassed and coolly-lit environment. It’s hot, in a this-may-give-you-nightmares kind of way. And I wouldn’t expect any less from M&M (or D&D, for that matter) who shot this with seven lights.

Camera: Hasselblad 553 ELX with Phase One P45+ digital back and 80mm lens, handheld 11 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: Our foreground model on display is lit with a 7-inch grid reflector and 30 degree grid at f11 ½ (+ ½ stop), boomed directly overhead and aimed down at her face. A white beauty dish with diffusion and a full CT blue gel at f8 (- 1 stop) is also boomed high overhead and slightly behind the model. This creates the cool highlights on her hair and on the display box. The background model is lit similarly. A 7-inch grid reflector and 30 degree grid at f11 is boomed overhead (the ½ stop less light focuses our attention to the foreground). Another white beauty dish with diffusion and a full CT blue gel at f8 (-1 stop) is boomed high and slightly behind her. A medium, gridded softbox with full CT blue gel at f5.6 ½ (-1 ½ stops) is positioned eight feet to camera right, eight feet high and almost parallel to our male model.  A medium, white umbrella with a full CT orange gel at f5.6 (-2 stops) is set ten feet to camera left and slightly behind him. This adds just a hint of warmth to his back. An octabank at f2.8 1/2 (-3.5 stops) is behind camera and serves as fill to keep things from going completely black.

Comments: Sticklers for realism, M&M had the glass cases constructed around the models so they would truly feel on-display. The prop stylist forgot to include air vents, though, in his minimalist design. He only realized the oversight when one model began to show early signs of asphyxiation. Luckily, the naked man was an off-duty fireman and broke through the glass with a nearby c-stand. Everyone was okay and, although most on-set wanted to hug him for his bravery, they merely gave the thumbs up.

annie leibovitz's photo lighting of keith richards for louis vuitton

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of keith richards on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

Annie and Keith go way back. Way back. She toured with the Stones in their heyday and shot some pretty amazing imagery. With only about 10 minutes to work with Keith, Annie went old school with her lighting. Simple. Moody. Elegant. And somehow made Keith look (dare I say) “good,” with only one light.

To see a higher res version of the shot click here.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III with 24-70mm lens, handheld six feet back. Shot at 1/60, f5.6, ISO 200.

Lighting: The key light is an inexpensive Photek Softlighter at f5.6 handheld on a boom by an assistant. It’s four feet to camera left and eight feet high. Though the lamps and light behind the door appear to be strobes, the light was amplified in post.

Comments: Both avid potholers, Annie and Keith spent a good part of the shoot discussing their favorite secret caverns, halogen vs. LED helmet lights and whether a figure-of-eight knot was stronger than an alpine butterfly. All of which helped distract Keith from the fact his cup of tea (English Breakfast) had been empty for minutes.

craig cutler's photo lighting for heineken ad on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram for heineken ad on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Craig Cutler.

Craig is a master of lighting. He’ll light a bottle of booze for three days until it’s “just right.” This shot is a departure from his typically fastidious nature. It’s raw. It’s a little sloppy. You can smell it like a scratch-n-sniff. Kudos to Craig for getting out of his comfort zone and driving home the point that it’s all about the beer. Done with 2 strobes.

Camera: Sinar p2 4×5 with Schneider 150mm Apo-Symmar and Kodak Portra VC 160 film, set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/60, F32, ISO 100 (pulled 1/2 stop).

Lighting: The key light is an on-camera ring light at f22 1/2 (-1/2 stop). A standard reflector at f32 1/2 (+1/2 stop) is bounced up against the cabinetry (I’m guessing there are some above the sink) from camera left to break up the flatness.

Comments: It took over 4 hours for the stylist to make the food look as perfectly horrendous as it does. Not surprisingly, nobody had much of an appetite by lunch time and drank luke-warm Amstels in lieu of food.

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.

Saverio Truglia's photo lighting of taped baby on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of taped baby on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Saverio Truglia.

This charming image begs the question, “is it natural light or not?” Though it may seem this shot was lit with sunlight through the window and some tv glow on the recliner, Saverio used 10 strobes to create the effect.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark II with 35mm lens, set on a tripod 20 feet back from the baby. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a magnum reflector at f8 set, gelled with 1/2 CT orange, outside the window and aimed in through the blinds. This lights the baby and creates the square of light that immediately draws the eye. A standard reflector at f4 1/2 (-1.5 stops), gelled this with 1/2 CT orange, is positioned against the rear wall to camera right, pointing down at the book case. Another standard reflector at f4 1/2 (-1.5 stops), also gelled with 1/2 CT orange, is low out of frame to camera right and aimed at the recliner. A standard reflector at f8 1/2 (+.5 stops), gelled with 1/2 CT orange, is high out of frame to camera left, aimed down at the recliner. A standard reflector at f4 1/2 (-1.5 stops), gelled with 1/2 CT blue, is placed low to camera left and angled up at the recliner to create a glow from the television. A standard reflector at f4 (-2 stops) is bounced into the white side of a v-flat behind the camera to the left, and another to the right. The 3 lamp heads are powered with AC slaves.

Saverio also shot a plate without strobes at a longer exposure so he could composite the lamp’s glow on the ceiling in post.

Comments: The prop stylist brought along a boat-load of different tapes before settling on the hardware store brand duct tape. It was the perfect complimentary color, had a pleasing, medium sheen, held well to the wall and didn’t take off a great deal of the boy’s skin upon removal. win, win, win, win.

Child services was not contacted.

sacha waldman's photo lighting of kohler ventriloquists on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of ventriliquist

copyright, Sacha Waldman

This mid-century feeling ventriloquist shot from the Kohler faucet campaign (photographer’s alternate cropping) gets funnier the longer you look at it. It was created with 9 strobes and 12 AC slaves with standard household, screw-type, lamp socket connections.

Camera: Contax 645 with 55mm lens and Leaf Aptus 22 back, set on a tripod 8 feet from closest models. Shot at 1/125, f16, ISO 100.

Lighting: A lot of light is used for this large set and cast. The key light is a 7’ Octabank at f16 (without any baffle) boomed 5 feet directly over camera and angled downward. A large softbox at f11 is centered below and just in front of camera, angled upward. Notice the nice highlights on the faucet this creates. Another large softbox at f16 is boomed high over and 9 feet in front of camera, out of frame and angled downward at a 30 degree angle. High out of frame and to camera left, a normal reflector at f11 1/2 is angled downward toward the center of frame. Stuck up in the top center of the tent, a standard reflector at f22 and attached to the pole creates the bright highlights on the material. In the rear of the tent to camera left, another standard reflector at f22 is hidden behind the fold and aimed upward. Outside the rear of the tent high to camera right, a magnum reflector at f22 is pointed downward. This creates the flare in the tent hole and the highlights on the man standing in the opening. Hidden behind the open trunk in the rear to camera right, a standard reflector at f22 is aimed into the bottom of the tent. Out of frame to camera right and ten feet in front of the camera, a standard reflector at f16 is aimed toward the middle of frame. This helps light the second row of models. The string of bare light bulbs and the hanging lantern are AC slaves. With longer recycling times, some did not fire every shot.

Whew. That was a mouthful.

Comments: Having all the ventriloquists drink water was a genius idea conceptually, but led to “logistical” challenges. Nothing a row of luxury Porta-Johns directly outside the tent couldn’t fix, though.

achim lippoth's photo lighting of girl on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of achim lippoth for guess the lighting blog

copyright, Achim Lippoth

This cute, but punchy, shot of a little darling getting the age-old squeeze from Grandma is from an ad campaign for Findus Fraich’ Frites. This image was created with 4 lights.

Camera: Hasselblad H1 with 150mm lens and Leaf Aptus 75 digital back, set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 50.

Lighting: The key light is a small softbox at f8 (with outer baffle removed) above and five feet to the right of camera. A second, small softbox at f8 (with outer baffle removed), high out of frame camera left and slightly behind the girl provides the highlights on her hair and cheek. The highlights on the top of her head are created with a small softbox at f11 boomed above and slightly behind her. The directional light on the back wall is shaped with a final, small softbox at f5.6 (feathered so the light fades off to camera right).

Comments: After the 42nd take, the girl karate chopped the elderly model in the stomach and stomped off set screaming “Sie zahlen nicht genug für mich diese alte Dame.” The final image, here, was take 41.

scott mcdermott's photo lighting of clint eastwood on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of clint eastwood on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of clint eastwood on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Scott McDermott

This hyper-sharp, seemingly pencil-sketched portrait of Clint Eastwood for the recent Mandela Day campaign was created with 4 lights.

Camera: Nikon D3x with 135mm lens, handheld 6 feet back from Clint. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting (Clint): Crisp, punchy lighting like this can only be achieved with bare bulbs and no diffusion. The key light is a grid reflector at f11 with a 40 degree grid, boomed 3 feet above camera and 4 feet from Clint’s head. Overall fill is achieved with an on-camera ring flash at f4 1/2. Two small strip lights at f16 are 5 feet behind him, positioned camera left and right. Two v-flats have been set to focus the light on his head and block any potential lens flare. The strips lend strong highlights to his hair and shoulders.

Lighting (Hand): The lighting for Clint’s hand is nearly identical except that the two strip lights have been replaced with two normal reflectors and aimed at the white background. The key light has been lowered below the hand and pointed slightly upward.

Comments: When Clint arrived at the studio, he asked Scott what he was looking for. Scott said he wanted a combination of Dirty Harry, Bronco Billy and Josey Wales, but without the shooting him in the face part.