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annie leibovitz's photo lighting in Vanity Fair for wizard of oz

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of annie leibovitz for guess the lighting blog

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

Talk about a challenge. In 2005, Vogue Magazine posed this to Annie Leibovitz: take the Wizard of Oz, one of history’s most important films. Recreate the iconic scenes, but add your own personal, touch. Looking at the photo story as a whole, I have to say Annie nailed it. Crushed it, actually (it certainly didn’t hurt to have Keira Knightley at her disposal). Google the story. Each image is more beautiful than the next. This shot of Dorothy, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry rushing to shelter captures the cinematic feel while adding Annie’s modern sensibility. It was created with one light and the help of the sun.

Camera: Mamiya RZ67 with 50mm lens and Kodak Portra 400NC film, handheld 15 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f16, ISO 400.

Lighting: To mimic a gloomy, tornado-laden day, Annie underexposed the shot by two stops. The key light is a large Octabank at f8 set high and 12 feet to camera left. The sun at f8 is high in the sky and slightly to camera right. This adds fill and some flatness to the image. Two large wind machines are out of frame to camera right aimed head-high adding to the stormy feel. Though a stickler for realism, Annie did not wait for an actual tornado to touch down. The background was added in post.

Comments: The cute puppy, though a dead wringer for Toto, wasn’t the most obedient pooch. While the rest of the talent moved toward the shelter doors, he ran in the opposite direction. Usually chasing a vagrant squirrel or his own tail. After numerous failed attempts, the prop stylist replaced him with a taxidermied fox. The dogs features were retouched in in post.

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.

 

Michael Thompson's photo lighting of Rihanna for GQ on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of rihanna for gq on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Michael Thompson.

Rihanna may currently be entangled in a dab of plagiarism controversy over her latest video, but that doesn’t take away from the utter sexiness seeping from this January 2010 GQ cover. Michael’s soft, backlighting paints a glamorous yet angelic picture of this rock and roll siren. Five strobes did the trick.

Camera: Hasselblad H3D-39 and 100mm lens, handheld 10 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 50.

Lighting: The main light sources come from the sides and behind. A large softbox at f16 ½ (+2 ½ stops) is positioned behind a framed, one-stop diffusion silk to camera left and behind Rihanna. Another large softbox at f8 ½ (+ ½ stop) with framed silk sits similarly to camera right. A medium softbox at f5.6 (-1 stop) sits four feet to camera left and eight feet high. Two white umbrellas at f11 (+1 stop) light the white background from both camera right and left, in the rear.

Comments: Both avid potholers, Michael and Rihanna 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 Rihanna from the fact her shorts, although very cool, wouldn’t zip up all the way.

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.

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.

platon's photo lighting for bill clinton esquire on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of bill clinton on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Platon.

This was Clinton’s last official portrait as president, created with 1 light for Esquire. After a session of typically presidential posing was complete, Platon asked Clinton to “show him the love.” The result caused a stir in the political mediasphere. Bob Woodward said on Larry King Live that, “the tie is an arrow pointing to his penis, his legs are splayed to present his crotch to us, his hands are big to grope you, and he’s smiling in a way to say I got away with it.”

Camera: Hasselblad 553ELX with 30mm fisheye lens and Kodak Portra film. Shot at 1/60, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key, and only, light is a small softbox at f8 directly over camera. Although it seems that another light is aimed at the background, I’m guessing this effect was created in post.

Comments: To break the ice, Platon tried teaching the president some cockney rhyming slang. Bill just laughed and said, “you said cockney.”

gavin bond's photo lighting of zach braff on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of zach braff on guess the lighting

copyright, Gavin Bond.

This cinematic portrayal of Zach Braff atypically kicking ass in a barroom brawl was for the March 2006 issue of Giant. Gavin used 4 lights (and a large imagination) to make it happen.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark II with 35mm lens, position on a tripod 8 feet back from Zach. Shot at 1/100, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: Although Gavin uses both HMIs and strobes in his photography, I’m guessing this image was all strobe (if you look closely, you can see hints in the reflections on the back wall and in the TV). The key light is a 72” octabank at f11 positioned 8 feet to camera left and 8 feet high. A medium octabank at f8 1/2 (- .5 stops) with the top third flagged is placed out of frame to camera left, near the man on the bar stool. A standard reflector with a full CT orange gel at f8 1/2 (-.5 stops) is behind the wall, near the cigarette machine, bounced straight into the ceiling. A 7” grid reflector with a 30 degree grid at f16 (+1 stop) and a full CT orange gel is out of frame to camera right, shoulder-height to Zach and nearer to the back wall.

Comments: When Gavin floated this last man standing idea past Zach’s publicist, she was worried it might damage his “nice guy” image. Zach immediately jumped in, saying firmly, “no, we’re doing this, please.” He later apologized for such a dramatic outburst and bought her a Tiffany charm bracelet and a year subscription to an orchid of the month club. Hopefully smoothing things over.

Simon Harsent's photo lighting of Mr. T on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of Mr. T on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Simon Harsent.

With the Hollywood remake of the A-Team, Mr. T is back in vogue (did he ever really leave?). This typically moody Harsent portrait was created with 2 lights.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark II with a 24-70mm lens, set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: Simon’s portraiture is usually dark and lit with an elegant simplicity. The key light is a medium octabank at f8, eight feet to camera left and 9 feet high. A seven inch gridded reflector with a full CT blue gel at f5.6 (-1 stop) is behind Mr. T to camera right and head level.

Comments: It wasn’t easy to track down T for the shoot as he’s been hiding for years on a remote island with the ability to move itself. And in deference to the current economic conditions, he willingly removed much of his trademark gold and insisted that one of the PAs keep it. As long as she didn’t sell it on eBay.

martin schoeller's photo lighting for kissinger on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram for kissinger on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Martin Schoeller.

Not one of the more popular images from Martin’s Close Up book, Kissinger’s 2007 portrait is my secret favorite. To me, Martin has captured every gut-wrenching decision Henry ever made in this single expression we’re uncomfortably close to. He created this with 4 light sources.

Camera: Mamiya RZ67 with 140mm macro lens and Kodak portra VC 400 ASA film, set on a tripod 5 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f5.6, ISO 400.

Lighting: The two key lights are 4-bulb Kino Flos positioned 3 feet from Henry’s face, just to camera left and right. At full power, they barely pull a f5.6. A small soft box at f5.6 is boomed directly over his head. A 7” reflector with grid at f8 sits on a small c-stand behind Henry, aimed at the background. The grid creates the white glow just above his shoulders, but allows the top of the background to go slightly grey.

Comments:  Martin and Henry got into a spirited debate about whether it’s proper etiquette to eat weisswurst after 12pm, but ended up agreeing to just disagree, without any hard feelings, whatsoever.