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irving penn's photo lighting of nude kate moss on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of nude kate moss on guess the lighting

copyright, Irving Penn

Though this timeless image of Ms. Moss from 1996 could have been created with a 2 light setup, Irving shot it using only natural light from a large skylight in his studio.

*Thanks to Nico Silberfaden for suggesting this image.

Camera: Rolleiflex 2.8f twin lens reflex camera with Kodak Tri-X 400 film, set on a tripod 8 feet back from the model. Shot at 1/60, f2.8, ISO 160 (pulled 1.5 stops).

Lighting: A large, overhead skylight lets the graciously-soft northern light pour down at f2.8 toward camera right. This leaves some of Kate in shadow and the right side of the background nicely lit.

Comments: Even approaching 80, Irving was a constant trickster. He would only speak to Kate in a cockney accent and kept referring to himself as Avedon. Tea was served at noon, tequila shots at 2:30, cigarettes continually.

dan winters' photo lighting of schwarzenegger on guess the lighting blog

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

copyright, Dan Winters

This personality-filled, personality portrait of the Governator from Dan’s book Periodical Photographs was created with 2 light sources.

Camera: Sinar F1 4×5 camera with Schneider 210mm lens and Kodak Portra 160 NC negative film, set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f22, ISO 80 (pulled 1 stop).

Lighting: The beauty of all Dan’s images lies in his signature, simple lighting. The key light here is a large octabank at f22 six feet to camera right. An on-camera ring flash at f11 adds just enough punch to open the shadows.

Comments: While Arnold was blowing this big league-sized bubble, the producer asked him how many fish tacos he wanted for lunch.

nadav kander's photo lighting of spike jonze on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of spike jonze on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Nadav Kander

A contemplative Spike Jonze for GQ was created with, I’m guessing, 5 heads. The cool berry/flower/weed design was done in post. But you knew that.

Camera: Hasselblad H4 with 120mm macro lens and 50MP Hassy digital back, hand-held, 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a white beauty dish at f8 boomed high behind the camera and pointed down. Two normal reflectors, both at f5.6, are shot through white, translucent umbrellas 5 feet camera left and right for the fill light. To light the background, one normal reflector at f5.6 was bounced into the white side of a v-flat on both the left and right sides of frame. This allows the background to fall off from true white and match, more closely, Spike’s skin tone.

Comments: To get this visual reaction from Mr. Jonze, Nadav asked him to try to think of ten other famous Spikes while everyone on set just stared in silence and waited for the answer.

david lachapelle's photo lighting of lady gaga on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of lady gaga on guess the lighting blog

copyright, David LaChapelle

Lady Gaga covered in bubbles shot for the cover of Rolling Stone. Very pink, very LaChapelle and created with 7 light sources.

Camera: Mamiya AFD3 with 80mm lens and Phase One P65+ digital back, hand-held, ten feet back. Shot at 1/60, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: The somewhat flat, frontal light is created with a large soft box at f8 five feet directly above camera and angled down. A medium strip bank at f5.6 resting on the the floor in front of the camera and angled up provides the fill. Two, bare Kino bulbs are staggered to the Lady’s immediate left and another two to her right. A magnum reflector with diffusion at f16.5 is positioned low in the doorway pointing toward her back (this creates the glowing hair and bubbles and adds some nice, softening lens flare).

Comments: Unsure whether Lady Gaga would enjoy or loathe listening to her own music while shooting, La Chapelle made the smart decision to hire a bagpiper from He played all the traditional favorites. The floating bubbles were hand-blown by two non-smoking assistants. After the shoot, Lady Gaga left the studio wearing the bubble outfit (she wanted to show her book club) where she was, ironically, photographed by a pack of paparazzo.

mario testino's photo lighting of giselle bundchen on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of giselle bundchen on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Mario Testino

I guess I’ll stick with Gisele for another moment and guess how Mario lit this seemingly sun-soaked image for the Pirelli calendar with 3 lights. I’ll even throw in my thoughts on how he lit maid arranging the flowers.

Camera: Pentax 67 ii with 100mm lens and Kodak Portra 400vc film, on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/30, f5.6, ISO 400.

Lighting: The room is obviously getting a decent amount of sunlight from the large, open window in the back left (subsequently, that’s the only light illuminating our diligent maid), but that’s not what’s making Gisele pop so strongly from the dark background. The key light is a small, white umbrella at f5.6 four feet to camera left, waist-high to Gisele. Mario covered the bulb with a Rosco pale yellow gel to add a sunny, Rio de Janeiro glow, indoors. A normal reflector with grid at f11 is positioned behind and to camera left of the model, adding a nice glow to her hair and highlights on her outside torso and leg. Another normal reflector with grid at f11 sits behind, low and to camera right of Gisele, creating the highlight on her left leg.

Comments: This shot was originally scheduled outside on a vintage, wooden, Chris-Craft triple-cockpit speedboat. Unfortunately, Mario came down with the whooping cough and was laid up for a couple days. This is his hotel room where he rolled out of bed for the shot. Gisele isn’t intentionally covering her breast, but wiping off the remnants of a Mario sneeze.

annie leibovitz's photo lighting for disney on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of disney ad on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Annie Leibovitz

This image featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov as Peter Pan, Gisele Bundchen as Wendy and Tina Fey as Tinkerbell is part of the “dream portrait” series for Disney theme parks. My guess is that Annie used only 2 (albeit, big-ass) lights for this shot.

Camera: Hasselblad H1 with 50mm lens and Phase One P30 digital back, on a tripod 10 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: The drama created with the lighting is achieved by the “less is more” philosophy. One Profoto 6 foot giant parabolic umbrella reflector at f11 is boomed over Mikhail and aimed down towards his head. Another one, also at f11, is boomed over and slightly behind Gisele and pointed down at her head. This setup allows for beautiful, soft lighting on the faces while letting most of the room drop off. The scenic skyline out the window was put in in post. As was tiny, glowy Tina Fey.

Comments: This was a tough shot to pull off. For authenticity’s sake, Annie set a 3:30AM call time and required the entire crew to wear bedroom slippers. Plus, Tina kept making fart noises from behind the window just as Mikhail “landed” in the room.

jim fiscus' photo lighting of dexter on guess the lighting blog

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

copyright, Jim Fiscus.

It seems only fitting to start with this image of Dexter holding an infant (like our nascent blog, blind to the possible horror and agony that possibly awaits us). That said, I believe Jim didn’t use any less than 7 heads to achieve the dramatic effect here.

Camera: Hasselblad H1 with 80mm lens and Phase One P45+ digital back, on tripod 6 feet from subject. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: Key light is a Profoto, white beauty dish with grid at f11 positioned about 3 feet camera left. Another white beauty dish is 4 feet camera right as fill at f5.6. An Elinchrom 6’ Octabank at f.4 is set 4 feet directly behind and above camera for overall fill. A small soft box on boom is overhead at f22 for hair lights. 2 small strip lights at f22 are behind the subject on the left and right sides for highlights. The glow behind Dexter is from a head with standard reflector at f22 on a waist-high stand behind him. 2 8’ v-flats (black side facing subject) helped to flag unwanted light.

Comments: Jim ate a bran muffin for breakfast as he wanted to be light on his toes and not sluggish in case the situation called for quick movement. Only decaf coffee was served by the caterer to keep potentially harmful jitters to a minimum. He made sure to wear his Adidas track sneaks and to never make direct eye contact.