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tony duran lights emily ratajkowski for guess the lighting

 

 

ted sabarese lighting diagram tony duran

Copyright, Tony Duran

If a year ago you didn’t know Emily Ratajkowski, I wouldn’t hold it against you. But ever since starring – nearly nekkid – in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video, Emily has blown up. Way up. Her body was barely painted for this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and it seems like she’s being photographed for multiple magazines. Every. Single. Month.

This image is from a series shot by Tony Duran for an Ocean Drive Magazine interview (where Emily chats about loving humidity, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and the androgynous looks of rocker Patti Smith). It’s nice to see that Tony takes a more classic approach to styling and lighting such a “double-take-inducing vixen.” He used 1 reflector and 2 lights, in conduction with a highly reflective background, in this image.

And for all you expensive bracelet fans, that’s a $46k white gold and diamond Cartier on Emily’s wrist.

Camera: DSLR with 24-70mm lens handheld 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f5.6, ISO 100.

Lighting: Tony is a big fan of natural light and reflectors, but he needed a little strobe help to achieve this particular look. The key light is a white beauty dish (+1 stop) 9 feet to camera right and just above head height. This throws the nice white glow on Emily’s cheek. A small silver reflector (+1.5 stops) bounces sunlight from low, camera left onto her arm and chest. A magnum reflector (-1 stop) positioned just above and directly behind camera nicely fills her face and body.

Comments: For the past decade, Emily has studied advanced yo-yo mechanics and has multiple patents pending on a new design. During wardrobe changes, she showed Tony some of the latest tricks she mastered: the Takashi Boing and the Double Suicide.

Mert & Marcus photo lighting of Adele for Vogue on Guess the Lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of mert & marcus adele vogue

copyright, Mert & Marcus.

Thanks to everyone who sent in (and continues to send) pics of their pooches. Now back to the lighting guessing.

It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like or don’t like. I don’t think anyone can disagree that Adele has an angelic voice unlike any other. A voice that can seduce you one second, then grab you by the shoulders and shake you silly the next. The more interviews I see, the more I really like her. She has a refreshing honesty and self-deprecating sense of humor not found in many megastars. It’s unbelievable that her career was nearly ended by necessary throat surgery. Our collective ears rejoice that it was not.

Mert & Marcus’ drop-dead gorgeous and dramatic story for the March 2012 US Vogue couldn’t be more fitting of Adele and her voice. The photographic duo combine unbelievable styling, propping and lighting to create an image I’m sure Adele’s mum has taped to her fridge. They certainly nailed it. And with a combo of 4 hot lights and strobes.

This image was suggested by Joel Bedford. Thanks, Joel.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 70mm lens set on a tripod 12 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f11, ISO 50.

Lighting: For starters, I want to acknowledge there’s quite a bit of retouching in this shot. But I don’t believe it affects the light sources. The key light (if you can call it that) is a 2.5k Arri fresnel HMI at f16 (+1 stop) placed 8 feet to camera right and 6 feet above Adele’s head with narrow focus. It’s aimed directly at her face and hits very little else. A similar Arri fresnel at f16 (+1 stop) sits low, 12 feet to camera right nearly perpendicular to the couch and aimed slightly upward. This light illuminates the branches of baby’s breath, purple fabric, her hand and dress. A gridded, medium strip light at f11 with a full CT blue gel is boomed in above Adele and aimed at the back wall. It has also been flagged to stop light from spilling onto her. A Profoto XL white umbrella at f4 (-3 stops) is set high and directly behind camera to provide a hint of fill.

Comments: During the little downtime she had between shots, Adele battled Alec Baldwin (he’s a big fan) in a Words with Friends game. She first made him promise that he wasn’t currently on an airplane of any sort, though.

achim lippoth photo lighting on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of achim lippoth guess the lighting

copyright, Achim Lippoth.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Achim is the world’s preeminent children’s photographer. He’s consistently finds a way to visually capture the honesty of childhood without ever surrendering to the saccharine style so often associated with the genre. He shoots kids the way they’re dying to be treated: with respect and adult-like.

This image, from Promised Land for Kids Wear Magazine (which Achim also happens to publish), is one of the raddest (and probably most expensive) editorial stories for children’s clothing ever made. Now don’t think this was all shot in-camera. It wasn’t. It’s a Mad Max inspired collaboration between Achim and German post production house The Scope, with loads of CGI combined with incredible styling and propping. Shot in a massive studio. Composited with great expense. Oh, and with the assistance of 3 lights.

It kicks ass, right? I couldn’t image any photographer not wishing they’d shot this themselves.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 50mm lens. Set on a tripod 11 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 50.

Lighting: This was shot in a studio, but Achim wanted to imitate desert sunlight as closely as possible. The key light is a gridded, silver beauty dish at f11 1/2 (+1/2 stop) 8 feet to camera right and 3 feet above the kid’s head level. A magnum reflector at f18 (+2 stops) is 6 feet to camera right of the boy, about head level and 4 feet behind him. This mimics the hard, late day sun and creates the strong highlights and long shadow on the ground. The fill light is a large octabank at f5.6 (-2 stops) 8 feet to camera left and even with the boy.

Comments: While the stylist was putting finishing touches and dirtying up the wardrobe, Achim playfully asked the 10-year-old boy if he’d ever heard of the movie Mad Max. “Yep,” he answered. “The trilogy kinda made Mel Gibson’s career, right? Mad Max 2 blew, but Beyond Thunderdome was more complex and visionary than even the original. Possibly one of the best films of ’85. Without Mad Max, there may not have been a Lethal Weapon worth seeing. In my opinion, anyway. Hey, Achim, can I please get a ginger ale? My mom doesn’t let me drink soda at home.”

steven klein's photo lighting for dolce & gabbana ss2008 ad

ted sabarese lighting diagram of steven klein's d&g ad for guess the lighting

copyright, Steven Klein.

For years and years, Steven has been wowing us with provocative imagery for D&G. From the softer side of Madonna to sexy, futuristic science experiments to elaborate period piece setups, the campaigns always have a visual complexity and hammer-to-the-head stopping power. Which is exactly what you want in an ad (and probably why Dolce continues their long relationship with Steven).

This SS 2008 shot of a group of strapping, smartly suited, young men walking with utter disregard for the notion of personal space is no exception. I’m guessing it’s inspired by that opening scene from Reservoir Dogs with the gang walking down the street in slo-mo. Minus Chris Penn in the light purple nylon jacket, of course. Among other tricks from his goody bag, Steven uses colored gels to animate an otherwise drab background and allow the dark suits to really pop from the page. The layered lighting effect was created with 7 lights.

Camera: Medium format, 50mm lens and Kodak Portra 400NC film. Set on a tripod 10 feet back. Shot at 1/250, f8, ISO 400.

Lighting: Think about it. A dark, industrial, razor wire-dotted stretch of city isn’t necessarily the coolest of locations. But Steven makes it just that. Let’s start by looking at the background lighting since that’s where most of the interest lies. Two, standard reflectors covered in red gel at f11 (+1 stop) are set on floor stands and aimed up against the wall on camera left. A magnum reflector at f11 (+1 stop) is set high behind the guys and aimed down at the background street. Another magnum reflector at f11 (+1 stop) with a yellow gel is also set high in the rear of the shot and aimed down toward camera, coating the wet cobblestones with a lush, warm glow. A medium striplight at f11 (+1 stop) with a full CTB gel is attached under the scaffolding to camera right, mimicking industrial lighting. It’s fun to notice that not only do the variety of colors affect the shot, but the shape of the light modifiers, as well.

Now on to the dudes. The soft key light is a giant parabolic reflector at f8 sitting high and directly behind camera. A white beauty dish at f11 (+1 stop) with a full CTO gel is boomed in from camera left directly over the group’s head. This gives the cool (looking) warm highlights on their hairdos. Steven also had some industrial-strength fog machines on set to accentuate the colored light’s dramatic effect.

Comments: A rebel visionary who enjoys pushing the envelope and sometimes crossing the line, Steven originally proposed that the models wear only their neckties and each walk their own invisible dog. After fully covering that scenario, he Skyped with Quentin Tarantino who insisted that Reservoir Dogs would not have been what it was without the black suits. So Steven obliged the client and Quentin and went “safe.”

Victor Demarchelier's photo lighting of Constance Jablonski

Ted Sabarese lighting diagram of Victor Demarchelier shooting Constance Jablonski

copyright, Victor Demarchelier.

When your pop is Patrick Demarchelier, you’ve got some photo juju at your disposal. After assisting his dad for a bit, young Victor went out on his own in 2009 to shoot mostly models of the fashion variety. And if you’re up on your models, you know Ms. Jablonski is pretty big. Which may explain (or not) the 50-gallon hat she’s styled in for this September 2012 Harper’s Bazaar Australia cover. Vincent lit this image with 2 lights and a hat wrangler.

*Thanks to Dennis Zeitz for sending me this image.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 100mm lens. Set on a tripod 10 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 50.

Lighting: To achieve this extremely flattering, soft light, Vincent pulled a page from his dad’s playbook. The Key light is a medium octabank at f11, just above head height and 6 feet to camera right. You can see that the light is not very high since it Constance’s hat doesn’t cast much of a shadow on her face. A 7-inch grid reflector with 30 degree grid at f8 (-1 stop) is low and behind Connie to camera right. It’s aimed up at the center of the seamless to create the slight glow behind her. A black v-flat is just to camera left of Constance to create a strong shadow on that side.

Comments: Unbeknownst to many, Constance is quite the card. She arrived on set speaking not with her native French accent, but with a full-on Aussie one. She proceeded to teach the entire crew how to speak Australian and told Victor that she almost “chucked a sickie” because she was “chundering” all morning after a “cobber” fed her a few “icy poles” made with Vodka.

Nick Knight's photo lighting of Lady Gaga on guess the lighting blog

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

Nick Knight multi-camera setup

copyright, Nick Knight.

Nick Knight may be fashion photography’s Andy Warhol. He pushes his work conceptually, technically and stylistically. Usually in a $3000 suit. This outtake from i-D Magazine’s 30th birthday cover shoot with Lady Gaga, though, lands on the tamer side of Nick-ness. Straightforward black and white. Yet still quite beautiful in its simplicity. This image of the Lady (and two lucky photo assistants) was created with three strobes.

That’s a bonus shot of Mr. Knight with one of his crazy camera setups (not used here). The man’s a dashing, mad genius.

Camera: Hasselblad H2 with 100mm lens and Phase One p65+ back, set on tripod 10 feet back. Shot at 1/250, f8, ISO 50.

Lighting: It’s not easy keeping up with Gaga’s on-camera antics, so Nick shot at 1/250 and had an assistant hand-hold a head to even have a chance. The key light is a Magnum reflector at f8 1/2 (+ 1/2 stops) held by the assistant at head height, six feet to camera right. Two large softboxes to the right and left of the white seamless at f5.6 (-1 stop) light the background.

Comments: This particular day, the lovely Lady was feeling feline. Specifically, like a Norwegian Forest Cat since this breed followed the Vikings around the world on their ships. “I could totally see myself kicking ass with the Vikings,” she told Nick “but as a cat. I would be the cat no other cat would want to ever meet. Unless they had a death wish. I’d take all of their nine lives in one vicious wave of my paw, cut of their ears as a prize and mark my territory before leaving. Yeah, I’m totally a Norwegian Forest Cat today, Nick.”

alex prager photo lighting for bottega veneta on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of alex prager for guess the lighting blog

copyright, Alex Prager.

Alex Prager is hot stuff right now. If you haven’t heard of her (shame on you—less telly), you surely will. Her fine art work is brilliantly cinematic. She’s a sort of modern-day Cindy Sherman and has been exhibited at little museums like the MoMA and Whitney in New York City. When Bottega Veneta asked her to shoot their latest advertising campaign, they were rewarded with truly provocative imagery that doesn’t look like all the other current fashion ads. This particular execution (with a not-so-subtle nod to Hitchcock) was created with 2 HMI lights.

Camera: Contax 645 with 80mm lens and Kodak Portra 160NC film, handheld 12 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: To mimic and blend with the midday sunlight, Alex has set an Arri 12,000 watt fresnel HMI fifteen feet to camera right, up high and slightly behind the model. A one-stop silk in front helps to soften the light just a touch and create the attractive highlight on his face. An Arri 6,000 watt fresnel HMI with barn doors sits twelve feet to camera left and is positioned in front of the model and lower to help fill the shadows. To achieve this dynamic, upward angle, Alex must have built a stage for the model to stand on.

Comments: Shoot with live birds and you chance the occasional pooping. These pigeons possessed an almost supernatural aim. When the poor model was nicked three times within an hour, Alex told him it was good luck. He had his reservations until he won the local Pick 3 lottery the following day.

Mario Testino's photo lighting for British Vogue on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of mario testino guess the lighting blog

copyright, Mario Testino.

In a Vogue issue paying homage to the Royal Wedding, Mario shot Freja Beha Erichsen, Lara Stone and Natalia Vodianova in some of the season’s loveliest wedding gowns. It also marked the first time the magazine had been published with a choice of three different covers. This silk soft cover shot of Lara was created with five lights.

Camera: Hasselblad H2 with 150mm lens and Phase One IQ140 digital back, set on a tripod 12 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f5.6, ISO 50.

Lighting: The overall lighting is somewhat flat with highlights taking the place of shadow. An Arri 1200 watt fresnel (shot through a silk) with tight barn doors at f4 ½ (-½ stop) sits at head level, just off to camera left. A 2500 watt fresnel at f5.6 is bounced off an overhead 6×6 framed silk from camera right. This helps to even out Lara’s hair. A 2500 watt fresnel (shot through a silk) at f11 (+2 stops) rests ten feet behind her to camera right and creates the hot, soft glow on the rear of her face and neck. Another 2500 watt fresnel (shot through a silk) at f11 (+2 stops) is placed to camera right, slightly behind her. A 2500 watt fresnel with barn doors at f11 (+2 stops) is set behind the wall to camera left and aimed at the background. This creates the angelic glow around her head.

Comments: Lara was slightly jet-lagged, but extremely excited on the shoot day. She had just returned that morning from Vyborg, Russia where she picked up a newborn, petite lap giraffe. The wee giraffe quickly made itself comfortable on-set and huddled against Mario’s pant leg while he worked with Lara. Natalia was smitten.

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.