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f. scott schafer lights larry david on guess the lighting

Ted Sabarese photo lighting diagram of Schafer's shot of Larry David

copyright, F. Scott Schafer.

Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld and now the star of his own show, is a funny man. He’s self-deprecating. He’s annoying. His social skills are lacking and his mouth knows no filter. I remember first seeing this image for the 2010 season of Curb Your Enthusiasm and immediately snorting out the orange juice I was drinking. It sums up the show perfectly, instantly and as hysterically as it should.

F. Scott Schafer seems equally as funny, at least visually speaking (I’ve never met him and can’t vouch for his joke repertoire). The majority of his work is provocative celebrity portraiture. It’s usually witty as hell, with intricate lighting, and this image is no exception. I’m guessing this delightful studio shot was created with precisely 5 lights and the use of a rented mini-trampoline.

Camera: DSLR with 50mm lens, set on a tripod 12 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a medium octabank at f11 1/2 (+1/2 stop) boomed in from camera left and positioned above and slightly behind Larry. A medium strip light at f11 sits just out of frame to camera left by the couch to help highlight him. A medium octabank at f8 (-1 stop) is twelve feet to camera left while another at f8 is twelve feet to camera right. The lights help to fill the background, although the heavy vignette was created in Photoshop. A large octabank at f5.6 (-2 stops) is positioned high and directly behind camera to provide fill on Larry and the couch. As much as Larry hoped to shoot the exasperated psychologist in-camera, Schafer wasn’t able to find a suitable model willing to hang by his neck for an extended period of time. He was shot separately, bouncing on a mini-tramp, with the medium strip as the key light and the large octabank as fill.

Comments: As you can imagine, Larry isn’t exactly the type to sit quietly throughout the shoot day. He spent a good portion of it bouncing ideas off F. Scott and the crew for another, “better” (his words) concept for the poster. When the makeup artist’s assistant mentioned the honey badger, Larry’s eyes lit up and he hopped from the couch and called for a team meeting. “Can we get a honey badger in here?” he asked. “But it’s gotta be a crazy, nastyass one. And let’s get a bee hive, a jackal and two cobras. And let’s see if we can get Randall in here, too. Let’s get his agent on the phone.”

After two minutes of utter silence with Larry looking from person to person without any reaction, he said, “okay, okay. I see I’m alone on this one. Not the first time. That’s okay. I’ll just go back to the couch now. Can I get a Fresca first, though, please?”