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annie leibovitz photo lighting of lady gaga on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of annie leibovitz shot

ted sabarese lighting diagram of annie leibovitz shot

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

Thanks to everyone who responded to the poll on the GTL facebook page. Annie was the hands-down winner of readers’ choice for my next guess. So, as you’ve requested, here’s a cool shot by Annie featuring Lady Gaga for the December, 2009 edition of Vogue.

As would be expected, Annie’s interpretation of the childhood Hansel and Gretel story rocks with drama and a high fashion sensibility. This image reenacts the scene where the two children turn the table on the witch and throw her into the oven. Having Gaga and model phenom Lily Cole on hand certainly doesn’t hurt.

I’m also guessing this image was not all shot together, in-camera. I don’t see how Annie could have achieved the vibrant red light on the oven and ground while keeping the models lit mostly white. I think the camera was locked off with Gaga being shot by herself, then the two models shot separately. 6 lights were used in total and the final image was composited in post.

Camera: DSLR with 50mm lens set on a tripod 15 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 400.

Lighting: The key light on Gaga is a Photek Softlighter at f16 (+1 stop), handheld by an assistant, high and 6 feet to camera right. It has been removed in post. A large octabank with a red gel at f8 1/2 (-1/2 stop) is set directly behind camera. This fills in Gaga and gives the red hue to the front of the oven and ground. A gridded magnum reflector with a full CTO gel at f22 (+2 stops) is behind her on the floor of the oven, aimed slightly upward. This adds the yellowish highlights to Gaga’s hair.

In the second setup, a medium octabank at f5.6 (-2 stops) is set high and 10 feet to camera left, providing fill on Lily’s back. Another medium octabank at f8 (-1 stop) is set similarly to camera right for fill on the man. The same large octabank with a red gel at f8 (-1 stop) is set just behind camera. A small, Profoto striplight with barn doors at f22 (+2 stops) is boomed directly above the models and aimed downwards, creating the areas of high contrast on their shirts, faces and legs. I’m guessing the red on the man’s hair has been accentuated in post. Probably lots of the red has actually been accentuated. Finally, the same gridded magnum reflector with a full CTO gel at f22 (+2 stops) sits on the oven floor and creates the yellow highlights on the man’s face. The final image is a composite of the two shots.

Comments: Lady Gaga thought it would be totally rad if she literally set herself on fire for the shot. But the level-headed Leibovitz (who ordinarily has a penchant for “reality” too) convinced her that sometimes “figurative” is just as good as “literal.” Especially when dealing with flames.