Archives For lighting

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.

Erwin Olaf's photo lighting for hope project on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of erwin olaf's hope project on guess the lighting

copyright, Erwin Olaf.

Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf holds a special place in my heart. Many would say he’s primarily an advertising photographer with a fashion bent. And yes, his work for Diesel Jeans, Lavazza and Moooi reflects that. But even these ad jobs showcase an imaginative artist. One who is conceptual in nature and enjoys creating unique worlds for his subjects to come to life in.

Recently, though, Erwin has focused more on personal, fine art projects. And they’re all pretty mind-blowing. This image is from his Hope series which is also a hardcover book. It’s beautiful. It’s haunting. It’s stagnant, yet dynamic in its ability to evoke emotion. I can kind of sit here for hours and scour over every detail–the casting, wardrobe, the door number, the open door, that lone umbrella–but I digress in my photo geekery. It’s just pretty awesome. To create this captured moment of hope, Erwin used 5 lights.

Camera: Medium format, with Kodak EPP 100 transparency film and an 80mm lens. Set on a tripod 11 feet back. Shot at 1/30, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: It’ll be easier to break this down by model. Our man’s key light is a small softbox at f13 (+1/2 stop) over his head and slightly frontal aimed at his face. A medium softbox at f8 (-1 stop) is set high and three feet to camera left, also aimed at his head, providing fill. For our woman, a small softbox at f11 is over her head and also slightly frontal and just to her right. Another small softbox at f11 is positioned behind the wall the man is standing against and aimed at her face. A large octabank at f8 (-1 stop) is high and six feet to camera left. This provides fill for her body as well as the entire wall and left side of frame. The models kept very still with the slow shutter speed so Erwin could capture the wall sconce lighting (though it was enhanced in post).

Comments: The models were not the docile, overly reserved duo they appear to be. They were two members of the now-defunct German comedy troupe, The Supernaturals, and had themselves, the crew and even Erwin in stitches most of the day. Apparently, their bit about a fax machine salesman with two right feet caused the digital tech and the stylist’s assistant to wet their pants. Once and twice, respectively.

nadav kander photo lighting for time magazine on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of nadav kander's morsi shot

copyright, Nadav Kander.

Nadav Kander is one of the most successful advertising and editorial photographers today. What makes his portraiture unique is that he doesn’t have a single photo lighting “look,” but many, actually. He’s consistently trying different setups, pushing himself to remain fresh and relevant. This shot for a recent Time Magazine cover illustrates this point. It’s a standard, tight headshot of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, but the lighting and subtle retouching make it anything but ordinary. Fitting for the “most important man in the Middle East,” right? Nadav achieved this look with 4 lights.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 100mm lens set on a tripod 6 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 50.

Lighting: The key lighting for this image is perfectly symmetrical. Nadav uses two, small softboxes (with the outer baffle removed to increase specularity) at f13 (+1 1/2 stops). They are placed 3 feet to either side of Morsi’s head and slightly behind it. This placement creates the sharp highlights on his cheeks but also manages to fill the front of his face. It also keeps away any reflection from his glasses. Two white umbrellas at f5.6 (-1 stop) are aimed at the seamless from both the right and left sides to create a flat background. The shadow behind Morsi’s head is added in post.

Comments: A big fan of Hank Williams Sr. (definitely not Jr.), Morsi played a medley of his songs on his oud between shots. His crooning and wailing were pretty spot on, too, with more than one crew member suggesting he tryout for next season’s the Voice.

dimitri daniloff photo lighting of ps2 ad on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of dimitri daniloff ps2 ad

copyright, Dimitri Daniloff.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall of Dimitri Daniloff’s imagination. His volume of work goes from cool to shocking to what the #$@*? It’s highly stylized, highly conceptual and usually with quite a bit of compositing and post work. Which makes sense since his college schooling consisted of mathematics and science, instead of photography and art.

This image entitled “Rebirth” for Sony’s launch of its PS2 game station won lots of critical acclaim, as well as the Cannes Grand Prix for Advertising. I’m going out on a limb and guessing the man’s head and shoulders were not shot in-camera. The lighting is achieved with a mixture of HMI and strobe lighting that Einstein, himself, would be proud of. If Einstein were in to photography. Dimitri used six lights in total.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 80mm lens set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f16, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a 6K HMI fresnel shot through a 6×6 silk at f16. The light is positioned high and 10 feet to camera right. Let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend the man’s head could be where it is. A gridded, silver beauty dish at f22 (+1 stop) is high, just to camera right, and aimed down toward his newborn face, with a more specular feel than the rest of the lighting. Dimitri has a ring flash on his camera at f8 (-2 stops) for subtle fill and a nice layering of light. Another 6K HMI fresnel shot through a 6×6 silk at f18 (+ 1/2 stop) is set 12 feet to camera left and slightly behind the mother. This gives her just a touch of rim/high light on her arm and neck. Two standard reflectors in white umbrellas at f22( +1 stop) are aimed at the background, blowing it out just a touch.

Comments: Coincidentally, the “mother” model’s sister was actually giving birth to a baby-sized boy at the exact moment Dimitri was shooting. The sister’s husband was stationed overseas, so she was alone in the delivery room. The third assistant rigged a cell phone (set to speaker) to an autopole and dangled it just out of frame. The model was able to yell “push, Chloe, push” as the entire set was privy to some of the most unbelievable cussing imaginable. A trucker, delivering supplies to the studio, hadn’t even heard a few of those peaches, before.

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.”

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?”

 

tim flach's photo lighting of dog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of tim flach's dog

copyright, Tim Flach.

If you’re familiar with Tim Flach’s work, you know there aren’t many people out there who photograph animals better than he does. It’s not that he merely captures his subjects with excellent lighting. He also creates a unique environment for them – whether they be horses, chimps, bats or, in this case, dogs - and brings a painterly quality and rich, storied texture. As someone not easily enamored with animal portraiture (I’m not much of a William Wegman fan, for instance), I find Tim’s work beautiful and compelling.

This image of a Springer Spaniel chasing pheasants was included in his 2010 Dogs book. It was taken on the Elveden Estate in Norfolk, England which is huge, hunting mecca teaming with pheasants just waiting to be shot at. The book is definitely worthy of a perusal, if not an outright purchase. There are tons of fun pics of all kinds of dog breeds here, many of which I’ve never even seen before. Tim nailed this shot with 3 lights on an overcast day. I am happy to say no animals were injured in the filming and no fog machine was necessary.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 100mm lens. Set on a tripod 13 feet back from ferns. Shot at 1/800, f11, ISO 200.

Lighting: Tim has positioned two lights to act as the keys for this shot. One large softbox at f16 (+1 stop) is set high, 15 feet to camera left and a foot behind the dog. Another large softbox at f11 is positioned similarly 15 feet to camera left just in front of the ferns. These two lights ensured the foreground would be covered regardless of where the dog ran or the birds flew. A third large softbox at f8 (-1 stop) is high and directly behind the camera, acting as fill. The incredibly overcast daylight measures f5.6 (-2 stops) and allows for the moody, gloomy background.

Comments: Tim waited hours in a cold, wet, camouflaged duck blind to get this shot. The hired Spaniel – a lifer hunting dog with an impeccable pheasant kill ratio – was noticeably displeased when, after executing a textbook flush from the brush, Tim shot the game birds with a Hasselblad H4D-40 instead of a Browning Auto 5 Light 12-Guage.

 

martin schoeller photo lighting of christian bale on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of schoeller on guess the lighting

copyright, Martin Schoeller.

As a GTL fan recently brought to my attention, Martin Schoeller was left off Professional Photographer Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Photographers of All Time” list. Which is a grievous travesty (so much so I’ve called my local congressman. And actually registered on PP‘s website to log an official complaint). From his “close-up” series to his vast canon of celebrity portraiture, Martin demonstrates technical mastery, powerful framing and wonderfully subtle humor seen by few other photographers. He’s kinda the man. So in deference to this man so wrongfully snubbed by a silly list, I’ve decided to guess his lighting to open the week.

Back in 2009, soon after the release of The Dark Knight, Martin was asked to shoot Christian Bale for Esquire UK. Some very cool, close-up portraits were also published, but this shot of a sharply dressed jetty fisherman made me giggle outright. The attention to details like the old-school tackle box, multiple poles and a large flock of seagulls (I’m guessing his assistants had bags full of french fries to keep their attention) is amazing. Martin pulled this off with two lights and the strategically positioned sun.

Camera: Medium format, 160 ASA film, with 90mm lens set on a tripod 14 feet back. Shot at 1/250, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a gridded, white beauty dish at f8, positioned 5 feet to camera right, a bit above head hight and aimed directly at Christian’s face. The grid keeps the light from falling off too much onto his upper body and legs. Another gridded, white beauty dish at f5.6 (-1 stop) sits 8 feet to camera left and is similarly aimed at his face. This light gives us the fill on his face but allows his body to go dark. The sun, though not nearly at magic hour, is low in the sky at f11 1/2 (+1 1/2 stops) to camera right and well behind Christian. Martin has a 6×6 frame with a silk positioned to camera right in order to soften the highlights on Christian’s face and suit (notice how strong the highlights are on some of the birds’ heads that were not diffused by the silk).

Comments: Not having much saltwater fishing experience himself, but a big fan of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, Christian was excited for this setup. In between film changes, he practiced his casting into the surf and worked the lure further and further out each time. At one point, he unintentionally and inadvertently hooked something. The something turned out to be a 425 pound Blue Marlin that pulled him off the rocks, into the ocean. Waist-deep, he fought the fish for nearly two hours before finally battling it to the beach and beating out the previous local Blue Marlin record by 45 pounds. To celebrate, Christian treated the entire crew, as well as the medium-sized crowd that had gathered, to tequila gimlets at a nearby bar.

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