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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.”

achim lippoth's photo lighting of girl on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of achim lippoth for guess the lighting blog

copyright, Achim Lippoth

This cute, but punchy, shot of a little darling getting the age-old squeeze from Grandma is from an ad campaign for Findus Fraich’ Frites. This image was created with 4 lights.

Camera: Hasselblad H1 with 150mm lens and Leaf Aptus 75 digital back, set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 50.

Lighting: The key light is a small softbox at f8 (with outer baffle removed) above and five feet to the right of camera. A second, small softbox at f8 (with outer baffle removed), high out of frame camera left and slightly behind the girl provides the highlights on her hair and cheek. The highlights on the top of her head are created with a small softbox at f11 boomed above and slightly behind her. The directional light on the back wall is shaped with a final, small softbox at f5.6 (feathered so the light fades off to camera right).

Comments: After the 42nd take, the girl karate chopped the elderly model in the stomach and stomped off set screaming “Sie zahlen nicht genug für mich diese alte Dame.” The final image, here, was take 41.