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annie leibovitz lights game of thrones on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of annie leibovitz

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

If one thing can bring me out of lighting guessing retirement, its Game of Thrones. Well, not just G.O.T., but Annie shooting the cast for the fourth season (which, by the way, I just finished and is freaking amazing!!). This image, in particular, is dripping with nuance. Look how the members of House Lannister and Baratheon are positioned–no accident. Cersei in the foreground with Jaime tucked neatly behind her. Joffrey, although king, small and almost in the background. Tyrion is off the side, never quite a true part of the family. Tywin also sits smugly off to the side where he can pull strings without drawing unwanted attention. And Brienne looks on from afar, as close as she will ever get to Jaime.

Thrones drama aside, Annie delivers a gorgeous and strong image lit by only 1 light and a cooperatively clouded sun. And yes, I’m a G.O.T. nerd.

Camera: Medium format with 80mm lens set on a tripod 16 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: I believe Annie goes back to one of her recent favorite lighting setups here. The key light is a single Photek Softlighter at f11, handheld by an assistant, high and 8 feet to camera right. The diffused skylight fills in the shot at f5.6 (-2 stops).

Comments: While on a green juice break, Annie got Peter Dinklage talking about the upcoming season and who would inevitably be killed off. He wouldn’t give specifics, but said that 2 people at today’s shoot wouldn’t be around for next year’s. Annie tried to tickle it out of him but found Peter isn’t very ticklish.

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.

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.

100 most influential photographers

copyright, Professional Photographer Magazine.

I’m a sucker for a list. Especially one that comments on the most influential photographers of all time. You can see the full PP list here. I’d love to hear what you think. Any glaring omissions? People too high or low? I’d also be willing to guess lighting on any of these photographers (many of whom are already on the pages of GTL), so if you have a fave or two, send them my way.

nadav kander's photo lighting of brad pitt on guess the lighting blog

Ted Sabarese photography lighting diagram of Nadav Kander

copyright, Nadav Kander.

Back in August of 2011, New York Magazine hired Nadav to shoot both Brad and Jonah Hill. The reason? A little film called Moneyball, the true story of Oakland A’s general manager Bill Beane who used quantitative analysis and computers to build a winning team and fight huge payroll inequities. The film almost didn’t make it to screen (to learn why, go here). It took nearly 10 years, 3 directors and 3 producers to complete, with Brad jumping on board in 2007 and seeing the film through.

Nadav managed to shoot this compelling portrait in 1 day, in 1 studio but with 5 lights.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 80mm lens. Set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8.5, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a gridded, white beauty dish at f11 (+ 1/2 stop) set high and 10 feet to camera left. Nadav was careful to position it precisely, keeping both of Brad’s eyes in the light. No fill light was used to ensure the strong contrast between light and shadow, which is pretty freakin’ killer. Behind v-flats (black side out) two white umbrellas attached to a c-stand at f8 (- 1/2 stop) were set behind brad to camera left and right. This creates the perfectly flat background. Now, quite a bit of post work was required to get this final look, but that’s a whole different blog.

Comments: It’s well-documented how Brad goodheartedly, yet relentlessly, pranked Jonah during filming. Let’s see. There was the giant, male genitalia placed on the back of his car before Jonah drove home on the freeway. Brad also shrink-wrapped Jonah’s golf cart bright pink (yes, movie stars get their own cart to cruise around the sets).

So for this shoot, Jonah decided he’d get a little payback, conspiring with Nadav and stylist Cheryl Konteh. When Brad arrived at the studio, they brought him through his wardrobe for the first shot: Black leather thong and matching tube top. Brad’s jaw dropped to the floor, but being a good sport and bowing to Nadav’s expertise, he took the outfit and changed in the dressing room. When Brad walked on to set donning his leather, Jonah jumped out, took a pic with his iPhone and yelled, “this is so going on my Facebook page, man. I mean, I think it is. Unless you don’t want me too. Okay, I’m deleting it now. Sorry, Brad.”

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.”

 

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.

steven meisel's photo lighting for vogue italia on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of steven meisel on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Steven Meisel.

Steven’s sizeable fashion story in the November 2010 Vogue Italia, “Venus in Furs,” shows a collection of androgynous, porcelain models splayed on top of each other. The lighting is flat, but deceptively so. With two strobes, there’s just enough shadow to pique our interest and separate the models from the background.

Camera: Hasselblad H2 with Phase One P45+ digital back and 80mm lens, set on a tripod 12 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a large octabank at f8 boomed high above the group and slightly in front of them. A white beauty dish at f5.6 ½ (- ½ stop) with a sock is set three feet to camera right, four feet off the ground. The white floor and walls act as giant reflectors and help to flatten the overall lighting feel.

Comments: Initially, Steven had planned to shoot the models standing, spaced far apart from each other. But when the photo studio had problems with its heating system, he quickly referred to his cold-weather survival training, draping the models across each other for body heat. And, in the end, a sexier shot.

mark seliger's photo lighting of shatner on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of shatner on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Mark Seliger.

There’s something about this image I just love. It could be Shatner’s complete commitment to his character. Or that he might be the closest thing to a modern-day cowboy we have. I’m not sure. But Seliger has captured the indescribable perfectly. And with only one light (plus some late-day sun).

Camera: Mamiya RZ67 with Phase One P45 digital back and 110mm lens, handheld 12 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f5.6, ISO 50.

Lighting: With the sun beginning to dip behind the treeline, Mark didn’t have much time to capture this shot. The key light is a medium softbox at f5.6 set high and six feet to camera right. The ambient light is at f4. There’s definitely quite a bit of post work here, too.

Comments: On three different occasions, Mark caught Shatner replacing the blank ammo with live shells. When the once Captain Kirk was taking a bathroom break, the prop stylist removed the firing pins from the pistols, just to be on the safe side.