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annie leibovitz's photo lighting in Vanity Fair for wizard of oz

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of annie leibovitz for guess the lighting blog

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

Talk about a challenge. In 2005, Vogue Magazine posed this to Annie Leibovitz: take the Wizard of Oz, one of history’s most important films. Recreate the iconic scenes, but add your own personal, touch. Looking at the photo story as a whole, I have to say Annie nailed it. Crushed it, actually (it certainly didn’t hurt to have Keira Knightley at her disposal). Google the story. Each image is more beautiful than the next. This shot of Dorothy, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry rushing to shelter captures the cinematic feel while adding Annie’s modern sensibility. It was created with one light and the help of the sun.

Camera: Mamiya RZ67 with 50mm lens and Kodak Portra 400NC film, handheld 15 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f16, ISO 400.

Lighting: To mimic a gloomy, tornado-laden day, Annie underexposed the shot by two stops. The key light is a large Octabank at f8 set high and 12 feet to camera left. The sun at f8 is high in the sky and slightly to camera right. This adds fill and some flatness to the image. Two large wind machines are out of frame to camera right aimed head-high adding to the stormy feel. Though a stickler for realism, Annie did not wait for an actual tornado to touch down. The background was added in post.

Comments: The cute puppy, though a dead wringer for Toto, wasn’t the most obedient pooch. While the rest of the talent moved toward the shelter doors, he ran in the opposite direction. Usually chasing a vagrant squirrel or his own tail. After numerous failed attempts, the prop stylist replaced him with a taxidermied fox. The dogs features were retouched in in post.

Mario Testino's photo lighting for British Vogue on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of mario testino guess the lighting blog

copyright, Mario Testino.

In a Vogue issue paying homage to the Royal Wedding, Mario shot Freja Beha Erichsen, Lara Stone and Natalia Vodianova in some of the season’s loveliest wedding gowns. It also marked the first time the magazine had been published with a choice of three different covers. This silk soft cover shot of Lara was created with five lights.

Camera: Hasselblad H2 with 150mm lens and Phase One IQ140 digital back, set on a tripod 12 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f5.6, ISO 50.

Lighting: The overall lighting is somewhat flat with highlights taking the place of shadow. An Arri 1200 watt fresnel (shot through a silk) with tight barn doors at f4 ½ (-½ stop) sits at head level, just off to camera left. A 2500 watt fresnel at f5.6 is bounced off an overhead 6×6 framed silk from camera right. This helps to even out Lara’s hair. A 2500 watt fresnel (shot through a silk) at f11 (+2 stops) rests ten feet behind her to camera right and creates the hot, soft glow on the rear of her face and neck. Another 2500 watt fresnel (shot through a silk) at f11 (+2 stops) is placed to camera right, slightly behind her. A 2500 watt fresnel with barn doors at f11 (+2 stops) is set behind the wall to camera left and aimed at the background. This creates the angelic glow around her head.

Comments: Lara was slightly jet-lagged, but extremely excited on the shoot day. She had just returned that morning from Vyborg, Russia where she picked up a newborn, petite lap giraffe. The wee giraffe quickly made itself comfortable on-set and huddled against Mario’s pant leg while he worked with Lara. Natalia was smitten.

ellen von unwerth's photo lighting for Absolut vodka on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of von unwerth on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Ellen von Unwerth.

When Absolut Vodka asked ex-model-turned-fashion-photographer-extraordinaire Ellen Von Unwerth to tackle their new ad campaign, she jumped at the opportunity. Working with Kate Beckinsale and Zooey Deschanel, Ellen brought a playful, enchanting aesthetic to the imagery (makes me fancy a tall glass of Absolut right this moment, actually). This enigmatic still (I’d like to be a fly on the wall of one of Ellen’s dreams) was created with four HMIs.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III with 70-200mm lens, set on a tripod 15 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a 6k Arri fresnel HMI at f11 ½ (+½ stop) set on a highboy roller directly above and behind camera. A set of barn doors helps focus the light on Kate. A 1.2k Arri fresnel HMI with barn doors at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) sits just out of frame to camera right. This light is aimed at the Absolut bottle and creates the alluring highlight on the side of the bottle. A 1.2k fresnel at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) with a full CT orange gel aimed at the rear wall rests just off the ground, directly behind Kate. Another 1.2k fresnel with barn doors at f16 ½ (+1 ½ stops) sits on the floor behind Kate and is focused upwards at the rear wall. This creates the whitish glow on the wall as well as the floor.

Comments: The set designer for this shoot loved the creative concept but had some logistical problems with its execution. Born into an incredibly superstitious family, she was not willing to chance seven years bad luck (or worse, the death of a family member) propping the broken mirror. As a compromise, she agreed to watch via a video feed from a nearby room and direct her assistant over walkie talkies.

 

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.

mert & marcus' photo lighting for dsquared on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of mert & marcus on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Mert & Marcus.

This image from Dsquared2’s “Aseptic Chic” fall/winter 2010 ad campaign is actually relatively tame compared to the others. The dark and haunting sexiness juxtaposes quite nicely with the sterile, glassed and coolly-lit environment. It’s hot, in a this-may-give-you-nightmares kind of way. And I wouldn’t expect any less from M&M (or D&D, for that matter) who shot this with seven lights.

Camera: Hasselblad 553 ELX with Phase One P45+ digital back and 80mm lens, handheld 11 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: Our foreground model on display is lit with a 7-inch grid reflector and 30 degree grid at f11 ½ (+ ½ stop), boomed directly overhead and aimed down at her face. A white beauty dish with diffusion and a full CT blue gel at f8 (- 1 stop) is also boomed high overhead and slightly behind the model. This creates the cool highlights on her hair and on the display box. The background model is lit similarly. A 7-inch grid reflector and 30 degree grid at f11 is boomed overhead (the ½ stop less light focuses our attention to the foreground). Another white beauty dish with diffusion and a full CT blue gel at f8 (-1 stop) is boomed high and slightly behind her. A medium, gridded softbox with full CT blue gel at f5.6 ½ (-1 ½ stops) is positioned eight feet to camera right, eight feet high and almost parallel to our male model.  A medium, white umbrella with a full CT orange gel at f5.6 (-2 stops) is set ten feet to camera left and slightly behind him. This adds just a hint of warmth to his back. An octabank at f2.8 1/2 (-3.5 stops) is behind camera and serves as fill to keep things from going completely black.

Comments: Sticklers for realism, M&M had the glass cases constructed around the models so they would truly feel on-display. The prop stylist forgot to include air vents, though, in his minimalist design. He only realized the oversight when one model began to show early signs of asphyxiation. Luckily, the naked man was an off-duty fireman and broke through the glass with a nearby c-stand. Everyone was okay and, although most on-set wanted to hug him for his bravery, they merely gave the thumbs up.

annie leibovitz's photo lighting of keith richards for louis vuitton

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of keith richards on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

Annie and Keith go way back. Way back. She toured with the Stones in their heyday and shot some pretty amazing imagery. With only about 10 minutes to work with Keith, Annie went old school with her lighting. Simple. Moody. Elegant. And somehow made Keith look (dare I say) “good,” with only one light.

To see a higher res version of the shot click here.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III with 24-70mm lens, handheld six feet back. Shot at 1/60, f5.6, ISO 200.

Lighting: The key light is an inexpensive Photek Softlighter at f5.6 handheld on a boom by an assistant. It’s four feet to camera left and eight feet high. Though the lamps and light behind the door appear to be strobes, the light was amplified in post.

Comments: Both avid potholers, Annie and Keith 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 Keith from the fact his cup of tea (English Breakfast) had been empty for minutes.

alex prager's retro 60s lighting for fine art work on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of alex prager for guess the lighting blog

copyright, Alex Prager.

Alex is white-hot in the fine art world right now. She’s a self-taught photographer whose influences include William Eggleston, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. He work usually involves 1960s-styled women, lots of wigs and fantastic use of color. This 2009 shot entitled Rachel and Friends is both gripping and eerie. It was created with five lights.

Camera: Contax 645 with 55mm lens and Kodak 400vc Portra film, set on a tripod 6 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f4, ISO 400.

Lighting: The key lights on rachel and friends in the front row are Arri 6000 watt fresnel HMIs with barn doors set on a medium roller 8 feet to camera right and right. The left sits high and the right is at about head-level. Another 6k fresnel with barn doors is 10 feet to camera left, just in front of the second row. A third 6k fresnel with barn doors is sitting high, in the rear right of frame, aimed downwards. This forms the hair lights on the women in the back of the image. A smaller, 1.2k Arri fresnel HMI is set just off the ground to camera right. This creates the nice glow on the woman’s face in the third row.

Comments: Rachel produced this image on her own dime so tried to save money wherever possible. Since there was a lot of talent, she didn’t want to buy wigs for everyone. Instead, she cast people who already had the 60s look working for them (one of the more unusual women believed it was still 1969). Only one person in the shot is wearing a wig. Any guesses as to who it is?

bjorn iooss' photo lighting of irina shayk for si swimsuit cover on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of irina shayk swimsuit on guess the lighting

copyright, Bjorn Iooss.

Many, many, many people get excited for the annual release of the S.I. swimsuit issue. But this year, no one is more excited than Bjorn (son of famous sports photographer, Walter). This shot of Irina was an add-on: an image possibly for an advertorial. Never intended for the cover shot. But some early morning sun, a little lycra, sand and a Russian supermodel earned him the honor. No lights were used, only one silver reflector.

Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III with 24-70mm lens, handheld six feet back. Shot at 1/60, f5.6, ISO 100.

Lighting: The Hawaiian sun has just risen over the horizon to camera left. Bjorn cuts back on the contrast with a large silver reflector placed just out of frame to camera right. The horde of people standing around aren’t there for him. They’re all for Irina.

Comments: Though located on a secluded beach, this shoot wasn’t without incident. While Irina was changing bathing suits, a junior stylist noticed a man hiding in a garbage can trying to take pictures. She immediately called security and covered Irina in a towel. When the police arrived, the culprit turned out to be Mel Gibson. He was researching for an upcoming role as a desperate paparazzo needing $1M to save his estranged daughter from kidnappers. The mixup was quickly straightened out and Mel, Irina and Bjorn laughed about it over a friendly, three-way game of Kadima. No charges were pressed.

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.