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Author Topic: Annie Leibovitz lighting question  (Read 888 times)

Mglover92

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Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« on: June 06, 2017, 01:32:06 AM »

I was readings Annie's book 'At Work' and I had a question about her lighting. Regarding light meters she said quote

"A light meter is only a guide. It shouldnt be used literally. When I decided to tone down the strobe, we made it even with the natural light rather than being a stop over. Then we went a stop or two under the natural light. I liked the way things looked when they were barely lit. The darker pictures seemed refined, mysterious."

Now in terms of lighting, I learned that you basically stop your camera down then add flash to fill in the shadows on the face or body. Can somebody tell me what she means by saying we made it 'even' with the natural light? Does she mean she would get a basic exposure with no flash, then add flash in to help shape the face? Or meter the light hitting her face and simply adjust her flash to the same power as the aperture she is shooting at? She then goes on to say she went a stop or two under the natural light. Does this simply mean she stopped her camera down a stop or two and simply filled the flash in? (i assume this would be a more dramatic photograph) Or is she pretty much referring to a lower power setting on the flash that is less than what aperture she is shooting at. This would of course make the flash less noticeable.  Sorry if this is confusing! I'm sure somebody here can help explain to me what she meant. Thanks!
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BobShaw

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2017, 03:29:43 AM »

Well Annie probably should tell you what she meant.

Being a "stop over" does not necessarily mean that the aperture is one stop over, it just means that there is twice as much exposure. This could be through any combination of aperture, shutter and ISO
Ambient light is affected by shutter speed, aperture and ISO.
Flash is only affected by aperture and ISO because it is considered instantaneous.
So (assuming you are not going to change the ISO) you set the shutter and aperture for the natural light and adjust the flash power as required for that aperture.
If you need more flash power than the flash unit has then you can increase the shutter and open the aperture to make the flash effectively more powerful (but only up the flash sync speed)
Flash units units used to be marked in f stops so that is probably what she is meaning by a stop under. If the light meter said f4 you made it f2.8 for stop under (half power).
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Mglover92

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2017, 05:47:48 AM »

Well Annie probably should tell you what she meant.

Being a "stop over" does not necessarily mean that the aperture is one stop over, it just means that there is twice as much exposure. This could be through any combination of aperture, shutter and ISO
Ambient light is affected by shutter speed, aperture and ISO.
Flash is only affected by aperture and ISO because it is considered instantaneous.
So (assuming you are not going to change the ISO) you set the shutter and aperture for the natural light and adjust the flash power as required for that aperture.
If you need more flash power than the flash unit has then you can increase the shutter and open the aperture to make the flash effectively more powerful (but only up the flash sync speed)
Flash units units used to be marked in f stops so that is probably what she is meaning by a stop under. If the light meter said f4 you made it f2.8 for stop under (half power).
Thanks for the reply! I really appreciate it. Couple quick questions. When you said to "adjust flash power as required to that aperture" do you mean meter it to that exact aperture or adjust it accordingly to whatever suits your image whether its less or more?
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Ken Bennett

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2017, 02:56:28 PM »

Thanks for the reply! I really appreciate it. Couple quick questions. When you said to "adjust flash power as required to that aperture" do you mean meter it to that exact aperture or adjust it accordingly to whatever suits your image whether its less or more?

To quote a well known photographer, "A light meter is only a guide." :)

Yeah, you have it right with the second part of your question. If I set my aperture to f/5.6 and adjust my flash until the flash meter reads "f/5.6" then I will probably get a "correct" exposure but it's unlikely to render the scene the way I want to see it in the final image.
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DrakeJ

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2017, 03:08:24 PM »

Basically what it means is that Annie Liebovitz drags the shutter to let ambient light in, and then fills in shadows with the flash by basically looking at the result. The light meter is used to get to a starting position, and then the experimenting kicks in.

Mglover92

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2017, 04:23:03 PM »

Thank you guys! I really appreciate it! Very helpful folks on this forum. Im digging it  :)
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tim wolcott

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2017, 06:55:46 PM »

Let me clarify something the assistants do the work.  They set it up and she takes the credit.  Annie just clicks the shutter. I've been there and seen it with my own eyes.   
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donbga

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2017, 07:38:18 PM »

Let me clarify something the assistants do the work.  They set it up and she takes the credit.  Annie just clicks the shutter. I've been there and seen it with my own eyes.

That's one way to put it Tim. She approves of the setup. Same went for Avedon and his assistants.

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FelixWu

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2017, 08:18:52 PM »

It means she uses only minimal flash on set.
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UlfKrentz

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2017, 05:32:32 AM »

Quote
Let me clarify something the assistants do the work.  They set it up and she takes the credit.  Annie just clicks the shutter. I've been there and seen it with my own eyes.

Lol, I know this is a technical forum but still: Photography is 95% camera work and communication, and 5% tech stuff. Itīs the way a lot of photographers work, letting the assistants do the tech stuff to keep a free mind and concentrate on the real thing. Pretty sure Annie would present better images just using her phone than her assistants would using the camera after "doing all the work". YMMV.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2017, 02:20:00 PM by UlfKrentz »
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DrakeJ

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2017, 01:13:35 PM »

Let's be honest here, I've read the same thing about Annie Leibovitz. "Assistants do everything, all she does is click the shutter". You can recognize her photographs across time, and she's gone through many assistants who are now high level photographers on their own. She knows how she wants her lighting to be, and somehow all her assistants can light it the way she wants.

Coincidence? I think not. Clearly she must be skilled at communicating how she wants everything to be and her assistants are not doing a trial and error run on their own on an important set. When they're trained, they work as a team to get things done.

BobShaw

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2017, 06:36:49 PM »

Let me clarify something the assistants do the work.  They set it up and she takes the credit.  Annie just clicks the shutter. I've been there and seen it with my own eyes.
Not sure what you are clarifying. Assistants do what photographers ask. Some carry the lights, some set them up. Steven Spielberg may never have operated a camera. Photographers can be directors and it is still their work. The work stands or falls on what is produced at the end.
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douglevy

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Re: Annie Leibovitz lighting question
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2017, 08:26:36 AM »

It's not the assistants. Shoots of this level are a team production, stylists, hair, makeup. The assistants don't come up with the ideas, the just know how to light how she likes because she's communicated it to them.
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