Available Light. As in, Every. Available. Light.

30 Oct

UPDATE: In addition to abs, this one also has legs. It has made the rounds to Jezebel(!), Billboard and Blair’s blog, too. I am heading out to get some ab spray now.

Do you live in Phoenix? Were your lights flickering for a while a few weeks back?

That could have been Blair Bunting’s cover shoot for Billboard Magazine. He used 7 Profoto packs, 14 light sources and just under 20 Kilowatt-seconds of power every time the shutter tripped. For a 3/4-length portrait.

Oh, and the subject was naked. So I am sticking it behind the “read more” jump.

You(1) were expecting a female, perhaps?

Too bad. And Blair did not even have the luxury of the black circle over Bret Michaels’ junk during the shoot. I’ll let him explain.

A few weeks ago the good people over at Billboard called and asked if I would photograph Bret Michaels for their cover. I was busy at the time and more or less scanned over the email while on set with another shoot. Through my terrible reading skills I managed to miss one big word: NAKED.

In the past, I have shot subjects such as the “naked centerfold” for Cosmopolitan, but they were always conveniently covered. When I had my first pre-production meeting with Billboard I pitched the idea of Bret with a cowboy hat covering the goods while his hands gave his trademark “rock on” gestures. Their response was, “that sounds great, but let’s get rid of the cowboy hat.”

I must confess, I had worked 5 straight days before the shoot, and flew in from Chicago only hours before the call time. As tired as I was, I couldn’t sleep. Not out of excitement, out of anguish that I would have to ask the former lead man from Poison to drop trou and smile. On top of that I was planning on using one very complex lighting setup that would hopefully render me blind enough to not know what was in front of my camera so long as I could pull a sharp image.

We had 14 light sources, 7 packs, and just under 20,000 watt seconds of Profoto happiness. [Editor’s note: Pretty sure Mr. Michaels’ kid-having days are over…] There was so much light that when I popped each frame, the RGB in our vision separated — seriously. However, I had dedicated that almost all of this shot would be out of camera as I didn’t want to stare at the Celebrity Apprentice that much on my monitor afterward.

By now you’re probably wondering how much of a prima donna Mr. Michaels was in this exposed situation. In all honesty, they don’t get any cooler and more relaxed as Bret on set. We drank, we laughed, we didn’t take ourselves seriously, and we got the shot.


Well, you hadda know there’s gonna be a lighting diagram:

This one is a little busy, so follow the bouncing ball:

• The key light (green) is a large Elinchrom Octa as a modifier, 10 feet high.

• Under that are stacked two small Profoto softboxes (purple) at 4 and 6 feet high, (so the key becomes a giant strip light with extra oomph up top.)

• Fill is from a white Profoto beauty dish (orange) at bottom left, 3 feet high

• Uplight/rims are from Profoto strip boxes (blue) on the floor behind

• Hair lights (yellow) are from Profoto 30-degree grid spots, 12 feet high

• Background light is from four Profoto Magnum heads (red) 8 and 3 feet high on each side. (Which is more power just on the background than I think I have ever used on an entire shot.)

• Black V-flats control glare into the lens from all of the backlights. (Obviously, pretty critical given all of the lumens coming back at Blair’s shooting position.)



That is a matter of opinion.

And not, I would wager, if you are trying to sculpt every line in Michaels’ body as Blair was clearly doing. It is an over-the-top look made by over-the-top (and bottom, and sides, and back) lighting.

So, how much of this is straight out of the camera, and how much of it is post production? Well, if you take a look at the work on Blair’s site you can see that he is pretty handy with that edgy, sculpted light. And since the SOOC version is obviously gonna be NSFW, I am not going to post it here.

But there just might be a little clandestine cell-phone BTS video…

If you want the no-post-processing version (and thus, the “Full Monte,”) you are going to have to make that click for yourself.


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