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Annie and Elizabeth, Minute-by-Minute

I have seen a couple versions of video from Annie Leibovitz's Queen Elizabeth shoot. But this is the full segment, and has lots of interesting tidbits. I watched it several times and learned a lot.

Hit the jump for the full, annotated version and links.

1:19 -- Annie scouts rooms, making notes with a camera. This is common practice with pros, not so common with amateurs. I always try to have at least a point and shoot with me for this reason. (FWIW, I also talk ideas into the video recorder built into the camera.)

2:04 -- Please note here that Annie rips off photos far more elegantly than you do. Remember the Tom/Suri Cruise "in the jacket" pic? That's an (cough) "homage" pic, too...

2:10 -- ... on a horse in the state apartments? Can't blame her for trying. Always try.

2:26 -- All that display of wealth, and my eye still tries to figure out what the lights are. Sheesh.

2:32 -- Even Annie's too-cool-for-you assistants wear suits for The Queen. Annie wears sensible pants, and... wait, were those sneakers?

2:37 -- All those Queen pix: One-half hour. Shooting for four setups, too. That's either a tremendous amount of time or nothing, depending on whose perspective you are taking -- Queen Elizabeth's or Annie's.

That's one advantage I tell people about WRT to one Profoto vs. six speedlights: You can split the speedlights up to have several situations pre-set and ready to go. Not so one Profoto 7B. Of course, Annie has all the lights she wants...

2:49 -- What is it, "Take Your Daughter to Work Day?" That's chutzpah.

2:53 -- Eleven. Effing. Assistants.

3:13 -- The Queen is wearing the Full Regalia of the Ancient Order of the Garter, complete with Tiara. But the important thing is that the photog is wearing comfy shoes.

4:00 -- "Sit here like this. We'll do the rest." (I have to remember that line.)

4:05 -- Note the light: Motivated light from the window. Octa through a scrim to further diffuse it. Them there's some watt-seconds, but they'll look good.

(FYI, "motivated light" is a classic Matters of Light and Depth technique. It means to recreate the effect of a seen (or assumed) natural light source -- with more control and/or strength. This is pretty much the Golden Rule for lighting cinematography.)

4:22 -- "Lose the crown, will ya?" (In the 80's, the joke was, people just start talking off clothes as soon as Annie pulled out a camera.) Note how well she recovers after that look? Keeps pouring on the compliments... "You will look better. Less dressy."

Less dressy? (Yeah, and maybe some Chucky D's, like Annie...)

Here. We'll do a couple with the crown on. For the grandkids. Then we'll do it my way. Trust me on this one.

5:10 -- (Cut to scene of Chuck Westfall doing a touchdown dance at Canon's headquarters...)

5:32 -- I found this interesting: Even with someone like The Queen Annie is keeping her face stuck behind the camera while giving full-time direction. This is extreme professionalism head-butting right up against deference. Leibovitz is not going to miss a fleeting expression if she gets a telling glimpse or an instant of unguarded body language.

5:50 -- Still trying for the horse shot. Gotta love that. Softening her up for the next shoot...

7:30 -- So, this is how Royalty does "proofs". Note to self: If trying to impress an important subject, why not output edited proofs as 11x14's? What are they, like $5.00 each now? Nice big, white borders. For $100, you could make a heckuva good impression for next time.

7:36 -- Photoshop. Dang, I wanted that sky to be real. ("... and then we stuck the Queen's head on Scarlett Johansson's body... ")

7:46 -- "Did she like them?" (Well, she approved them, didn't she?)


Related reading:

:: Images From the Shoot ::
:: Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970-1990 ::
:: Ross Lowell: Matters of Light and Depth ::
:: Discussion Thread on Flickr ::


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