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Worth a Sub: Michael Grecco's New YouTube Channel

Celebrity / Nekkid People photographer Michael Grecco has created a YouTube page to display his many excellent behind-the-scenes videos.

Some of you may not know that he started out as a photojournalist, and began pushing the lighting envelope way back in the very beginning of his career.

The Will Farrell shoot (c. Blades of Glory) embedded above is a great example of why I always enjoy Grecco's time-lapse BTS vids. There's a lot to learn in a minute and change. Not only is he showing you the whole set build, shoot and tear, but there are several cool lighting info nuggets to be had.

Hit the jump for a some of the things you can learn from this video, a second vid and links to more.

What's to See

He is pushing on-axis fill in both segments, although in a different way each time. In the first shoot, he is using a ring flash with a softening reflector. The main light is a beauty dish, off axis. You can see the distinctive dish-with-ring-fill look very clearly in the close-up at the ~31-second mark.

Note how subtle he is with that spot on the background coming from overhead, too. He is not bringing the white paper all of the way up -- just negating some of the fall-off from the key light as you move towards camera right in the back.

In the second shoot, he has placed a large light diffusor directly behind himself to act as a sort of on-axis softbox. He's pushing two beauty dishes through that, and the effect is very soft, on-axis fill without the ring signature. Pause it at the 0:51 mark to see what I am talking about.

You can see Grecco in front of the light source, as reflected in Farrell's eyes at the 1:05 mark. Softbox camera right, a Grecco-surrounded-by-on-axis-fill dead center.

It's a very controllable look that lets you key light however you want with a lot of room for error. The background light is similarly placed to the one in the first part of the video.


Penelope Cruz

Not to sound like a broken record, but the lighting in the second video really screams "control" to me, too. He is creating base/fill with the big octa at high camera left, then highlighting Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar (c. Volver) with a gridded strip light. Another small box from back camera left creates separation.

We can't see the photog in this shoot, but -- aha! -- what's this close-up at the 0:58 mark? That looks like another big, on-axis fill light. (Some people peep pixels - I peep eyes.)

This is not necessarily expensive light, either. Stretch a white bed sheet between two light stands (or clamp to a drop-ceiling), fire a flash through it and Bob's your uncle. Don't forget to underexpose that cool fill and add a second light as a key, of course.

Love the shot Cruz gives the time-lapse camera at 0:20, BTW. No offense, Michael, but it is a lot less impressive for you to make Cruz look fantastic than to do the same for Will Farrell...

And speaking of expressions, look at all of the amazing frames Grecco pulls out of both subjects after he (er, his techs) has spent all of that time creating the beautiful light. Word to the wise: After you get your light nailed down, it is all about the subject. Ease up on the chimping.

Want more? There's an earlier video of his shoot of director Martin Scorsese which totally changed the way I used from grid spots from that day forward.

You can also keep up with (and/or subscribe to) Michael Grecco on his new YouTube Channel.

Last but not least, his book, Light and the Dramatic Portrait is one of my favorite lighting books -- chock full of great photos and no-holds-barred diagrams and notes.


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