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

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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Blogger Brent said...

Personally I'm kinda going to go for the over the top, at least in my mind... that being said if he'd like to donate any of those profoto set ups... my Alien Bees are a bit tired lol... Very cool set up though, even with the nakedness would of been cool to of been on set for that one...

And Lastly... *Spoiler Alert*....



Did I really just get Rick Rolled by David Hobby?

October 04, 2010 12:19 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I suppose I'm going to be the first guy to admit I attempted to click. Whether out of a need for size comparison or photographic interest, who knows.

Good tune though, lol.

October 04, 2010 12:26 AM  
Blogger chris said...

Your sense of timing and humour is impeccable. Oh yes and the informative posts are good to.
Chris (rolled)B

October 04, 2010 12:46 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

RickRoll'd!? Nooooooo!

October 04, 2010 12:52 AM  
Blogger dath said...

Wow, that's the best BTS video ever! Thanks so much for the direct link! ;->

October 04, 2010 1:30 AM  
Blogger Rune Espensen said...

Did you just... ? Major props :-D

October 04, 2010 3:02 AM  
OpenID ixpose23 said...

Hahahaha... Rickrolled, there goes all of my hope though.. :S

October 04, 2010 3:26 AM  
OpenID ixpose23 said...

Hahahaha.. rickroll'd, there goes all my hope though... :S

October 04, 2010 3:27 AM  
Blogger mrthorne said...

David! I can't believe you would do that to your readers!

(you know what I mean!)

October 04, 2010 3:50 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

After nearly a year clean, that's the second time this week I've been Rickrolled.

October 04, 2010 3:51 AM  
Blogger timdesuyo said...

Well done, sir, Well done.

October 04, 2010 4:14 AM  
Blogger Filbert said...

wow... the lights! I'd probably do the same and blind myself into the next shoot. Good results though.

October 04, 2010 6:21 AM  
Blogger Tommy said...

The video of Blair Bunting's work was, in a word, extraordinary. I sit here amazed at what I just saw.

Rick-rolled at 7:26am on a Monday morning. Kudos to you, sir.

October 04, 2010 7:24 AM  
Blogger grubernd said...

"photographer intimidated by nudity" - this would make a nice WTD comic.

October 04, 2010 7:29 AM  
Blogger Jan Winther said...

Oh man... that was great!!

...and thanks for the BTS link too!!! Made my day, and its only 7:35 am.

October 04, 2010 7:38 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Awesome post.... especially the extra RickRoll'd surprise at the end... as always David, thank you. :)

October 04, 2010 8:10 AM  
Blogger emrphoto said...

Hahahah! Raise a glass of drink to the link!!!

October 04, 2010 8:27 AM  
Blogger Medway Creek said...

Never gonna give *you* up, David...

October 04, 2010 8:35 AM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

Ha ha ha ha ha!!! That link is brilliant! Sheer genius!!!

October 04, 2010 9:36 AM  
Blogger Cory B said...

We got Rick Rolled!!!! Nice!! Too funny.

October 04, 2010 9:41 AM  
Blogger Mircea said...

Oh nooooooooo...........

October 04, 2010 10:04 AM  
Blogger Russ Heller said...

ha, nice

October 04, 2010 10:13 AM  
Blogger rae2 said...

The powerful light sculpting techniques used by Bunting are interesting. The closest most of us will ever get (because we don't have the equipment) is to cross-blast into sunlight and hope for the best.

What I can't understand, though, is the persistent, pervasive adolescent attitude of paralyzing anxiety that saturates postings that have anything to do with nudity. What in Sam Hill is supposed to happen if someone sees a naked human? You'd think we all had hidden terrorist nuclear devices hidden in our "junk."

October 04, 2010 10:47 AM  
Blogger Boquete Guy said...

Thanks to Hobby, all the strobees are gonna bump ole Rick up to 30m on the hit counter...

Anyone have the secret toBlair's post processing??

October 04, 2010 12:40 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I understand why he wanted all the different lightsources, but if it was literally blinding at every pop, then why all that power? Couldn't he had just turned down the power a bit? He must have been at a very high aperture with all that light, so wouldn't there be room to open it up and still get plenty of DOF?

October 04, 2010 1:07 PM  
Blogger marcoman said...

If this were done in Europe the nude portrait would just be a "portrait."

October 04, 2010 1:12 PM  
Blogger Corinne Fudge said...

Niiiiice errrrr, lighting!

October 04, 2010 1:17 PM  
Blogger AlexJB said...

Strobist! How I have loved you. The humor and self-effacement in your posts has so often been such a relief from the blogs of photographers who are way too full of themselves for their own good.

When I first read your post in my email today, I actually thought I was reading something by one of those "one of the guys" shooters. I mean really - "Blair did not even have the luxury of the black circle over Bret Michaels' junk during the shoot." ????

Are we 12? Even if we're 12, are we 12 and homophobic and scared of gentalia? really? I'm a little sad and mad that my favorite photo blog is going along with the "OMG, a naked man!" stereotype.

You can so do better.

October 04, 2010 1:45 PM  
Blogger Will said...

I really like that edgy, high key background type of shot.

I wouldnt know where to start with that many lights ?!

What is the process of using that many as a set up, would you get an assistant to stand in and gradually add lights to fine tube the look and then add the talent when they arrive and tweek a little more?

or would you just do it with the talent and chimp from there ?

October 04, 2010 1:53 PM  
Blogger David said...

To the people who are complaining that this post sounds like it was written by a 12-yr-old, and somehow are trying to wedge homophobia(?!?) into that, I would point out that I tend to approach many (if not most) things with the maturity level of a 12-yr-old.

And anyone who has read this site for more than a couple of months has long-since known that. I do take into account that many people read this site when they are at work, and sometimes like to have a little fun with that and/or give people a heads-up that I may be skirting the boundaries a little.

But if you are looking for consistent and guaranteed maturity, you really, really need to look elsewhere.

And if you think I am trying to take the bait so we begin a lengthy thread-jack on the subject, we're not.


October 04, 2010 2:29 PM  
Blogger Blair Bunting said...

So for those with the question as to "why so many lights?"...

It is all a matter of approach, and in no way is my approach better than any of yours, it is just different. Going into the shoot I knew I wanted to be at 22 for the key, and that fill would be slightly under. Dealing with the sources and distance to subject I set the two stacked strips under the key to support direction, but not overpower and add a second unnatural shadow. Going very diffused on the lights meant more power, but less speculars and a more controllable edge with enough detail to work with from the sensor. A slight gloss on Bret and flagged rear mags drew the eye right where I needed it.

As for David's post... PRICELESS

October 04, 2010 3:00 PM  
Blogger ChuckEye said...

Of course, Brett works just fine with one Profoto and a softbox too...
back in 2005
He is an easy subject to shoot. Really professional, and takes direction well.

October 04, 2010 5:22 PM  
Blogger rae2 said...

"I would point out that I tend to approach many (if not most) things with the maturity level of a 12-yr-old." DAVID

So THAT'S what the short pants are all about. I've always wondered. I thought maybe you just had hot knees!

October 04, 2010 7:23 PM  
Blogger Miachelle said...

ROFLMAO!!! Thanks for the rickroll...how many of us clicked for the potential of the educational content? LOL....

October 04, 2010 10:08 PM  
Blogger Hector said...

Thatsa lotsa lights!!!.

It does look sculpted. Cool stuff.

As for the writing style and content of what is posted on this (or any other blog), nobody is forcing us to read it. You can always start your own blog ;-)

And thank you for making me loose my Rickrolled cherry... :-(

October 04, 2010 10:24 PM  
Blogger OiD said...

I just got rolled. I hate you!!! *cries to sleep*

October 04, 2010 10:33 PM  
Blogger Thanapatra said...


I just lost.

Googling it and just found out what is all about :-D

October 04, 2010 10:37 PM  
Blogger Surly said...

What I was thinking here was... if someone told me to shoot a 3/4 portrait with 14 lights...where in the world would I start? I have a hard time with two or three. It's pretty amazing that it was the plan in the first place and pulled off. Pretty cool Mr. Bunting. Oh and that's the first time I've been Rick Rolld.

October 04, 2010 10:52 PM  
Blogger Levi Thomas said...

oooh, nicely played Mr. Hobby.

Oh, yeah, It was also great to see that lighting diagram. Most instructive.

October 05, 2010 3:39 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Perhaps only those of us who were not Rickrolled picked up on the elaborate "junk" joke:
..."the key becomes a giant strip light with extra oomph up top."

I saw what you did there, you 12 year old.

October 05, 2010 10:52 AM  
Blogger Ghost said...

Nah, I'm going to have to go with AlexJB here - the whole "haha the subject was totally naked and you proabably think it was a lady but guess what IT WAS A DUDE" is pretty irritating. Not everyone in the world is scared of naked men.

I'm scared of this naked man though, obviously.

October 05, 2010 1:30 PM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

Thanks for the setup Blair. I enjoyed the last one with awe as you included f/8, f/11 on each light rotated. I never thought to light in waves like that! Did you do that on this one too?
A slight gloss? You mean you rubbed him down? And then you flagged his rear? I would have PAID YOU to be your assistant that day!!

October 05, 2010 2:00 PM  
Blogger G3 said...

Rick Rolled? SERIOUSLY? WTF Dude?

I shall, however, take it like a man.

October 05, 2010 2:09 PM  
Blogger Apeiron71 said...

hat was my FIRST EVER Rick Roll. .

Needed the humor. Thanks!

October 05, 2010 2:54 PM  
Blogger LilyPetals said...

All that magnificent work to describe this lighting. All the good humor and information that David has given us and we focus on a black dot .... REALLY? Gimme a break.

Thanks David for the information, the good laugh and yes the Rick roll - yeah, I so didn't read the comments first.

October 05, 2010 6:00 PM  
OpenID kurtwerks said...

Geez. 14 lights feels like overkill, but I just started struggling with lighting using one strobe.

My first RickRolling. Mom would be so *proud*!

October 05, 2010 9:46 PM  
Blogger The Mark Jones said...

It's an impressive setup but dont human lifeforms look better a bit more natural and female ;) like over hear in this one light setup?

October 06, 2010 8:19 AM  
Blogger The Mark Jones said...

Dear folks and Mr Hobby!
Bonkers set up this one, always interesting posts though!
I have found this to be WAY more satisfying though.. a one light set up that shows you dont need to zap a whole city block!and it's a girl!

October 06, 2010 8:24 AM  
Blogger Nico said...

Nice job!
I have to say the diagram reminded more of the work of Miro than anything else ;-)

October 06, 2010 11:27 AM  
Blogger Trystan said...

There seems to be a trend these days for these photos where the subject looks almost as if they've been painted rather than photographed. That surely cant all be down to the lighting can it? If not, what processes are involved?

Sorry I know this isn't a 'shop blog!

October 06, 2010 12:42 PM  
Blogger Fenix Fotography said...

14 doesn't seem excessive to me. I usually use 8 for High Key (cause that's all I have). What he's doing is using multiple heads in the same position to increase size and augment shape. It's still a basic x# of lights on background, kicked from both back sides, key and fill set up. So nothing to be too intimidated by.

Great job Mr. Bunting!

Fenix Fotography | fenixfoto.com

October 06, 2010 2:10 PM  
Blogger Transformers said...

Great Post. I came across a link which has the original, unretouched photo on Billboard.com http://www.billboard.com/#/news/bret-michaels-billboard-cover-six-pack-is-1004119583.story

October 07, 2010 3:16 PM  
Blogger Blair Bunting said...

Hey guys, just wanted to give you a heads up that the RAW files has been released (for real this time). I have added it to my blog:


October 07, 2010 4:46 PM  
Blogger Surefire said...

I seriously laughed most of the time through this post. At the circumstance of the shoot, go Blair. You gotta do what you gotta do. The amount of lighting that was used (oh, that's what that flicker was, we live in Phx!) and the very cool and colorful diagram. Bottom line, love the sharing, love the description and breakdown. Much appreciated! :) -Michelle

October 08, 2010 2:16 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I'll have to go back and study the lights.

I, for one, appreciate the NSFW heads up, Dave. Let everyone else be tawdry if they want - I keep my strobes clean, and appreciate blogs that do as well.

(for a while there I thought you'd hit a new low, so I dared to click ...and didn't get it. Thankfully Google was able to help me figure out what rickrolling was. Too funny!)

October 08, 2010 1:58 PM  
OpenID shmarv said...

Perhaps the abs are there, but so is a considerable amount of processing...

October 09, 2010 8:11 AM  
Blogger Trystan said...

@schmarv - thanks for answering my question, whether you realised it or not!

October 09, 2010 1:43 PM  
Blogger mgm260 said...

You Bastard, don't ever do that to me again. And I watched the whole damn video to see if there was going to be any more info on Blair's shoot.

October 18, 2010 8:42 PM  
Blogger Jake said...

I was wondering if this looked familiar to anyone (especially a certain Mr Hobby...)


October 18, 2010 10:12 PM  
Blogger Metallion said...

Nice article. That lighting just seems quite a bit excessive - like lighting a cigarette with 100.00 bills just because you can - not to take away from the photographers ability (which he has). The same could be done with 3-5 speedlights or even less given the post processing result me thinks. Must of us here would almost lie and cheat for one profoto pack.

October 25, 2010 11:41 PM  
Blogger Peter F. Castro said...

This shot got voted one of the 10 worst photoshops of the year...

December 26, 2010 3:25 AM  

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