Inspired By: Annie Leibovitz
When we start to think about modern day iconic portrait photographers, it’s not long before Annie Leibovitz comes to mind. Famous for her intimate style that captures the heart of her subject, Annie has spent nearly five decades building up an incredibly impressive portfolio of images of some of the most important faces the world has ever seen.
This week we’re going to take a look at what makes her so special, and, hopefully, inspire you to shoot with the same freedom.
The Leibovitz method
Working for Vanity Fair, Vogue and Rolling Stone magazines - as either chief or staff photographer - gave Annie the opportunity to develop her style whilst working with a procession of interesting characters. Heavily influenced by the reportage style of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the crisp, clean work of Richard Avedon, Annie wraps her subjects in beautifully soft, warm light that creates intimate and painterly portraits – usually with a subtle sense of humour.
If you spend some time reviewing Annie’s portfolio on Google, you’ll notice that her images tend to draw you in closer; they make you feel like you’re part of the process – almost like you’re there as part of the conversation. How does she do this and how can you add this skill to your toolbox? Let’s take a look…
Learning from Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz is a wonderful photographer, but her style is not out of reach of anyone with basic lighting skills. Yes, she uses the best softlighters available, but you can mimic her style with relatively affordable gear:
Shoot wide enough to include some of the environment in your images to help tell the story and add some personality.
Annie often uses a modifier called a Photek Softlighter which gives a wonderful wrap around to your portraits, but, sadly, it’s not available in the UK. Fortunately, you can get a similar effect using an umbrella softbox (available on eBay for about 20 quid) with a flashgun or small studio strobe. Get the softbox in as close as possible – usually from above and in front – and allow some of the ambient light from the room into your shots.
The most important skill you can learn from Annie is to develop a real interest in your subject. Try to feel like you want to know them deeply; feel like they’re the most interesting person you’ve ever met and that you’re excited to find out what makes them tick. It’s this that breaks down barriers and allows Annie to create such intimate images.
Annie Leibovitz may be one of the most celebrated photographers working today, but her endless enthusiasm is something that we can all learn from, so apply the same dedication and love to your work and you’ll soon be producing images worthy of hanging on any wall. We hope to see some of that great work come through our lab at Your Image!
11 February, 2021