Mario Testino technique - equipment for candid style?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by fxt|1, Dec 12, 2010.

  1. I'm relatively new to portable flash equipment - I'm shooting an event for which I want to get candid, raw, edgy, Mario Testino-esque style shots... I've been looking through his work, and am trying to figure out his equipment for the following shots:
    It looks quite a lot like ringflash, I think? Or - in the studio I'd use a beauty dish to get the same vibe... I'm just wondering what options are available in terms of portable equipment. I'm using a canon 5Dmk2 - working primarily with 85mm 1.2L and 100mm 2.8L macro.
    Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated!
  2. Although I've heard his name, I haven't had the chance to really study Testino's photographs. But looking at the examples you linked to, it seems that he is an insider in the world of fashion and hollywood celebrities, and the style of the photos couldn't be more simple and casual -- they could have been taken with a point-and-shoot fixed lens 35 mm camera with a pop-up flash. They want to give the sense of someone that is the equal of the celebrities photographed, someone that is a friend, and has access to the behind the scenes, unscripted moments. It would seem that a ring flash or beauty dish or anything studio would ruin that mood in the photos. They would become the photos of just another outsider photographer paid to glorify celebrities in a controlled setting, and they would loose the immediacy and intimacy that seem to distinguish the style and feeling of these photographs.
  3. Yes, I'm aware that he's a fashion insider - I'm not looking to shoot Kate Moss, and I don't need advice on how to capture the mood or recreate the shots. But thanks anyway.
    I'm asking about the lighting. The 5Dmk2 doesn't have built in pop-up flash, so I need some sort of attachment - possibly hotshoe? Something to give the same round catch lights in the eyes - and the same tight, wrap around light.
  4. I think his work, Terry Richardson's, is more about his personality than whatever equipment he is using. By that I mean, the way people interact with him and he with them them. The camera becomes the excuse for them posing but he also makes simultaneously a transparent object between him and them on the emotional level and that is one tough trick. He must also be a demon at editing (culling, not Photoshop type pixel editing).
  5. Yes, the flash goes on the hotshoe, no need for any "sort of attachment." You can then put the camera on P for "program" mode and press the shutter and you'll be okay.
  6. Yes, I'm aware that he's a fashion insider - I'm not looking to shoot Kate Moss, and I don't need advice on how to capture the mood or recreate the shots. But thanks anyway.
    I'm asking about the lighting. The 5Dmk2 doesn't have built in pop-up flash, so I need some sort of attachment - possibly hotshoe? Something to give the same round catch lights in the eyes - and the same tight, wrap around light.
    Get a smaller less obtrusive camera. Otherwise a Canon 720 EX. It is a great little flash.
  7. 1 is a great shot. lighting provided by the mirror
    2 is Kate at her best, not photographer's job, but nice easy light...
    3 is Kate in a dark room
    4 has nothing to do with anything.
    Buy a Prophoto Acute B ring flash, and have fun:)
  8. Sorry, I thought you were a beginning photography student from your question and reply. It seemed so strange to mention studio, ring flash, and beauty dish, after looking at the examples posted. I thought you really didn't know where the flash attached on your camera. Now I've looked at your website and I'm a little more puzzled still, as to how you couldn't glean the photographer's intentions and style from the photographs, since it seems you work extensively with strobe lights. Anyway, that's why I explained what I saw in the photographs -- I mean, what seemed apparent about the photographer's intentions and hence his technical choices.
  9. I'm not sure he is using a ring flash, but maybe some open bulb design. I'm not sure, but maybe a Quantum flash.
  10. It's Contax T2s. In one of his books there's pictures of him using one. The close proximity of the flash to the lens axis, something so many strive to get as far away from as they can, tends to produce a partial ringlight effect.
    Ellis is right: A lot of portraiture/fashion is first and foremost about human engineering. Look at the greats, they all were renowned charmers/tricksters/romantics. Testino, Newton, Turbeville, Weber, Plachy, Richardson, Bailey, La Chapelle, Beaton, etc.
  11. No worries Blake - I am a professional - but I normally work with natural light, or big studio set ups. And I'm not much of a geek when it comes to portable equipment. I've not come across the contax T2. Definitely going to get my hands on one of those to play with...
    I need to shoot this thing on the 5Dmk2 - and I need something relatively simple - am I right in thinking my only real options are the canon speedlights? I'll definitely have a play with a ringflash.. thoughts on something like this?
  12. He doesn't use a ringflash. just a small on camera flash or available light. IBTW I got the model wrong on the Canon Speedlite I recommended it is actually the 270EX:
  13. Great - Is it definitely worth getting the 270EX one over the 580..? Other than price - are there any more advantages?
  14. Thomas, skip the ringlight. All it will get you is the same cliche'd ringlight look one sees everywhere. If you want to emulate Testino's lighting, and try to do so with totally different gear (which I think is a bad idea), here is my suggestion: Use a cord to get your dedicated shoe-mount flash unit (the 270X will do) off the shoe and position it (by hand) so that its head is very close and to the side of the lens axis (emulating P&S flash positioning), but not so close that the lens blocks it and casts a shadow. I cannot overemphasize how important it is that you experiment/test with this rig well _before_ your shoot. It will not yield an identical look to what Testino & Richardson get lighting-wise, but an approximation. Did I mention you should test and familiarize yourself with the rig thoroughly before the shoot?
  15. Great - Is it definitely worth getting the 270EX one over the 580..? Other than price - are there any more advantages?​
    The 270EX is a much smaller (maybe 75% smaller) and lower power light without all ofthe controls of the 580 EX II. For what you want to do -- get a small hard source close to the lens of a big camera for candid style portraits ala' Testino-- it will work just fine.
  16. I would say the last one is definitely not ringflash as there is no ringflash shadow. Actually the shadows here say on camera flash to me - look at the difference between left and right sides. Instead of a 580 or a 270 you could pick up Canon body with a built in flash and it would probably work better than a hotshoe flash.
  17. When you hear the sound of hoofbeats don't think of zebras!
    This is direct hotshoe flash, possibly a diffuser on the second shot, but the shadows show slightly off lens axis direct lighting, just a hotshoe flash held in portrait orientation. If it were a ring flash the short sharp shadow would be around the entire perimeter, not just one side.
  18. It's the worst sort of boring, paparazzi style lighing. (That may be unfair to paparazzi, who often make at least some attempt to get the light source away from the lens axis.)
    When I become king of the world all built-in or hot shoe flashes will be outlawed.
    (Just one of the many reasons that I'll never become king of the world.)
  19. They do vary a little but all have that stark, direct look. I have seen him on TV working with a Pentax 67 with an assistant holding a Lumedyne flash close to the camera to mimic that snapshot feel (but with greater quality). The Lumedyne has the output to allow smaller apertures and therefore decent depth of field with that large camera. They could all be flash on SLR or compact camera but he can afford to use one of his 87 assistants as a VAL to do his bidding and hold the flash where he wants it. An expensive 'flesh bracket' as a flash bracket. The first image, thanks to his reflection, is so obvious it could be reverse-engineered by Sarah Palin. And despite his success and money, he is, let's be honest, pretty mediocre.
  20. And despite his success and money, he is, let's be honest, pretty mediocre.​
    Apparently his clients like him even if other photographers don't.
  21. His clients love him like some people are happy to eat at McDonald's. In his case it's like paying $100 for a Big Mac.
  22. The people who hire him are people who are very sophisticated and calculated about the image they wish to project, and have looked at the work of hundreds of photographers.
    Obviously he doesn't gets hired because of the technical or envelope pushing aesthetic qualities of his photographs.
    Judging by his work he seems to be the antithesis ofTerry Richardson and Annie Leibovitz: he isn't going to do the rawness of Richardson, and it isn't a big production like it is with Leibovitz. The people who hire him feel at ease with him, they trust him, and like the candid yet flattering results and those are three very big criteria for people who have the budgets to work with any photographer they feel like working with. There is also going to be a degree of insider-ness to who they will hire as well, this true of any small group as the super rich and celebrity world is. that is just the way the world works.
  23. Testino managed to get published a book...
    ...done entirely with his Contax T2s. He's also been using digital now for some time.
    The fashion world is divided between the technicians, like La Chapelle, and the more informal types, like Testino, Richardson, Juergen Teller,Corinne Day (who sadly passed away recently), and others, who have no problem using P&S's or any other kind of gear necessary to do the job.
    While I can understand and accept Paul's emphatic opinion on disliking Testino's work, it must be acknowledged that Versace, D&G, Gucci, Vogue (every version), Valentino, Ferragamo, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Vanity Fair, Kors, GQ, Stern, (do I need to go on?) know a thing or two about fashion photography.
  24. I have a copy of 'Let Me In'. It's a good book.
    To be honest, if I got to do an editorial spread and vogue cover with Marion Cotillard, I wouldn't give a crap what anyone thought of me.
    He's perfectly capable of doing the same technically perfect classic photography that you revere so highly.. in the same way Picasso was capable of doing technically perfect classical painting... he just happens to have evolved a candid 'caught in the moment' style, which some people dig. Including me. That's not the entirety of his work - and if you had a browse through his portfolio, you'd know that.
    I like his work because it has an immediacy to it which is unusual in high-fashion, and he tends to edit to find the off-guard shots.. It jars somehow, in a good way. It grabs you.
    Ticking technical boxes or not, you can't deny that he takes good shots - there's a quality in his work which has the power to sell magazines and give designers an edge. It's not all about money and famous friends (although I'm sure that helps)... US Jennifer Aniston, P-Mario Testino).jpg
    Thanks for all the feedback - very helpful. Maybe, after the shoot, I'll post my technically inappropriate shots for you to critique... ;)
  26. all the shots were on camera flash, you can get a flash and do the same thing but you have to understand the inverse square law for the backgrounds, also there is some vignetting added in post.

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