Tips & Techniques - Jerry Avenaim    

Commercial Photographer Jerry Avenaim discusses Power Lighting on Location

Ranking among the elite professional film and digital photographers in Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world, Jerry is internationally known for his high-profile work in celebrity, fashion, glamour, portrait, advertising, corporate and editorial magazine photography.

Power Lighting On Location!

Studio-Quality Lighting With Minimum Gear: A Masters Reveal His Secrets

By Jason Schneider, August, 2006

If there’s one thing that makes pictures shot by leading professional photographers stand out from the pack, it’s lighting. But while it’s relatively easy to get precisely controlled lighting effects in a well-equipped studio, these pros have to deliver consistent studio-quality results in the field—whether they’re shooting on location in a dark alley, a high-contrast movie set, or a dimly lit church.

Achieving pro-caliber results with lightweight, portable equipment can be challenging, but today’s best compact lighting equipment is more powerful and flexible, and better than ever. Take a close look at the pictures on these pages, and the detailed descriptions of equipment and lighting setups that accompany them. You’ll get a clear idea of how the four resourceful pros we interviewed for this article use simple location lighting to maximum advantage. Indeed, we hope the wealth of information presented here will inspire you to assemble a portable lighting outfit of your own.

Jerry Avenaim: Photographer To The Stars

Jerry Avenaim, a well-known, L.A.-based pro, has created signature images of such household names as Halle Berry, James Caan, and Dr. Phil. His work has graced the covers of Vogue, Newsweek, and People, and the pages of Glamour, GQ, InStyle, Vanity Fair, and Elle. Innovative, intense, and detail-oriented, he has a remarkable ability to get into the heads of high-powered celebrities, and convey the true essence of their personalities.

The morning after? Jerry Avenaim’s slyly suggestive image of noted actor Luke Wilson in a seedy motel room was shot with an RZ67, using a 140mm f/4.5 lens, at 1/15 sec and between f/11 and f/16, on Kodak Portra 160NC film. “I lit it with a Profoto 7b power pack with bare-head zoom reflector and bounced the light into a corner of the ceiling behind me,” Avenaim says. “I metered the exposure accordingly with a Sekonic L-358, and shot Polaroids to judge the correct lighting ratio.” His tip for great location portraits: “Expose the subject with the aperture and balance the background with shutter. In other words, set the aperture for the flash-lit component of the overall exposure, and the shutter speed based on the available-light component to achieve balanced, natural-looking lighting.”
Photos © 2005, Jerry Avenaim, All Rights Reserved

Avenaim most often shoots on location, relying on Profoto lighting equipment, which he’s cleverly assembled into a comprehensive kit that fits in a single Pelican airline case. He takes his motto from the Boy Scouts: Be Prepared. The kit (shown here) includes a Profoto Pro-7b power pack plus extra battery, and chargers for the battery and pack, so he can charge both simultaneously. In addition, there are speed rings for softboxes, a complete set of slide-off plugs for almost any socket type in the world (they’re in the small black bag), an extra sync cord (yellow), a bracket for attaching the ring flash, and, atop the three small compartments, two Profoto Pro-7b heads. The sealed Pelican 1650 case has built-in wheels and even includes a pressure-release valve so it can be easily opened on landing.

Jerry Avenaim has all the necessary gear assembled in his Pelican case, ready for on location shooting.

Avenaim continues to experiment with digital, but still shoots most of his celebrity images on film. He uses Mamiya RZ67s with a full complement of lenses from 65-250mm, and a Hasselblad H1with Leaf 22-megapixel digital back. When shooting films, his choices are Kodak Portra 160VC and 160NC.

The Girl’s Club: Shooting in Beverly Hills for The Fox Gallery, Jerry Avenaim parked the classic convertible under a palm tree to shade his subjects, and lit the scene with four Profoto heads fitted with Beauty Dish soft reflectors and powered by Profoto Pro-7b power packs. He shot through a 20x20 silk to create a softly surreal effect, while balancing the ambient and flash components of the exposure. (Mamiya RZ67 with 150mm lens, 1/400 sec at f/11-16, Kodak Portra 160VC film.) “I always carry a PocketWizard transmitter and receiver when shooting on location,” Avanaim says. “I don’t like to be tied down if I don’t have to—untethered is better, and being mobile gives you greater shooting flexibility.” In fact, Avenaim has now upgraded to the new Profoto Pro-7b2. “It has a shorter flash duration, even faster recycle time, and best of all, the PocketWizard is built-in!”
© 2005, Jerry Avenaim, All Rights Reserved

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