Commercial Photographer Jerry Avenaim discusses Power Lighting
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.
Lighting On Location!
Lighting With Minimum Gear: A Masters Reveal His Secrets
Schneider, August, 2006
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.
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.
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