Even though she doesn't have a professional portfolio website, her name is widely known. Annie Leibovitz has done yet another nice shoot. This time it is for a Lincoln Continental campaign. Her style is very distinctive — both working with the subjects, lighting, and post processing. Although her lighting is simple, many photographers find it hard to achieve such a look. There are details that are not obvious if we look only from the technical side of her work.
The secret of Annie's work is mostly in the way she directs the people she photographs. You can always get her lighting and post processing right but posing is harder than most of us think. Annie's attitude is always friendly towards her subjects. Watching her behind the scenes videos leaves an impression she's a close friend with everyone on set, especially with the people that are photographed. They are always cheered up and encouraged by her. This greatly contributes to the final look of her images. You can retouch imperfections, you can color grade the image, but you can't fix expressions. That's what she's best at — directing.
There's a lot we can learn from the video above. In this video she uses Nikon and Hasselblad camera bodies. In other videos she's seen using Canon bodies and Phase One backs (not sure what's the digital back on the Hasselblad here). Obviously her images do not depend on the camera brand.
How She Uses Light
You can see on several places large diffuse umbrellas. They are used to diffuse the available sunlight. Clouds can do a pretty good job too but you can't control them. Shooting with the sun coming out from the clouds and then hiding back is pretty tough, because you always change your camera settings to have consistent exposure of the environment. Using those umbrellas can help to have more control over the lighting on the subjects. See that she is lighting from the same direction the sun is shining. This helps to sell the "non-lit" look of the images.
Shooting with flash through windows can be also tricky because the light may bounce back from the window as if it were made of glass. That's why they position the softbox as close to the windshield as possible so no light is lost.
Look at the result. Beautiful:
Retouching in the final image is really seamless. You can see a little bit from the original sun lit scene in the reflection on the top of car. However it doesn't bother me because the result looks great. So are the rest of the images from the campaign.