How to Shoot Comedians Will Ferrell And Zach Galifianakis

How to Shoot Comedians Will Ferrell And Zach Galifianakis

Jeff Lautenberger, staff Photographer for the Dallas News, had just three minutes to photograph comedians, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis for a feature story on the duo's upcoming movie, "The Campaign". The set? An empty hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Dallas. With no time to set up artificial lighting, Jeff improvised and had to use two windows next to the bed as a natural softbox. While the concept for the images was simple, given the parameters of the shoot and the need for quick thinking, Jeff's task was harder than it seems. What would you have done differently, if anything? Be sure to check out the behind the scenes video below.

Running out of time and ideas, Jeff spotted an interesting mirror just outside their room; this is the final shot. It turned out to be one of his favorites.

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John Cornicello's picture

Nice. Want to see how it was done in the 80s? Check out these videos on YouTube:

Shooting for Letterman's Late Night:

Comedians in the studio:


damn! are those Profoto packs? lol. awesome!

William Alan Photo's picture

 Thanks for posting those links John!

AMAZING videos  John. Thanks!

Ryan Daley's picture

I wonder what his flash settings were. Something I struggle with is getting that balanced natural light look while using a flash. 

Sandy Phimester's picture

Knowing the flash settings is useless really, unless you went and shot in that room at that time of day. Balancing out these two things isn't that hard, you just get your initial exposure check from ambient, one or two photos should do, and then manually set your flash (again, one or two more shots to test it out) and you're set.

Although there probably isn't much of a need for flash in this situation, and I'm not sure he even used it, despite it being on the camera. The room looks small enough to have a few pretty large white walls there. In any case, just a little bit of fill is not that hard for situations like this, especially if you're bouncing it off the wall or ceiling.

No flash was used. All natural/ambient light.

I know he had one on the camera, but during the video I couldn't make out any kind of flash going off. He may of thought he needed it but decided against it in the end. With the image at the end of the video there could have been a flash used off camera right, but I assume this is one of the shots we hear him taking during the video.

It straight up says this in the description before the photos or the video, "With no time to set up artificial lighting, Jeff improvised and had to use two windows next to the bed as a natural soft box."

Andrew Henderson's picture

I can't remember who it was but I saw a video of a photographer talking about how he had to shoot in a hotel room and how he got nice lighting, what he did was open the curtains on the window and he took a white sheet from the bed and covered the window with it, turning the hard light coming in from the window into basically a large softbox. The photographs he took using this method actually came out rather nice.

Sandy Phimester's picture

 I did the same thing in the studio the other day. I decided not to use my lighting equipment and just use the massive window. I closed the curtains, which are thin and white, and it effectively turned the huge window into one massive softbox. And it looks awesome for the quality of light. :) as you can see it's really not hard at all, but definitely takes a bit of planning to use it nicely.

This guy had THE CHANCE of his life and let it "flush" on a hotel toilet????
HERE IS the difference between a "McNally" and an ordinary spirit-of-I-am-a-staff-of-nothing-wannabe-a-phototagrapher-one-day.
DUDE (!!) you had two of the great names in comedy in this world ready to do whatever you propose and you come with THIS?
And comes with "not time enough"????? ... 3 minutes could be an eternity.
Next time that you open your mouth to say something about our genre, think TWICE and say KUDDOS to us!!! This is a normal situation EVERY WEEKEND in our lives ...  

Nathan Hamler's picture

I totally agree....seriously, think of something better than that....

Rage issue much?

Who are you angry at? Are trying to proove that you deserve a medal for shooting weddings?

Chill a little. While I agree this is not a master's work, there is no need to shout insults and try to boost your field of work....


1st of all Simon, I didn't try to boost any field to show off better than other. I just spoke (and put as an example) about something that that I work and have some knowledge ... but portraits is ONE PART of the whole wedding day story. Events (at the receptions) and Products (rings, flowers, dress/suit) are others among what the day make us work upon. If you not prepared to go to a session - even in a middle of bungee jump on the worse spring storm (no ... I never pass through this. Just to exemplify).  

2nd, WHY FOR GOD SAKE this crap of story was shown here at FS???
Just to be instructive and call attention to the point "TO BE PREPARED"?
Or because the two big names on comedy are on this video?
Or because the "PRO" is friend of 'someone here'?
Or because 'someone here' wants to exchange future favors and wants guarantee help at DALLAS NEWS?
Or because don't have any sh*t else to say?

This type of things, looks more appropriate to be shown on "E!" or other crap TV show alike, not in a serious community where is trying to elevate the concept what is PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY and not PROFESSIONAL SOCIAL MEDIOCRE (doesn't matter what you know but WHOM you know). 

I think Lee (as the creator, but can be also Patrick) has to put a rating for us for each post. For sure, too many people "helping" to fill the website content it's not doing a good thing here ... for sure to the areas QUANTITY x QUALITY . 

Missing you Sean. A lot!  

I agree 100%...I am by no means a pro but I would have attempted something. 
I would of had them jumping on the bed, covered up in bed, in the shower bodies behind the curtain...something...Zach working Will's feet for him...something...

Bogdan Zlatkov's picture

Preparation meets this case preparation didn't show up. 

Don't want to be mean but it didn't seem he put much effort into this. The mirror photo was very nice though.

Boring Photos.

Wedding photographers are fucking lame..