Does Adidas Use Too Many Lights For Their Ad Campaigns?

Does Adidas Use Too Many Lights For Their Ad Campaigns?

A big part of what makes commercial photography so interesting is it often requires photographers to incorporate the latest graphic trends into their work. In other words, in order to cut the mustard in commercial photography, you not only have to be at the top of your game but you also have to produce something eye catching in a market full of interesting media. That's exactly what photographer Gary Land did with his latest Adidas ad featuring soccer superstar Lionel Messi. However, his arsenal of Profoto lights and heavy photoshop has caused a bit of controversy over on the Strobist website where many photographers are claiming the final image is a bit overkill. I personally love the final image and think the direction Gary went is exactly what separates the boys from the men. However, I can appreciate the purists point of view who think great advertising photos should remain true to real life and capture a more realistic vision. Check out this great behind the scenes video of the latest Adidas shoe ad and let us know what you think in the comments. Check out Gary's interesting website as well for more inspiration.

Lighting Diagram:

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Andreas Feustel's picture

Interesting video!

I'm wondering if it wouldn't have been less effort just to paint this image instead of shooting on different locations tons of frames. But I guess not just the Profoto umbrellas have been giant(s) on the set, the budget they had was giant as well.
As a strobist I'm thinking about letting Zack Arias or Joe McNally doing this job their own way would have been interesting! ;-)

Thank you for sharing!

I think the final image is great, but the dust and flying turf could use some work as they appear to be amorphous afterthoughts that lack the detail of the rest of the image and are distracting. Also, i'm not sure the white balance shift over to yellow is appealing because it makes the image seem somewhat jaundice. As far as purism goes, there's no place for photographic snobbery in sales, you do what gets business and makes the pay-check bigger. People need to get over themselves and realize there is more to life than photography, such as selling products and marketing ideas which i'm a huge fan of. 

Maybe too much post-production for me but I'm not in the mind of the marketing director.
Anyway it's cool to know that they shot the background in Marseille, my home town..... 

Nicholas Gonzalez's picture

I think the image is tough. He did an excellent job of creating an action scene in a soccer field. I'm grateful that he shared his approach and the tools he used to accomplish the product. One can argue that he used a lot of tools, but he explained his reasons and boy were they awesome tools. But this kind of shot isn't out of reach nor the only way to do it. The great thing about sharing how an image was pulled off is just another tug on any artist's motivation. 

romain VERNEDE's picture

Is it an ad for Adidas or Profoto in the end???
j'aime Marseille aussi ;)

Shannon Wimberly's picture

not at all!...... great shot.... lets face it, photoshop is the BOMB BABY!!!!!

For what it's worth, I think it looks like it'll be effective.   It's certainly got a lot of impact.

On the other hand the image itself does nothing really for me, it's a step too far for my personal taste.

Tomek Fryszkiewicz's picture

With this amount of post-production, the same final effect would have been achieved easily with 3 or 4 flash heads. But of course that would be too little to impress a world class player ;] I love Gary Land's pictures overall but in this case - it's style over substance.

Strobists can be the worst kind of photo and gear snobs. What kills me is how a lot of these guys worship David Hobby and still don't listen to what he says. You use the tools that you need to get the job done. Hobby uses big lights, and he'd use a hell of a lot of them if he had to produce a shot like this one. 

Over-processed is a matter of opinion and audience. This ad is aimed at the young guys that are into video games and action movies. The shot looks looks exciting. It's going to appeal to that audience. I really don't think Gary Land or Adidas give a rat's ass about what SB-24 toting internet trolls think of the shot. It's supposed to sell shoes to teenagers not win a Pulitzer. 

agreed 100%

sadly that there is no BTS video with PS work )

Ghislain Leduc's picture

We're so divided these days that I will say 60% will like it, 40 % won't but who cares. My opinion, I've said it before and I'll stick to it again here but to me, I find it more rewarding to take a real shot than to stage it...

I am so proud when the shot that I present is the real thing and not a composite. I will work of course in CS to fix all the little things, improve the image of course but when I present the image and it's the real thing... feel sooo good

Honestly, I don't get it from Adidas, they are making an ad for product that is supposed to make you a better player.... BUT the ad is fully staged.... not even a real moment... Kinda bizarre, is the product staged too? I know it's a ridiculous debate....but I like the real stuff... so present me something real. Just like the other ad a few months ago with Julia Roberts...

Ghislain Leduc's picture

and honestly, I'm sure that he could have done a great shot just being at a game and following Messi for an entire game :)

He did use way too many lights, as well as he over baked the post production. I remember when I first saw this, and I was terribly disappointed with his post production tastes. The bad part is that they lit the background like this yet composited it from a crowd shot that could have been shot with an ND or they could have used a technique called painting with light so that they could pull back or bump up the lighting.

Photoshop (which he apparently used the CRAP out of on this shot) can provide a quick and non permanent solution to lighting (which apparently this was all about the light) and I think people will find their options on photos and lighting EXPLODE when you learn to paint with light.

John Godwin's picture

Dude, I think you should email Adidas and tell them the dude got this all wrong. Tell them about how you'd have "painted the photo with light" and and almost POSITIVE you'll get the job next time.

I'm sick of these professional photographers getting jobs just because they have complex light setups, used in a way that denotes and incredible amount of talent, creativity and experience.

I want you to get the job next time, because clearly, to be able to "pull back or bump up the light" is something that just CANNOT BE DONE with a standard light setup.

One must paint. With light.

Mr. Nuyoka's picture

^---------- ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Spilled my coffee on my screen and all. 

Thanks for the response John. I did EXACTLY what you said and contacted Adidas. They were very interested in your suggestion and promised they would utilize my services in the future due to my extreme talent and knowledge of post production. They said they only considered me due to the mentioning of your name. They did inform me that I would need a letter of recommendation on your behalf. 

When you pull yourself away from all the big time professional work that you are doing, could you please fire that over to them?

David Shepherd's picture

I think this is great! There is a lot of lights, there is a lot of post, there is a lot of work. Photography is evolving into something that is quickly becoming more artistic and people like Gary Land are separating themselves as commercial superstars. I try to do this in my work on small budgets/sets/subjects to learn more and evolve my own craft. This type of work reminds me of the renaissance of paint with Michelanglo and Leonardo in there rendering of the subject.

Who anyone complain if this was movie and not a still?

Mike Folden's picture

Seems like they nailed the shot on the head to me. I think it only takes as many lights as it takes. This tog had the whole plan in his head (and I'm sure written down) and pulled it off. I'm not huge into the comic look but there's no doubt this is a stunning image and very well produced. 

I think this might be a case of, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

BUT....we were not talking with the creative/art director either. Thats the beauty of photography, there isn't just one way to do it.

Look like a cartoon drawing. Yuck!

Ghislain Leduc's picture

Man I hope this place doesn't become another dpreview forum crap full of young anonymous moron that always post their anger online...

Arthur Nava's picture

ummm ok... but please, tell us how you really feel.

John Godwin's picture

Sounds like you're the one who needs to take a deep breath there, big guy. My post contained absolutely no insults whatsoever. I was, however, lucky enough to see your little outburst before you "censured" it.

Don't get so worked up, buddy, it's just the internet.

So far it looks like everyone is circle jerking around how great it is to have sooo many lights and so many composited layers and so much photoshop work. But to me, the dude could have shot this with 4 lights to get an even tone on his model and then just used photoshop. The rest for me is overkill.
It looks like a bad photoshop job anyway so why waste all that money and time jerking off?

Don't listen to people opinion's unless they have worked on many large ad campaigns. The hobbyist camera clubbers on internet forums have a superficial understanding of photography and believe that qualifies them to understand advertising too. They don't understand it. Don't listen to them.

This message is mostly aimed at the young folks out there that are trying to learn. The thought process behind large ad campaigns is not the same as shooting for your friends and family. Hint: if you want to learn then the only way is to get jobs on the actual campaigns. There's no way to learn it in a forum, tutorial, or a message board etc. And do NOT take seriously the opinions of people that do not have sufficient backgrounds because following their advice will lead to exactly their position of spectator instead of producer.

Arthur Nava's picture

It's an awesome shot, the "look" was probably something that was discussed earlier with an art director and something the client (adidas) or the client's marketing team thinks is best for their target market. The photographer was then hired based on the Art Director's knowledge that he could pull off that desired look.

I don't think you could do this with four lights. The shadows are too complex as well as the highlights. And no, to process the whole thing in PS just because you hypothetically could do it in PS is a stupid argument. In that case don't get any fast glass just raise the exposure in Camera Raw then paint over the image with the paintbrush tool. Depth of field? Don't worry, there's gaussian blur and layer masks. Yeah you could do that, but would you? Of course not, so let's not be silly here.

For added kicks and giggles why don't we make a group in flickr and we can all post a 4 light image of our friends playing soccer that nails this "look" in a 1 week timeframe, oh but you need to limit your shooting time to an hour, maybe 45 minutes. I would be really interested to see how many "fails" people would upload and arguing it has "The Gary Land" look.

Ok, so to recapitulate, no you're not like Gary Land and if you think you can pull this off with 4 lights, a limited budget, and have no clue what an Art Director is, or the fact that the client has final say in the "look" that they want in their final image in order to sell to their target market, bottom line, you never will be. 

I've seen it done with a ring flash and fewer lights, and done cleaner.

There are some people that have done professional large projects and do have a strong understanding of photoshop. The post specifically ASKED, does this use too many lights? We answered. I can't speak for all but I answered based upon experience of such work.

The art director may have be just totally fine with the final image, that was not the question. The question was are these too many lights?

Many of you don't know the level of work anyone here produces thus you can't tell a viewer to write off what is posted here because its not by a top level pro. I happen to know of at least one very top level pro that visits this site, and since he shot one of Beyonce's record covers, Iman, Davide Bowe, Janet Jackson, and countless others, I would say he's a pro.

Keep in mind this site has a post function because the makers WANT an opinion. The opinion was given, and take it for that.  The Adidas photographer could probably careless about what we think, so I'm sure he can do without the angry blog cheerleading.

John Godwin's picture

On a serious note, you've just picked the one guy who probably uses MORE lights than this shoot. Dave regularly uses upwards of eight lights in his set ups, including bounces and gobos. I've seen shoots where he tones it down, and, like you say, uses a ring flash along with a few rims, but on his larger shoots, I've counted as many as ten lights. He even uses lights in front of lights on the same plain.

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