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:

Log in to post comments


Previous comments

I don't see 8 lights anywhere. Could you please post that eight light setup?

Oh and no disrespect to you earlier, you actually shoot some very high quality work yourself so I do think you know what you are talking about. I just honestly feel this Adidas shoot was over kill. Another reason why it may be this way is because they have to reach a certain budget. It could be they gave the agency a price and have to come as close to that as possible. If my memory serves me right I recall another big budget project having to stay at a certain required price point. I'm not 100% sure but I THINK I recall that. 

John Godwin's picture

Hey, no disrespect taken or intended, my friend. I was just teasing you really.

As for Dave, there are a few videos where he has extremely large set-ups, especially on his newer videos. He did an interview with Strobist a couple of years ago where he stated the regular use of eight lights in his set-ups. But you're right, he does often work with less. I personally don't really *like* the Adidas shot, but I appreciate it from a technical standpoint. I guess one can also assume that maybe he doesn't know HOW to make the shot look like that without that many lights. I know myself, I probably wouldn't have gone to the extreme of one light per shoe, but then maybe that's why I don't shoot for Adidas :)

I wish I did!

You are probably very right as far as budget goes. I'd agree wholeheartedly.

Photoshop is to actual lighting what Guitar Hero is to a actual guitar playing. Folks can learn as much about lighting from a photoshop guy as they can learn about playing guitar from a Guitar Hero gamer.

Physical photographic lighting is both a manual and a mechanical process. There is a manual element because lighting hardware is moved in physical space (by hand) in order to light physical objects. There is a mechanical element because lighting is a step in a sequence that happens before capture.

According to media theory, diversity and variety are greater in manual and mechanical mediums. This means that the more a photographer integrates manual and mechanical processes into his work the greater his chances for developing a signature style and look that differs from his competition.

Digital mediums non-linear and non-manual. This means that anybody can use them at anytime to create any simulation. The result is a democratizing of access but also a loss of individual identity. The creators of pure digital work are indistinguishable from each other because the medium does not give them the opportunity to work by hand or in sequence.

Yes, it's true that digital can simulate just about any physical lighting effect. But, they cannot create light which means that they can only copy. These copies become formulas that anybody working in digital can apply with equal access. The result is homogenization and an inability to differentiate one digital creator from another.

Digital is tribal. Manual and mechanical processes are individual. Personal styles are the result of manual and mechanical processes....NOT digital process, Right now, we're in a hybrid period where digital mediums aren't fully disconnected from manual and mechanical mediums so this creates the illusion that digital is still capable of portraying individuality. But eventually, digital will fully integrate mechanical and manual processes and that's when all digital creators will be indistinguishable from one another.

John Godwin's picture

That is an excellent analogy as to the relationship between photography, Photoshop, and the computer game, Guitar Hero. At least it would be, were I high on a large dose of mushrooms.

Paul Houston's picture

"Let's make this shoot as difficult as possible".

James's picture

Captain Tsubasa was doing this
20 years ago   ... if you ask me, the only
difference is that now you have big boys
with expensive toys instead crayons .. 

they go overboard on the lighting and even more overboard on the PS

Yeah they may go a little overboard on, well...everything but man the end result is exactly what they wanted, eye catching, dramatic, and OVER the TOP! Awesome work

Ben IncaHutz's picture

This just proves that consumers are suckers. If my son asks me for soccer shoes I'm going to show him this video and tell him, look these shoes are worthless! They will not help you run faster or play better and you wont even look good unless you have $60,000 in Profoto gear and a bunch of people photoshopping you!

chris watts's picture

compared to how many lights there would be in a stadium that size the number of lights used in this shoot seems pretty small no?

Antonio Carrasco's picture

Well all of Gary Land's work looks like this, so it's obviously the look the client wanted. No surprises or anything...

This shot could of been done with 3 - 4 lights easy. The post production is down to taste I think a little over done but then this will of probably been down to client brief and requirements. I think a stronger and more impactful image could of been done here as mentioned above a friend of mine Dave Hill has achieved better results with a lot let hardware. For me definite overkill with the lighting.

Would I be offending anyone here if I just said that I didn't like this photo? I'm not a soccer fan so I had no idea who the guy was in the photo and right off the bat, it looked like someone went crazy with the HDR toning option in P.S. I'm no pro so perhaps my opinion hold little merit. Again... this is just my opinion.

Too many lights? Not enough lights? Too much PS? Not enough PS? Who cares! Bottom line: The audience for this image is NOT photographers, but customers and potential customers of Adidas. To this end, I conclude that it is successful - edgy, in your face, synthetic. Call it what you will, but obviously the client was satisfied for the intended purpose.

As Luca Ragogna points out, the typical audience (young men) go for this sort of thing.