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February 18, 2012


Avedon’s Secret

by Darren Stone

Paige~Darren Stone (2012)

Richard Avedon is widely regarded as one of the greatest photographers ever. In his early photographer/model studio work he used one strobe light. I never worked with Avedon or met the man, but I’ve studied his images and looked at his studio set ups. If one strobe worked for Avedon, is it good enough for us? I think so.

Here’s why:

  •  Over-lighting looks cheesy. There are gazillions of examples out there.
  •  Less is more. Great design and style come from simplicity.
  •  One light is natural. How many suns are there? That’s the light we see every day.
  • The Dutch Masters used one light source. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals …… they were pretty good.
  • Quality not quantity. There is plenty of quantity in one high-powered flash unit. Quality comes from light modifiers.

Here’s how:

  • You can make hair highlights look exactly like you want in post-production. Easily. But not if you’ve over-lit the image.
  • Use the money you saved on multiple strobes to buy light modifiers. Change the quality of light with beauty dishes, octaboxes, softboxes. etc.
  • Reflectors do a masterful job of softening shadows if you get proper exposures.
  • Pay attention to the direction of the light. Learn Butterfly or Rembrandt lighting.
  • You know how you get to Carnegie Hall, don’t ya? Practice. Use one light for 10,000 hours.  You’ll be a master.
In later years Avedon went from one strobe………to none. There is genius in minimalism.

                                                                                                                                                      Avedon in studio-1964

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 2 2012

    When I was a child, my first subject was my mother. I put my father’s lights, similar to the one in the photo above, all around her. I showed the prints to my father. He looked at them and said, “There’s only one sun.” This statement stayed, engrained in me, to this day.


  2. fivereflections
    May 20 2012

    when i was a youngster, i enrolled in Time-Life Famous Photographer’s Course – Richard Avedon had multiple samples of his work in the documentation.


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