Imitating Success

A Martin Schoeller Study

So, if you don’t know Schoeller, or aren’t familiar with his iconic portrait style, you should check him out. Once first assistant to Annie Leibovitz he broke out on his own. After quite a struggle, he found a style of lighting and shooting that made his name. I’ll spare you the biography and history lesson (that’s what google and Wikipedia are for) but, it’s a very interesting look. So, we decided to see what we could do to emulate it. Schoeller uses different gear (Kinoflo lighting and such) so this work is an amateur attempt at adaptation. Plus, a successful shot is so much more than some cookie-cutter lighting grid. However, it’s a nice tool to have in your bag.

ISO 100




The subject is placed between two strip boxes, in-front of a white or black backdrop. With a background light on you can adjust how much the light falls off and how white or grey you would like it. Keeping the modeling lights on helps mold the catchlights while shooting. It’s difficult to make sure they remain even in each eye. We used a very shallow depth of field so the room was very dark. Also, we had a lot of trouble with light bouncing off the white walls so we put black curtains on each side of the studio. This helped us control the light much more effectively.









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