The Light That Albert Watson Shapes

Screenshot taken from the video.

Albert Watson has been a working photographer in New York City since 1976, where he began primarily as a commercial photographer, before finding his passion and transitioning into a more fine art look. You likely know him for his working fashion, or with celebrity portraits, or maybe one of the over 100 Vogue covers he has shot. Part of what made his work so incredible is his lighting.

In this Profoto feature video, Watson briefly discusses his background and how he came to be in NYC, before taking us on set for a high-end portrait shoot with the world renowned dancer Sergei Polunin. Watson has been shooting his work with the help of Profoto lighting for over 40 years, giving him a unique perspective on their products and what they are capable of.

An interesting part of this video though, for us non-Profoto users, is Watson’s process, which you can get incredible insight into and views of in this video. As he puts it in the video he “starts with the Key Light, and then I start taking light away.” This process may seem interesting to some, some photographers work from the other side of the coin, starting with nothing and slowly adding lights piece by piece. But there is a method to this madness, by taking such time and care, getting so hands on in the process, a photographer like Watson can really see and mold the light to be exactly what they are envisioning in their mind – a crucial skill for a photographer who works primarily with strobe lighting.

But Watson also drives home another point, to never forget that there is a person in front of your lens. While you and your assistants (if you are lucky enough to have any) are busy playing with scrims and flags and there is a person just sitting there, waiting for you to get your crap together. So always remember that; to talk to them, engage with them, keep them involved in the process – this is an excellent time to continue to build rapport so that once you start shooting, everyone is comfy and ready to go.

Be sure to watch the video all the way through, it is an excellent look into how one of the greats manages his shoot, a peek into his thought process, and how he is able to produce such incredible imagery.

Featured image screen captured from video. Credit to Profoto.