Learn How to Shoot Stunning Portraits Like Legendary Photographer Annie Leibovitz in Her MasterClassJul 5, 2020 | 0 Votes by Mel - rate As the first woman to be named chief photographer at Rolling Stone, Annie Leibovitz has shot some of the most iconic celebrity photographs in modern history, including the last portrait of John Lennon. In her first online photography class, Leibovitz shares her philosophy as an artist, telling a story through fascinating subjects and concepts, shooting with natural light, and bringing images to life in post-production.
Annie Leibovitz is heralded as one of the greatest portrait photographers of her time, having captured images of some of the most influential figures and celebrities of the past 40 years for official portraits, advertisements, and magazine covers, including her most famous image is the raw, intimate portrait of a nude John Lennon clinging to wife Yoko Ono, taken for the cover of Rolling Stone only hours before Lennon was killed.
Other notable photographs include Demi Moore’s naked and heavily pregnant cover for Vanity Fair, official photographs of Queen Elizabeth II, and the Disney Dream Portrait Series. Trademarks of Leibovitz’s style include elaborate staging, bold contrasts and dramatic poses. Adept at capturing her subject’s personality and inner life, her images reflect intimate or staged moments that reveal the playful and expressive aspects of her sitters. Today, Leibovitz’s photographs are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.
Now, MasterClass is privileged to have the celebrated photographer on board to teach her first online class, Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography wherein she shares her philosophy and rationale for photographing what she does and how.
Prospective students should take note that this is not a course for beginners expecting a class about the fundamentals of photography and neither is it for intermediate to advanced photographers seeking some top-secret technical skill that’s the key to unlocking intimate access to the most famous people in the world. Instead, Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass is more of a look into Annie’s creative mindset than her photographic process.
In fact, the photographer herself claims she is not a technician and says she won’t give camera or lighting or editing recommendations because it’s not about that. “You can have what you think is the ‘best equipment’ but it doesn’t help if you can’t see.”
So, in this MasterClass, through 15 video lessons that present more interview-style than practical instruction (using sample photography shoots); Annie will teach students “how to see” rather than “how to shoot”. And while she does dabble in discussions about technique, such as using 35 mm, zoom lenses, and natural and strobe lights; she mostly focuses on concepts and how they develop from the start of a shoot and change into something completely different by the end.
Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass starts with an Introduction where we get to know a little about the artist and glimpse a sample of her stunning body of work. She then segues into her evolution as a portraiture and photojournalism photographer and why she chose to specialize in Portrait Photography.
Like most portrait photographers, a photo shoot starts with a Concept, and in Lesson 3, Leibovitz breaks down her process for developing the themes for her photo shoots, sharing examples from her assignments with Meryl Streep, Amy Schumer, Keith Haring, and Whoopi Goldberg among others.
Next, the photographer delves into her approach toward her photography environment as she talks about Working with Light both natural and artificial, as well as keeping your lighting kit spare; and Studio vs. Location where surprisingly, judging from her famous staged photographs, she actually has a strong preference for shooting on location.
Having all her preliminaries in order (gear, concept, lighting, and location), Annie can then start Working With (Her) Subject. Having photographed some of the most famous and powerful personalities in recent history, she shares her personal strategies for collaborating with her subjects—and refuting the popular notion that it’s the photographer’s responsibility to put a subject at ease.
We can then see her strategies and philosophies in action by getting a behind-the-scenes look at Annie's Angels in America photo shoot for Vogue, where she and her team set up the photo shoot, stage her concept, and show how she works with her subjects.
For Lessons 8 and 9, Leibovitz gets more personal as she discusses Photographing People Who Are Close to You and Looking Back at Your Work. In these two touching and emotional episodes, the photographer pores over the personal photos that most affected her as well as the ones that most inspire her – from old amateur family shots on the boardwalk to Alfred Stieglitz’s photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe. She also meditates on life, death, and aging and what continues to inspire her to keep shooting photos today.
In the final few chapters of the course, Annie touches a bit on the Technical aspects of her craft where she recalls how she transitioned from film to digital, and in spite of all the available technology available nowadays for photographers to take advantage of, in the end, it’s the content that matters.
She then visits with students from her alma mater San Francisco Art Institute and offers constructive criticism of their photographs and shares her core photography principles with them. That’s followed by two Case Studies of Annie photographing chef and author Alice Waters, and a glimpse of her Digital Post-Production process where Annie sits down with her retoucher for an editing session.
Leibovitz then closes out her MasterClass by talking about her Influences Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Alfred Stieglitz, and Richard Avedon before sharing some final thoughts about her artistic journey and Evolution as a photographer.
The Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography course is made up of 15 modules with an average length of 12 minutes each for a total of just over 3 hours. Apart from the cinematic-quality produced videos which you can access anytime, anywhere from your desktop, mobile, or streaming TV service; student subscribers will also be able to download her PDF Class Workbook that complements the video lessons with all the key takeaways as well as resource links, and assignments related to each module that will help you put the chapter concepts into practice.
Like most of the MasterClass instructors, Annie Leibovitz also offers an Office Hours segment where you can leave a video question for her to answer, as well as “The Hub” section for each lesson that allows you to discuss lessons, ideas, and more with hundreds of others enrolled in the course.
Annie joins other acclaimed Lifestyle and Design masters and personalities on MasterClass from whom you might be interested in taking a course with your All- Access MasterClass pass, including: Jimmy Chin (Teaches Adventure Photography); Anna Wintour (Teaches Creativity and Leadership); Bobbi Brown (Teaches Makeup & Beauty); Marc Jacobs (Teaches Fashion Design); Frank Gehry (Teaches Design & Architecture); Kelly Wearstler (Teaches Interior Design); and others whose courses you can also access in their entirety with your Masterclass All-Access Pass for just $180 billed annually, which also grants you access to 80+ other MasterClass courses available from the most famous and respected experts in design, fashion, lifestyle, business, politics, science, film & TV, culinary arts, sports, literature, music & entertainment, and more.
MasterClass also has a Gift option where you can present your loved ones with either an All-Access subscription for $180 or a single course for $90. Whatever you choose, students can enjoy a 30-day refund policy for both packages if you are unsatisfied with the platform for any reason at all.
While taking Annie Leibovitz’s Teaches Photography MasterClass certainly won’t teach you anything technical about equipment, lighting secrets, and filter hacks; you will, however, receive a heavy dose of creative inspiration and over 40 years of insight that will, no doubt, motivate any budding photographer into taking more photos and experimenting with your own creative instincts.