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News & Insight

BTS With Benedict Cumberbatch & Vanity Fair | Insightful and Impressive

By Kishore Sawh on February 19th 2015


There really is no substitute for experience. While faking it until you can make something of it can be highly useful, there’s no getting around the value of the real thing. You can sit and read tutorials on how to work your camera and your lights, and how to pose and direct a subject, etcetera, and you should. However, even if you work a camera like Rembrandt a brush, and have fluency with photographic theory, that alone will not provide you with a sense of being in the field. You’ve actually got to get out there.

There are, however, ways you can get a real sense of this, usually in the form of behind the scenes videos, and the one featured here where Jason Bell shoots Benedict Cumberbatch for Vanity Fair, is brilliant at that.

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Bell is a rather astute fashion photographer from London, though he now splits his time between his hometown and New York. The Oxford man regularly shoots for Vanity Fair, British and American Vogue, and a slew of others, and has shot A-listers like Daniel Craig, David Bechkam, Johnny Depp, and Kate Winslet to no end. Adding to that is Mr. Cupid’s Bow himself, Benedict Cumberbatch, in whose shoot we are allowed to see behind the curtain.

The shoot took place in London in Wimbledon Commons with Cumberbatch in a variety of scenarios with a focus on juxtaposition, all shot in the field and with a PhaseOne 645 and lit with 3 Profoto heads.

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[REWIND: Mario Testino BTS | Shooting The Entire 100th Vogue China Issue]

There isn’t much in the way of technical discussion in here, which is great, because it lets you focus on the rest of what’s going on. There’s insight from both the photographer and the talent on what goes into a shoot, and what makes a good one, and there’s a huge stress on the value of collaboration. Those on both sides of the camera are vocal in what their ideas are, and seeing how that interaction goes down is invaluable – seeing how to conduct yourself in a firm, but amicable manner. There’s also insight into what the difficult phases of the production are, and when it’s time to cut loose and have fun.

I think it’s worth mentioning that Bell directly addresses the fact the shots aren’t to look too real, but instead be very stylized. This is something people often forget, that just because the shoot is more simple, doesn’t mean the photographer can’t do something more elaborate.

And sure, not all of us will be able to shoot such a strange and great looking subject, but still to see how the photographer interacts with his talent, and his assistants and works around the gear is great. You truly get a sense of many different elements of a production and how they come together to create something harmonious, and greater than the sum of their parts. Really one of the best BTS videos I’ve seen.

See more from Jason Bell’s impressive body of work here.

Images are screen captures from featured video.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Vince Arredondo

    I really like the end result

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  2. Michelle York

    Fantastic video, thanks Kishore!

    I know its common practice to have the camera hooked up to a laptop to see them as you shoot, but is it common to have them being edited while shooting? At 7 mins 10 into the video, for a split second you can see the unedited version before the tweaked colouring pops up.

    Does anyone know what program is used for that? It could be a photoshop action I suppose but it seems more likely to be lightroom or something? Thanks for any help guys.

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  3. Bryan Sheehy

    I thought this was such a great BTS video, just like the other commenters. It would be so cool to shoot with a PhaseOne and a leaf shutter lens… maybe one day. I checked out the photographers portfolio site, and even though it’s a Flash site, it’s quite impressive.

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    • Kevin DeLorey

      It’s not a bad website, but it’s unfortunate that it is a Flash site.

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    • Bryan Sheehy

      Indeed, not a bad site at all. I’ve noticed that when I go to photographer’s portfolio site, and that photographer is older than around 40, their site is more likely to be a flash site. Which is a bit funny, because usually the older photographers are more well known and accomplished, but they need some help with getting their site up to date.

      On the flip side, his Flash site didn’t allow for any right clicking on images, which is a good safeguard against image stealers.

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  4. Raoni Franco

    THAT´S great content! Thanks Kishore!

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  5. David Lefranc

    Exactly the kind of video i like to watch. Seeing pros work and sharing a great experience. Really interesting !

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  6. Jason Teale

    This is a really interesting video. Not much into fashion photography but it is great to see the BTS of shoots like this.

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  7. Brian Stalter

    That looks like it would be a fun day on set.

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  8. Bill Bentley

    Is the dog smoking a cigar or did Benedict fart through a telephone in the “fog” shot. Looks totally fake. Looked better on the video though.

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  10. Gurmit Saini

    Great video and the funny thing is that I am just less than 3 miles away from this place, gosh I need to be more out and about! mission Wimbledon commons…

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  11. James Rogen

    i’m not gay, but i would crawl a mile through broken glass and burning coals just to hear benedict cumberbatch fart through a telephone

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