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Tips & Tricks

How To Photograph Jennifer Lawrence | The Set-Up, The Gear, The Approach & Mentality

By Kishore Sawh on September 13th 2017

I wanted to earn it.” – Clay Cook

That’s what should resonate with you when you read this.

If you’re so inclined to dissect the lighting, equipment, grading and set-up you can do that too, and Clay, an instinctive teacher, lays it bare for you; the camera, lenses, lighting, and even the settings of the particular actuations in question. But that’s the minutiae, really, the particulars. And they aren’t the details of any particular importance at all – you could pull 90% of it from the EXIF. The details are in the story.

The story here isn’t Jennifer Lawrence per se, but of the approach, and to some lesser degree the explanation of the process and execution of a shoot like this.

To Photograph Jennifer Lawrence The Right Way

Clay has a neighborly and familial connection to Lawrence; they lived up the street from each other and his sister dated her brother and used to babysit her. So, naturally, it would stand to reason that if there was an A-lister to photograph it would be her, and he would have an appropriate avenue to navigate to get J-Law in front of his lens, through favor, guilt, blackmail maybe by way of old family photos… But he chose not to, and that’s what makes this story compelling.

“I not only wanted to photograph her, but I wanted to do it organically. I wanted to work as much as possible to be the photographer chosen to capture Jennifer for “X” client.”

As mentioned above, he wanted to earn it.

Now, Clay is a friend, but I can state without hesitation that most ambitious photographers I have met would rent their own mother for a chance to drop J-Law on their ‘Client Sheet’, and perhaps we wouldn’t begrudge them. Interestingly, most won’t ever get to, and it’s probably because they’re focusing on the wrong thing. They focus on the achievement rather than achieving. There’s a fine distinction there, but it exists.

Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that often it’s those who don’t look hungry who get fed, and that makes the meal all the more satisfying.

So as it happened, Clay was approached to shoot Lawrence for her foundation, and with a little help from Phase One, Profoto, a gorgeous Oliphant background, and a lot from his team, created the beautiful shots you see here.

“I was blindsided by the opportunity, but used the experience to create the best imagery within the circumstances. Although, there were a lot of moving parts and a lot of layers, I’m very proud of what my team accomplished.”

You can read Clay’s full take on the experience on his site, where you’ll get even more insight into how celebrity shots are conducted and what went into this set, and check below for a BTS video and gear list.

Gear List

“We used a Profoto D1 modified with a 51” Large Profoto Deep White Umbrella with a 1.5 stop Profoto Umbrella Diffuser as a key light. As a fill light, we used a Profoto D1 modified with a 65” Extra Large Profoto Deep White Umbrella with a 1.5 stop Profoto Umbrella Diffuser. We feathered the key light to soften shadows and offer a more natural nature of light. The entire set was draped in black cloth to negate the bouncing of light and increase the density of the shadows on her face.”

[RELATED: Is It Time To Switch From Lightroom to Capture One Pro? Here’s Why It Might Be]

Phase One IQ3 80MP XF Medium Format Camera
80mm (Schneider Kreuznach 40-80mm LS f/4.0-5.6 Lens)
ISO 100
Key Light: Profoto D1 | 7.0 Power | Profoto 51” Large Deep White Umbrella w/ Profoto Umbrella Diffuser
Fill Light: Profoto D1 | 5.0 Power | Profoto 65″ Extra Large Deep White Umbrella w/ Profoto Umbrella Diffuser
Background: Oliphant Studios

Capture One Pro

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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. Tobias Heyl

    Interesting post. Yes, she’s lovely but I’m also interested in the “behind the scenes” info — thanks for sharing.

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  2. Joe Sycamore

    As a one time semi professional photographer I can honestly say it would be a dream come true to photograph Jennifer Lawrence. Apart from the fact that she is absolutely gorgeous she is also extremely photogenic and, more importantly a consummate professional herself. Not many actresses have the ability to also be models but Jennifer has that rare poise and elegance as well as a certain amount of detachment that makes her ideal for any kind of photo shoot.

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    • Clay Cook

      Most definitely Joe! It was a dream come true. Although there were many variables and layers to this project, I’m proud of what we accomplished with the circumstances. Cheers!

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