Tag Archives: schmidli

How to Shoot like Annie Leibovitz – (Part 3: The Results)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we explored how Annie Leibovitz created one of the most iconic fashion photography looks of the recent decades and the few pieces of lighting equipment we needed to emulate her style. It has been an enlightening learning process and we would like to share our final results with you.

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Annie Leibovitz shooting Michael Kors for Vanity Fair. Click for behind the scenes video.

Apologies are in order for the belatedness of this Part 3. As multiple readers have questioned and asked, I kept putting off this article because it was hard to sum up what was a difficult project. It was much more involving than my Terry Richardson series. It was also a lot more expensive. My admiration for Ms. Leibovitz has only increased since we took this journey.

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Annie Leibovitz shooting Kate Upton for Vanity Fair’s 100th anniversary cover. Click for video.

To reiterate, the core of Annie’s genius is her vision and her ability to connect with her models. Her style is painterly, timeless, and haute couture. Her style is an inspiration to us at iLHP and though no one can replicate Annie besides Annie herself, we do hope to share our own interpretation.

Continue reading How to Shoot like Annie Leibovitz – (Part 3: The Results)

How to Shoot like Annie Leibovitz – (Part 2: The Setup)

In Part 1, we set out to study one aspect of Annie Leibovitz’s legendary body of work, her Vanity Fair style fashion shoots. Her subjects are statically posed,  bathed in ultra soft moon lighting, and, more of often than not, positioned in front of an expensive canvas background.


It’d be silly to suggest the following setup guide will work in every situation. Annie’s certainly not a one-trick pony. Especially if the shoot is outdoors where you have to manage the daylight. But think of it as a starting point to Annie’s look, an introduction, to one of the cleanest yet most elegant looks defining our era.

Annie’s Lighting Setup

Behind the scenes video of Annie's Game of Thrones shoot
Behind the scenes video of Annie’s Game of Thrones shoot

Continue reading How to Shoot like Annie Leibovitz – (Part 2: The Setup)

How to Paint an Oliphant or Schmidli Style Photo Backdrop

A staple of Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair photos is her use of premium hand-painted canvas backdrops. It seems like such a simple thing. By putting a backdrop on a set or on location, it changes the real estate of the image. There is a thick and tasteful texture to the backdrops. It’s subtle and it sure is a far cry from your vignetted and cliched high-school-yearbook-photo backdrops. In continuation of our How to Shoot like Annie Leibovitz series, we explore the use of these backdrops in photography.


Two companies have really cornered the high quality canvas backdrop market, Oliphant Studios based in New York and Schmidli Backdrops based throughout the world. Both have an impressive stock of already-painted canvases. Both do custom work. Both business models are based on rentals rather than sales.

Single day rates for renting a Schmidli canvas starts from $250 (for a 10′ by 12′) all the way to $900 (for a 30′ by 50′), along with a 20% off student discount. Oliphant rentals are more expensive but the rental period is for up to 3 days. Prices start at $310 for students, $335 for editorial shoots, and $440 for print advertising and catalogues. All of these prices do not include shipping and I’m guessing those would be quite hefty. Painted canvases are large and heavy!

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Since the rental rates really aren’t economically sustainable for solo photographers or small studios to use on a continuous basis, the financially prudent thing would be to either (1) invest in one of their works of art or (2) recreate one of your own.

To outright purchase one of their canvases, you’d have to inquire about their sale prices. They do not list their prices (red flag for “if you have to ask you can’t afford it”). By their rental rates, I estimate their purchase prices are well into the four digits range. They are so prized, this photographer cried when she bought her own Oliphant. The reaction is understandable and the business model makes sense. It takes forever to make one of these, why would you sell them when you can keep making money off of them?


This leaves us with the second option, creating our own Oliphant or Schmidli style backdrop. There are a handful of websites out there that tries to detail a how-to. This one uses the Home Depot tarping canvas. This one looks really doesn’t look like an Oliphant style backdrop. Then this one is which is very wrinkled and doesn’t have the same matte texture. The problem is, most DIY-ers are not painters or mural artists. They were experimenting.

Here at iLHP, if we want to do something, we do it right. I’m not going to tell you we did the canvases for $47. They were not cheap. But they are also affordable enough for mere mortals when compared to the Oliphant and Schmidli backdrops, which are really geared towards large studios and ad agencies. So here at iLHP, we commissioned a highly regarded LA mural artist to paint a backdrop for us and walk us through the process step by step.

Continue reading How to Paint an Oliphant or Schmidli Style Photo Backdrop