How does Annie Leibovitz take her photos?

The way Annie Leibovitz takes her photos of celebrities can be categorised by the equipment she uses, the lighting conditions, and her connection with her subjects.


Annie Leibovitz has had a successful career photographing celebrities for magazine covers and other projects to this day.

The way she takes her photos has led to her signature portrait photography style, which tells a story and has a distinct, dramatic look.

About Annie Leibovitz’s photography

This infamous American portrait photographer is known for capturing unique photos of celebrities and icons, ranging from John Lennon to Queen Elizabeth, Simone Biles and many more.

In the 10 years that she was Rolling Stone magazine’s chief photographer, she photographed 142 covers for the magazine and from there she moved on to photographing covers for other magazines, exhibitions, advertorials, books, and a variety of other projects.

She is known for capturing quirky photographs of famous faces that the general public is used to seeing in a way that reflects a lot of personality and is out of the ordinary, which is part of what has earned her the title of “legend” over the years.

How does Annie Leibovitz take her photos?

The way Annie Leibovitz takes her photos has distinguished her as one of the most popular photographers in pop culture and has established her signature storybook portrait style throughout the years.

Although every shoot has its own challenges and its own story to tell, there are certain aspects about the way Leibovitz approaches her portraits that help create a consistent dramatic and intimate mood across all of her photographs.

Some of the most notable aspects of the way Leibovitz takes her photographs include the equipment she uses, the lighting setup she prefers, and the way she connects with the subjects of her photographs.

What equipment does Annie Leibovitz use to take her photos?

Leibovitz has been a professional photographer since the early 70s, which means that she has inevitably had to evolve her kit as times and technologies changed over the years.

Now, most  recently, Leibovitz uses a Nikon D810 and a combination of other 35 mm digital cameras that include other Nikon camera models and various Sony, Leica, and Canon models.

She prefers a 35 mm field of vision for her photographs but she reiterates the fact that a good photograph can be taken on any camera, as long as the lighting, the subject, and the environment are conducive for it.

Over the years, Leibovitz has had to adapt to the ever-changing industry and has also dabbled in editorial shoots for advertising purposes.

With these photographs and her traditional portraits, she has been known to use modern technologies such as Adobe Photoshop to add elements to her photographs or retouch them for a seamless final product.

What lighting does Annie Leibovitz use to take her photos?

Leibovitz uses as much natural lighting in her photography as possible. For this reason, her photoshoots often start quite early in the morning, so that she can shoot as much as possible while the sun is shining.

When natural sunlight is limited, Leibovitz uses little diffused ambient lighting in her portrait photography.

She does not shy away from shooting in low-light conditions, but if the environment gets too dark, she often uses a single key light on the subject’s face, which shines from the same direction as the natural light, to capture her signature dramatic portraits.

How does Annie Leibovitz connect with her subjects in her photos?

Leibovitz has often stated the importance of putting the subject of her portraits at ease before she starts taking photographs of any kind.

This process can involve anything from storyboard meetings months before the shoot to just a few minutes alone with the person before the flash goes off.

Annie’s approaches to photographing groups, celebrities, and lesser known individuals all have one thing in common – treating the subjects with respect and not keeping them on set for too long.

She insists that having your entire set ready to go when the subject of the portrait arrives helps put them at ease and helps you to conduct yourself in a self-assured manner.

Final thoughts

Annie Leibovitz has developed a distinct style in her portrait photography after many successful years in the industry photographing celebrities for a number of different projects and magazine covers.

This signature style can be attributed to the equipment she uses, the lighting conditions she uses, and her connection and approach to the subjects of her portraits.