Andrea Belluso was introduced to the great fashion photographer, Bardo Fabiani at the age of sixteen. One week later, he quit school and became Fabiani’s assistant. Today, Andrea Belluso is known as “the Light Shaper” by Profoto thanks to his unique expertise in photographic lighting. He is currently based in London and in Stockholm where he has his studio. We arranged a photo shoot with Andrea to see the master in action and hear his story on how he became known as The Light Shaper.
What drives you in photography?
“I have been working as a fashion and beauty photographer for many years, almost 35 to be precise, but in the last couple of years I have also been shooting cars for Cadillac and food for Electrolux and Nestlé, as well as shooting a lot of portraits. So, until I started shooting subjects other than fashion and beauty, my photography was driven by elegance, aesthetics and a deep curiosity and interest in fashion and beauty.”
“Nowadays, it is driven by the hunger of creating beautiful images for anyone that asks me to shoot for them, and this I do in different ways. For my commercial clients, I find the best way to sell their products -which involves knowing their customers and targets – is having a deep knowledge of lighting and knowing how to play with it to sell the products through my pictures.
For private clients and their portraits, what drives me is working with people who are often uncomfortable in front of the camera and bringing them to a space where they have so much fun in front of the camera that they actually start loving it and loving seeing pictures of themselves.”
Equipment is obviously a key element in your photography that’s led to you being known as “The Light Shaper”. Can you elaborate on that?
“I need to be able to control my lighting exactly as I want it – and preferably directly from the camera. Naturally, I want the best possible camera in terms of sensor quality, and getting natural colours is very important. The XF is the only camera system that can deliver all the above, especially with the Trichromatic. Plus, tethering directly into Capture One puts me in total control. The lighting gear I use the most at the moment is the Hardbox, but I love all of the Profoto equipment I use.”
“The key thing for enjoying what I do and that keeps me being proud of my work is the quality of my lighting that is unique for each image (as I don’t have a “standard” light set-up), and the quality of the lighting gear, cameras, and lenses I shoot with.”
Can you tell us about your lighting techniques and what drove you to take it to the next level?
“There was a point in my career where I had taken a break from shooting for about 5 or 6 years. I’d grown tired with my lighting that was never allowing me to step out of my comfort zone.
Eventually, I started wondering why I stopped doing something that I loved, and the answer was that, like most photographers, I was always using the same lighting techniques and light shaping tools. So, I began to experiment and study the effects of each light shaping tool, especially with anything that was out of my comfort zone. Suddenly, I was discovering ways of playing with light that felt right for me, even (and sometimes especially) if it meant breaking the rules of photography. And just like that, taking pictures became as exciting as my first day with a camera in my hand, and I still have that excitement every single day I shoot since I made that choice.”
“I’ve had many exciting experiences in my 35 years of shooting, and all for different reasons, but one of the most special so far must have been the day that I picked up a camera again after my light epiphany!”
How do you prepare for a shoot?
“First I read the briefing and look at the mood boards.
While taking in all the information about what each picture has to create, the set-ups come to me with almost without thinking. When I look at a mood board and follow the energy of what a client or an art director is trying to create through my work, I see the pictures come alive. At the same time, each light shaping tool I’ll use becomes obvious, together with the set-up and all the other details around a shoot. And this process does not happen by using logic or what should be done, but it really comes naturally and spontaneously.”
“I feel that when we think too much and when we go too much in our heads, we destroy the creative process.”
How important is the spontaneity in your lighting setups?
“Knowing the properties of each light shaping tool enables me not only to plan and prepare my shoots directly after a briefing from a client with the greatest ease, but also enables me to change my mind if needed on the day of the shoot, even at the last minute if necessary, without wasting time trying to figure out what any given set-up will give me as a result. It also means that my shoots are always done with a lot of ease, lots of creative fun for everyone involved, and very short production times – something that all clients and team members appreciate.”
“Spontaneity is one of the keys in my lighting.”
What’s the greatest challenge you encounter when working with lights?
“Once you know how light behaves and you know your light shaping tools, there are no challenges, it’s all just great fun! And that is what I wish to share with anyone attending my seminars or workshops or watching my inspirational videos; how to reach that point where you create your images with total ease.”
Any advice on getting the perfect lighting setup?
“My advice to anyone is this: There is no perfect lighting as such. The “perfect” lighting is that which they feel works best for the picture. And at the same time, the “perfect” lighting should bring them the joy while shooting.
If anything in the setup makes them feel anything less than excited, then they are not creating the light that works for them, and this will show in the results. Following the so-called rules of lighting will, most of the time, create limitations in the creative process.”
“I would strongly recommend trying out as many different light shaping tools as possible and really get to know them inside-out. See how they all react with the parameters that influence light – the distance between the light and the subject, the angle of the light, and the shape and size of the light shaping tools. After that, they should use the tools in a way that feels right for them when they shoot.
There is no right or wrong in lighting, as long as the light they create really is the light they chose to use, without compromises.”
“And one more tip is to never get stuck into using just a handful of lighting set-ups. Treat each image as a unique image that requires its own special treatment; as a great possibility to create something new, something different, and something really personal and unique.”
We would like to thank Andrea Belluso for sharing his time and knowledge with us. In addition to this interview, Andrea has shared many of his tips and tricks explaining the techniques he used to create the lighting setup for the photographs featured in this interview.
The insider’s guide to Andrea Belluso’s lighting techniques
If you’re curious to learn more from the lighting expert, you can get a breakdown of his techniques, equipment, and advice from the man they call ‘The Light Shaper’.
In this e-book, you’ll get:
- An informative guide and illustrations
- Andrea’s exclusive lighting set-up tips
- See the behind-the-scenes set-ups
- Photographs from the actual shoot
Bonus video: See Andrea Belluso in action in the studio with his full equipment setup when you continue below. Get to see why they call him ‘The Light Shaper’.