Studio shoot with Adrian Utley by Adam Gasson for Guitarist magazine.

Adrian Utley’s Gretsch

Yesterday I posted about a recent job for Guitarist with Adrian Utley. As part of the commission we also photographed some of Adrian’s kit (more of which is here), which includes this nice looking ’67 Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar. I thought I’d put together a brief run through how it was shot, which you can read after the break.

Though it may not look like it there are four lights in this setup, two Alien Bee 800 heads and two Canon 580EX II speedlites (I’ve pretty much stopped using my 600Ws heads indoors as they’re far too powerful if you want a shallow depth of field on shots like this). Below is a masterpiece of a lighting diagram:

Lighting setup by

This is to scale. I use head sized speedlites.

The first thing you’ll notice from that diagram is that my talent is clearly wasted on photography as illustration is a natural calling to me. But on to the lighting. The large umbrella at the back is giving a fill to the rear of the scene and the smaller shoot through umbrella by my side is filling in the face of the guitar. To my right is a strip box that’s lighting the side of the guitar. I’ve only put one of the diffusers on it so to keep the light a little harder. The main light here though is the bare speedlite that’s shooting through a translucent reflector. It gives a nice gradient fall off on the guitar body (which shows off the bulge in the centre nicely) and also gives a complementary light on the amp.

When shooting guitars there are a few points I’m aware of. I don’t want any blown out highlights on the pickups or tuning pegs but thankfully this Gretsch has aged beautifully so much of the metal has faded to an authentic vintage look. The second area that can highlight badly is the guitar body but again the guitar helped here as it has a nice satin finish. When you light the guitar quite high up the body, as I’ve done, it’s quite easy to lose light at the base and you want to keep some of that light as it shows off the controls, so that’s why I brought the fill in umbrella to the front. In many situations tweaking the angle of the guitar can help a lot of these issues or, if needs be, shooting a second shot for the metal details and layering this over your first shot of the guitar.

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