This morning, members of the press gathered to listen to legendary photographer Mario Testino speak about his first exhibition in the Middle East, Heat. The show, which opens to the public tomorrow and runs until April 15th, features approximately 30 portraits of the world’s most beloved figures, including Kate Moss, Brad Pitt, Elton John, Madonna, Keith Richards, and Laetitia Casta. Here, we reveal — straight from the mouth of the most famous photographer in the world — lessons on what it takes to create a Testino-worthy photograph.
Lesson 1: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over
To capture one of Testino’s most famous portraits of Madonna, which would go on to be used for her Ray of Light album cover, the photographer described that while on set with the singer, despite several hours of shooting, he simply refused to call it a day. Testino explains, “Madonna looked at me and said ‘you have the picture’. I had to say to her, ‘sadly, I don’t have the picture.’ She said, ‘what do you mean you don’t have the picture! I’m paying you to have the picture and we’re done.’ Funny enough, the photos that we ended up using were from the afternoon portion of the shoot”.
Lesson 2: Don’t Be Afraid to Use Unexpected Props
“I always thought that Cara Delevingne was somewhat of a rebel. I really wanted to bring someone who could stand up to her… so I decided to bring a bear on set. Everyone was quite scared because bears can be very intimidating, even if they are not aggressive. Their paws are pretty crazy to look at.”
Lesson 3: Lighting is Everything
“Light is the most important aspect of any photo. When you find light, you find what you want to say. If you want something really flashy, make your light really harsh. If you’re trying to communicate a feminine or romantic feel, be sure to use a very soft light.”
Lesson 4: Expect the Unexpected
“You never really know what you’re going to get when you step on set. Even when you plan and prepare, you need to find that certain moment that is magical, and that usually comes from an emotion.”
Lesson 5: Even the Best Photographers Are Insecure
“Photographers are really insecure. We could take one hundred thousand photos, and never stop, but you have to stop yourself because only you know when you have the picture. You see it in the camera.”
Lesson 6: Let the Subject Rule the Photo
“I feel there are two approaches a photographer can take. One is to make the photograph yours, and the other is to give the photograph to the person you are photographing. I choose, to the criticism of many people, to give my photograph over to the person I am photographing. I want the subject to feel at their most powerful moment. I’m South American and I believe in life, so I always try to portray people as alive in the best way.”