In this post, we have done an Honest & Trustworthy Annie Leibovitz Masterclass Review 2021, We will talk about photography and the art of telling stories through Images, so Let’s get started…
Check our in-depth MasterClass review here:
Annie Leibovitz Masterclass Review 2021
About Annie Leibovitz MasterClass
Before we dive into the course, let me take some time to introduce the tutor of the class, Annie Leibovitz. Annie Leibovitz is a celebrated American photographer best known for her engaging and dramatic celebrity portraits. Her iconic photographs have appeared in museums, books, and several magazines from Vanity Fair to Rolling Stone.
Leibovitz’s polaroid of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken five hours before Lennon’s murder, is considered Rolling Stone magazine’s most famous cover photograph. She is also the first woman to have a feature exhibition at Washington National Portrait Gallery.
In this course, Annie Leibovitz brings us into her studio and onto her shoots to teach us everything she knows about portraiture and telling stories through images. Annie takes us behind the scenes of her favorite and most famous portraits of all time and explains us to the story behind these pictures and what they mean.
In her first online class ever, she breaks down her creative process. This masterclass also includes an on-set case study featuring Chef Alice Waters. She also shows us the process of post-production in her studio. We will also be learning about storytelling, research, observation, lighting, photo concepts, working with our subject, and portraiture.
The course has 2 sections – A Photographer’s Life and Photography Techniques. The two sections combined have a watch time of 3 hours with 14 videos in total. Each video is around 10 to 20 minutes long. The course mainly focuses on portrait photography, inspiration, influencers, concepts, and the meaning of creating a body of work.
She also talks about her process and how she approaches photoshoots with a follow-through photoshoot with Alice Walters for Vogue. Each video also ends with an interesting assignment related to what she just talked about. (Snippet 4)
A Photographer’s Life – Section
Jacques Henri Lartigue
In this subchapter, Annie discusses the first and the last photographs taken by Jacques of his parents. She comments on his charming imagery from a man’s life. She shows us more pictures from various photo series that he did and how extraordinary she thinks they are.
In this subchapter, Annie talks about how Diane Arbus used Central Park as a place to take pictures. She shares with us how the book of her magazine work was so important to Annie and how she would look at them over and over again.
Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe
Annie, in this subchapter, talks about how she keeps going back to and referring to images that Steiglitz took of Geroge O’Keeffe. She also talks about how their relationship with each other plays an important role in the mood set by the photographs.
Annie shows pictures of Sally Mann’s children that Sally took and how it is an intimate experience with her children. Annie also comments on how brave it is of Sally to share these intimate moments with everyone.
David Hockney on Photography
Annie jokes about how after a certain point the camera just doesn’t work anymore and how Hockney’s work reflected exactly that.
Annie sits down with students from her alma mater, the San Francisco Art Institue, to critique their work and share her own approach to core principles of photography.
Photographing Family and Friends
Annie is seen discussing the students’ work where they had to take pictures of their friends and family. A student shares their stories behind their pictures.
Learning How to See
Annie discusses the technicalities of taking a photograph. She discusses what kind of cameras and lenses work for her and what works for the students. She also talks about composition and how you can make it work for your different projects. They also discuss their college days and the feeling of being able to sit in rooms with other photographers and having a sense of camaraderie and looking at work together and being pushed on to learn more from each other. She tells us how she learned to see and observe and how proud she is of how far and diverse photography has grown to be.
Being a Director
In this subchapter, they discuss how you can direct your subject to bring out a truly one of a kind photograph and how changing what stays in focus and what doesn’t brings out the curiosity in people about your photographs.
Storytelling In A Series
The next subchapter is about how you can tell a story through your photo series. A student discusses his concept of a photo series with Annie and he was having problems directing it. Annie gives her tips and helps him find a path to do it which might make him and his subject feel more comfortable while photographing the story.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Back
One of the students and Annie discuss how it is different to shoot people who are comfortable in front of the camera and the people who aren’t. And she shares how it is normal to go back to someone, to someplace if you don’t like what you photographed.
Connecting With the World Through Photography
In this subchapter, a student talks about visiting her home country and photographing people from her community. Annie appreciates her art and shares her views about connecting with people you may or may not know.
Looking Back at Your Work
Annie discusses the importance of self-reflection and explains why it’s so important for every photographer to look back at their work. She talks about how important editing is and how important it is to know how to edit your work to make it look how you really envision it.
She talks about how she learned to edit and how it changed the way her photographs came out and the way people reacted to them. She explains how looking back at your work is also equally important. To stop every now and then, see what you have, and edit that.
The Early Years, 1970-1983: An Installation for the LUMA Foundation in Arles, France
We see Annie in her studio in this subchapter talking about the selection process and how personal it is. She also justifies why it is so important to stop, look back, and reflect on your work.
The Evolution Of A Photographer
In the final video of this section, Annie shows how her artistic journey impacted her evolution as a photographer – from the inspiration of family photos to the San Francisco Art Institute and Rolling Stone. She discusses what they did at their art school. How they did their assignments. She also talks about the first time she heard of Rolling Stone and being inspired to work there.
Annie also shares the story of how she started working for Rolling Stones. She explains how she carried forth the idea of still looking for something that interests her when she walks into each world that she walks into still thinking about what interests her, what is compelling to her as an image. And that was an important idea to translate from school to her work. To learn to trust what you see and find a way to tell a story.
Photography Techniques – Section 2
In this section, we will learn about Annie’s process as she approaches photoshoots for Alice Waters and Vogue magazine. This section has a watch time of an hour and 33 minutes with a total of 8 videos.
Annie breaks down her process for developing imaginative and creative concepts for her photoshoots, sharing examples from Tess Gallagher, Amy Schumer, Keith Haring, Whoopi Goldberg, and more.
Annie talks about how important it is to research the subject of your project in this subchapter. She says it is mainly important to look into what your subject has done before and what they are comfortable with and what you can try for your upcoming projects. She explains how you can see an apparent disconnect when you don’t research your subject.
Annie mentions that the biggest breakthrough and the conceptional work for the covers was not Rolling Stone magazine but from Life magazine. She shares her amazing experiences while working for Life. She elaborates on how she would conceptualize shoots for these magazines.
Having A Role To Play
In this subchapter, Annie talks about her shoot with Meryl Streep. She explains how identifying the role of the subject for the shoot might be relieving and help the shoot and the subject enjoys it.
Case Study: The Pirelli Calendar
Annie opens up about her experience with Amy Schumer when she had to shoot for the Pirelli Calendar in 2016. She shares her conversations and experiences with Amy.
Case Study: Keith Haring
She shares another such experience she had with Keith Haring in this episode where she shot him for a personal shoot. She shared how this shoot was different from all the other shoots and how they came about it.
Working With Light
In this chapter we see Annie talking about her philosophy around photography equipment, working with natural light, and the value of keeping your lighting kit small.
Don’t Focus on Equipment
In the first chapter of this video, Annie wants to emphasize how equipment and lighting are not essential for taking good photographs. With Annie having worked with natural light only for many of her initial years as a professional photographer, she discusses how important it is to understand how to shoot in natural lighting and studying the behaviors of a camera with respect to that. She also reminisces the darkroom days when they couldn’t see how their pictures came out till they saw them appear on the trays. She compares that feeling to magic.
Using Natural Light As Your Teacher
Annie goes into further detail about why and how natural lighting is important for photography and how you can use it to your advantage in this subchapter. She shares how she is constantly learning from natural lighting. She mentions how she uses artificial light to mimic the ambiance of natural light as well.
Keeping Your Kit Small
In this subchapter, Annie shares what she carries in her kit and why it is important to keep your kit as small as possible. She explains the cons of having a larger kit here.
Mixing Natural Light With a Strobe
In this subchapter, you will see how Annie struggled with having to use artificial lighting and variety when she saw how monotonous her shoots got with using the same lighting techniques she loved and trusted. She talks about balancing natural light with a strobe but still using as much natural lighting as possible to give the essence of lighting that the natural eye sees. She also shares how she enjoys an overcast day over a brighter day and her reasons for that.
Studio vs Location
Annie talks about her approach to studio photography, her strong preference for shooting on location, and the role of the environment in her portraiture.
She shares her stories from pictures she has taken at her studio and why they are so different from the pictures she takes on location. She also mentions how she feels constrained in terms of story-telling when she is in a studio as opposed to outside in the open world.
Simple Spaces & Compositions
Annie opens up about how she never felt comfortable as a studio photographer but yet was impressed by other photographer’s studio portraits at the same time. She tells us how she challenged herself to love and be comfortable with the floor and the walls of her studio and stepping out of her comfort zone. She shows us 4 of her favorite photographs she took in her studio and explains their composition in detail.
In this subchapter, Annie shares what she learned about being on location. She shares a story from one of her favorite photographs.
Case Study: Gloria Steinem
We dive into a case study of writer Gloria Steinem and how Annie managed to photograph Gloria as much more than just a writer. She also emphasizes the importance of location and how it impacts the final photograph.
Working WIth Your Subject
Annie shares how she approaches working with a subject for a photo shoot, including refuting the popular notion that it’s a photographer’s responsibility to put a subject at ease.
Checking the Picture on a Shoot
Annie shares her thoughts on looking at pictures during a shoot and why she doesn’t recommend it and finds it disrespectful for the subject.
When Is a Shoot Over?
In this subchapter, Annie opens about her struggle with not knowing when a shoot was over or when to determine if you got what you’re looking for and how she figured it all out.
We see Annie back with the students from San Francisco Art Institute discussing her work backstage with Bruce Springsteen. And how she struggled with being present when it was required and disappearing when called for.
Playing With The Subject
In this subchapter, Annie shares her experience at The Ben Stiller Couture shoot they had in Paris.
Case Study: Angels in America Photoshoot for Vogue Magazine
Annie takes us behind-the-scenes at a photo shoot for Vogue magazine, where she captures the cast of Angels in America. We get to watch her and her team set up the photoshoot, affect her concept, and show the way she works with her subjects.
The Technical Side of Digital Photography
In this chapter, Annie shares how she approached transitioning from film to digital, and what starting out in the darkroom can teach you. Annie also shares her perspective on focus and sharpness – and how above all else it’s the content that matters.
Transitioning into Digital
Annie is back with her students sharing about how shooting in film and working in darkrooms gave her the perspective of lighting and composition that helped her in the new age of digital photography. She also shared her struggle with transitioning and letting go of the film cameras and polaroids she loved so much
Using Digital Tools to Enhance Traditional Photography
Annie explains the difference between a conceptual artist and a photographer in this subchapter.
Focus and Sharpness
In this subchapter, we see Annie explaining how focus and sharpness plays an important role in how the audience reacts to the pictures.
Case Study: Monument Valley
Annie shares how she took pictures in Monument Valley and how the blur in the photographs told a story. She explains how if the content is important, you have to let go if the picture isn’t sharp or in focus.
Case Study Part 1: Photographing Alice Waters
Annie brings you inside a photoshoot with the renowned chef Alice Waters. We learn how Annie built the concept for the photos, conducted research, and prepared for the shoot. Annie also shares her experience of working with Alice prior to this shoot.
Building the Concept
Annie talks about how she came about with building the concept for this photoshoot with the help of her friends and family. She tells us how Alice is responsible for the food movement and how America eats today.
In this subchapter, Annie goes back to her favorite books looking for inspiration for pose and lighting for her shoot. She shows her reference and explains how the image inspired her for her project.
We see Annie on location with the subject, Alice Waters, and what kind of props she used on the shoot. She also explains why she used the props she used and the importance of symbolism.
In this subchapter, Alice talks about how she finds music a funny thing. She shares how she enjoys playing music on shoots and how she curates a different playlist for each shoot. She also shares an instance from her shoot with Alice and how the music they played influenced the mood of the subject and ultimately the photographs.
As mentioned earlier, Annie does not enjoy sunny days. Unfortunately the day of Alice’s shoot, Annie could not spot a cloud in the sky and she immediately knew it was going to be a difficult day for her. She talks about how she overcame that problem in this subchapter.
Case Study Part 2: Digital Post-Production
Annie gives us an exclusive look into her digital post-production process and shares her thoughts about what it means to be a photographer and creative artist.
After the Shoot
We see Annie sit with her editor and go through the process of editing the pictures and show us the before and after of the pictures.
The Screen vs. a Print
Annie explains how what you see on a screen may not necessarily be what you can print. She shows us how tweaking pictures is different for viewing on-screen and printing.
In the final part of the masterclass, she shows the process of color correcting the lighting and shadows in a photograph.
For who is this MasterClass?
I would suggest this masterclass to anyone who is even slightly interested in portrait photography. If you’re someone looking for helpful insight into the world of portraiture and photojournalism, I would recommend it for you!
About The Coursebook
The coursebook provided with the course includes an overview of all chapters and their subchapters along with the photo index of all the pictures included in the masterclass.
Annie Leibovitz Masterclass: Pricing Plan
Annie Leibovitz Masterclass Review Testimonials
- Chris Hadfield Masterclass Review: Is It Worth It? (Pros &Cons)
- Hans Zimmer MasterClass Review: Is It Worth It?
- Misty Copeland Masterclass Review 2021 Is It Worth It?
- Tony Hawk Masterclass Review 2021: Is It Worth The Hype?
Conclusion: Annie Leibovitz Masterclass Review 2021
In conclusion, I personally found this MasterClass very insightful even when I am still only a beginner at photography. It has inspired me to explore my style and not worry about the technicalities.
This course is especially useful because the teacher, Annie Leibovitz pushes you to explore your creativity even though you might not have the best equipment, lighting, a studio, or any of the things that a professional photographer might say you need.
She focuses on how having fancy equipment does not promise good photographs always. With that being said, I would like to conclude this article by mentioning the amazing team of MasterClass for putting together this amazing class.