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Masters of Photography

Lesson 43 of 54

Portraits of rap stars and a Golden Boy

Albert Watson

Masters of Photography

Albert Watson

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Lesson Info

43. Portraits of rap stars and a Golden Boy
Discover the relationship between a subject and the camera itself. Legendary Rap stars and Albert’s Golden Boy photograph feature in this lesson. Albert discusses facial geography.


  Class Trailer
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1 Meet your Master Duration:01:26
2 Learn from the journey Duration:15:24
3 Using inspirations Duration:08:43
4 Photography is stopping time Duration:09:27
5 Albert's library of ideas Duration:08:30
7 Setting up the studio Duration:04:56
10 Foreground studio set up Duration:08:46
14 Picking the best shot Duration:03:36
15 Working with photoshop Duration:13:14
18 One day with Kate Moss Duration:05:06
19 Learn to have your ideas ready Duration:06:14
20 Using Polariods Duration:06:29
22 Controlling natural light Duration:05:38
23 Shooting a monkey with a gun Duration:06:27
24 Choosing your format Duration:07:13
25 Composition and lens Duration:04:47
28 Creating still life images Duration:13:48
29 Photographing the Lost Diary Duration:10:53
30 Shooting album covers Duration:03:09
31 The Strip Search Project Duration:10:28
32 Shooting Las Vegas landscapes Duration:08:24
33 Photographing Breaunna Duration:07:21
35 Creating the Maroc Project Duration:10:21
36 Creating the Maroc shoot Duration:08:11
37 Photographing sand dunes Duration:04:09
39 Advice on making portraits Duration:10:12
44 Photographing Jack Nicholson Duration:04:21
47 Studio fashion set up 4 Duration:10:48
49 Look inside the picture Duration:02:57
51 Combining nudes and landscapes Duration:04:52
52 A perfect print Duration:07:51
53 The business side of things Duration:06:51
54 Conclusion and farewell Duration:03:55

Lesson Info

Portraits of rap stars and a Golden Boy

(mysterious music) Sometimes people's reaction to, to these different cameras, I always enjoyed photographing American rappers and hip hop people. And when they would come into the studio and they would take a look at my four by five camera, you kind of fully extended, with a periscopic viewer on the back. The would kind of like ooh, this guy must know what he's doing with this big camera. (mysterious music) I think they were very well behaved with me. I think because of the whole set up and the way that I set up to photograph them and the way I treated them when they came in. With great reverence. So I think the rappers and hip hop people that came in to the studio were really, you know they felt it was a special experience to be photographed with me, by me. And they liked the whole experience you know of that. I think there's a, a nice story about how sometime to use and eight by 10, my use of an eight by 10. Actually with a standard lens on an eight by was a well known shot of mi...

ne called Golden Boy. The interesting way that shot came around. I was actually shooting a campaign for the Gap. And a lot of children. This child came in who was actually a five year old child came on to the set. And was the most beautiful, angelic child with this thick, black, wavy hair. I was photographing him and he just looked so beautiful that I actually went up to the mother afterwards and said is there any chance that the child can come back at the end of the day. I'd love to do a portrait of him and she said yes. She said but I have a job and his uncle will bring him by and I said that's fine. And then I politely asked the child is it all right for me to take another picture. And he was quite shy and said yes that he would come back. So back he came at 5:30. I had finished shooting at five. And I set up in the studio. I kept the makeup artist there. I just got this idea. To be honest I don't know where it came from. And I set up an eight by 10 camera. With a standard lens and because it was a child, I had already measured the child before he left the studio. His height when he was sitting down. I set up this small stool for him and I set up a headrest. 'Cause with eight by 10 focus unfortunately is crucial. And I set up a headrest for him so he would put his head back against the headrest. So I knew the focus was good. Because I had a feeling and I was right. That I would have to be because it's a five year old child, I would have to be really quick. I asked him when he arrived, I'd like to do some spray paint on him. And I spray painted my hand to let him see what it was and I said is that all right? And I said just close your eyes. I actually sprayed him with this golden spray. The reason for this was he had this jet black hair. And I actually wanted to kind of turn him into a blonde. Not for any odd reason. But just for the reason of texture and pattern that was in his hair. So I sprayed his hair this kind of silver gold. You have to be careful with spray paints. When you spray people gold it sounds nice but sometimes people can look really awful with gold spray paint on them. It sounds nice but it wasn't. My plan was always to do it in black and white and then reintroduce the gold color into a print. So I set it up with a standard lens on an eight by 10. And I knew that this was going to give me a slightly odd optical loop to his head and face. And was going to do something slightly surreal which was what I wanted. I went ahead and set him up. I did three Polaroids actually. And kind of took the Polaroids. I didn't wait to process them, I just did the Polaroids. And went ahead I had already done a test to make sure I knew the exposure was good. And did the exposures and I did four frames. I quickly did the fifth frame. And he suddenly looked at me and said can I go home now? The face never ceases to amaze me. About how the face of a child or an adult or you know almost any human being. The amount of emotion that's running across that face at any time can really be remarkable. In the case of that shot of the Golden Boy, the child after looking almost like he was, it was a shot of Alexander the Great about to conquer Asia or something like that with that kind of confidence. It was very interesting after four frames. That the child suddenly realized that the entire focus of attention was on him. And that he was the object. He suddenly, his face just completely collapsed. He was on the edge of crying. Of course at that point there's no going back. You reassure him and when he, he did kind of start to almost cry and say can I go home now? Of course immediately you let him go. But the facial breakdown of him when he went from this kind of strange, beautiful confidence, almost surreal confidence. To almost a nervous breakdown. Happens in the blink of an eye. And that is one of the remarkable things that you can watch for when you're photographing, you're doing portraiture. That you can be watching, watching, watching. Just how that emotion is there. And in fact one of the great things that I try to work with. A lot of times, fashion photographers are usually concerned with the imagizing of the fashion and how fashion works in a picture. The graphics, the composition, how the clothes are sitting and so on. And sometimes even with body language, they're very concerned fashion photographers with body language. But the one thing that they very often miss is the emotion in the face. And of course sometimes you know models who are fantastic models sometimes have a little bit of difficulty when it comes to acting. And capturing emotion. I think reportize photographers when they travel the world and you think of a Steve McCurry, the way he's working, he captures people. But he has tremendous observational skills of people. And not only body language but also facial geography. And that's something that comes really with just experience. So once again, always stay switched on. Even if you're doing a commercial job like the Gap that you can, you know with a little bit of paying attention, you can turn it into something quite special. (mysterious music)

Class Description


  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs
  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs


Learn how Albert creates his amazing photographs on location and in the studio using simple explanations.

Albert reveals his shoot secrets on how he photographs Presidents, Hollywood stars, music’s greatest artists, landscapes, nudes, chimpanzees and still life. We follow him on location in Morocco, Paris and in his studio in New York. You will find out where he suggests you look to get inspiration, how to approach a portrait session, see how to light like Albert.

We show you exactly how Albert works on these images after the shoot, it’s all about Albert giving you his ideas and advice and helping you see and create better images for yourself.

It’s not about what camera to use, it’s about how to see and develop ideas, concepts and narrative to make stunning photographs.

As Albert says..."You have to stay switched on"


Richard A. Heckler

"Unless you're Mozart"...this course is an invaluable asset. I'm a pro, humanitarian/documentary photographer, & wilderness...and I've learned much from the 40+ sessions here. This is truly a Master best thing to being with Albert. And although I could watch studio sessions forever, this course offered a very balanced curriculum of technical information, artistic encouragement and guidance, and a open, generous window into the thinking of a gifted artist and photographer, sifted from decades of first class experience. Kudos to all involved. Excellent!

a Creativelive Student

I purchased my first CreativeLive class in 2011 and have continued to purchase many classes over the years. I have learned so much from the many great instructors. This one is not a technical class that will tell you to set your camera at f4, 1/60, ISO 400 and you can get this shot. If you are looking for that, there are many other options. If you have a solid working knowledge of photography, this class is so much more. The way it was filmed is like you are there with him in conversation or in the room with him watching him shoot. To see and understand the how and why he does what he does. Not to take anything away from other classes that have helped to give me a strong understanding of photography, this is my favorite CreativeLive class so far.