Behind the scenes: our shoot for the Samsung Galaxy S5

By now you've hopefully seen this portrait, from our review of the Samsung Galaxy S5:


A lot of people have asked how we did it, so I decided to give everyone a peek behind the scenes of how I make photographs here at The Verge. And it's not as complicated or as crazy as you might think.

The technical piece of this that you should understand is that it's not the shutter speed that freezes the water, it's actually the duration of the flash. Given the aperture and ISO, this scene was totally dark at 1/160 (Canon's admittedly slow flash sync speed). So the only light in the scene comes from the flashes, and it's only there for a very, very short amount of time.

There are three lights in this scene:

The main light is an umbrella behind David camera left, rotated so it's almost facing the camera. This light is big and soft and wraps around the far side of David's face. There's a fill light bouncing into a white wall directly behind the camera to open up the shadows. And there's an accent light behind David camera right, which was also feathered away from David. That third light is what's lighting his back and providing some separation, but I didn't want it to be direct, so that's really just the wash of the edge.

Here's a lighting diagram for those of you who think visually:


Camera settings: 1/160 | f/8 | ISO 200

The gear list was also pretty straightforward:

Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 35mm f/1.4L
3 small speedlights (1 through an umbrella, 2 bare)
2 light stands
A hope and a prayer

And here's a brief behind the scenes video:

We shot this in 4 or 5 takes, and the whole thing took less than an hour. Time is a precious commodity around here, after all.

And that's it!

I'm happy to answer any questions, and I hope this was helpful. Thanks for reading!