Design, Photography, & Fashion

Studio vs. Location

Annie Leibovitz

Lesson time 9:56 min

Annie talks about her approach to studio photography, her strong preference for shooting on location, and the role of environment in her portraiture.

Annie Leibovitz
Teaches Photography
Annie brings you into her studio and onto her shoots to teach you everything she knows about portraiture and telling stories through images.
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The Art Of The Photo

Annie Leibovitz was the first woman to be named chief photographer at Rolling Stone and the last person to take a portrait of John Lennon. In her first online photography class, Annie shows us that what makes a picture stunning isn’t the gear or technology—it’s the story. Annie teaches you her philosophy: how to develop concepts, work with subjects, shoot with natural light, and bring images to life in post-production. See the world through her eyes.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Annie's perspective and creativity inspired me to take a fresh look at how and what I photograph. Her insights gave me permission to go to the next place in my development. The advice to go back and look at "early" photos impacted me has been revealing and permission giving.

Art is beyond perfection, especially technical perfection.

I took this because I'm a fan of her work and knew a little bit about her process. I wanted to hear her say it and demonstrate where she puts her emphasis on photography. I knew going in that it wouldn't be very technical so I didn't expect that. I'm glad that she was able to share some of what moves her and still display some humility. I'd recommend it.

made me remember why i first wanted to be a photographer, and inspired me once again to remember what kind of photography i wanted to do and do it again


Andrea P.

I'm amazed to hear that she doesn't love working in the studio as much, you wouldn't know by looking at her incredible work. I bought a studio light kit a few years ago and have used it about three times. It's a shame, but I realized I prefered photographing people in different environments.

William P.

Annie is a very intuitive person. She's shot many kinds of photographs and she comes out of that knowing what she likes, a kind of anchoring. I also like natural light, and I avoid strobes - but maybe I shouldn't. Maybe I wouldn't wonder so much why my photos lack that sought after "pop." I'm not a professional, just documenting my life and preserving visually interesting moments.

A fellow student

I love how she explains things via her own personal perspective. She's unconventional in that she can use a studio, but she is averse to it. She needs to connect with the photo in her camera and I think that's something I also struggle with because yes, I get asked to take portraits, but there's always that missing piece where I ask..."Well what does it mean to me?"

Dominique H.

Annie's lessons ate helpful not only with portrait photography , but helpful in interior photography....the subject, the storytelling, the use of natural light at various times of the day . Great stuff

Megan N.

As a writer, I'm so excited to hear her talk about the story behind the photograph. I love her passion for capturing the realness of a situation and for observation. Awesome lesson!

A fellow student

A great introduction that introduces the need to interpret natural, or at least available, light to a scene

Steve H.

I enjoyed the black and white simplicity of the studio photographs. There is creativity in the positioning of the subjects and the angle of the photograph. Location shooting expands the opportunity to capture the subject in their natural space. When I imagine Gloria Steinem, seeing her at her desk conveys so much more of her personality than being photographed sitting on a Central Park rock.

Karen R.

This lesson was great. Annie showed that you can create a fantastic photo anywhere, but the feeling tone will be different depending on where you shoot. I took photos of my friend in her home over a period of several hours, and then we went outside to take a shot on our way to dinner. By this time it was just after sunset, with a soft natural light. I have exaggerated the point of the lesson by selecting a shot where my friend is being playful and spontaneous in her home, and showing the face she wears on the mean streets of New York in the shot with the brick wall. She knows everything about you and isn't going to let anyone mess with her!

Thomas Z.

I liked very much. Especially, when Annie talks about her preference for photography on location, to catch the "real" person. It's always nice to hear the way she talks about her experience, her attitude to people and that she is a shy person.

Graeme R.

Loved this lesson, and I have begun to appreciate Annie's low-key, honest ruminations. The Agnes Martin and Gloria Steinem stories were very helpful. She is absolutely right in feeling that a single portrait, even if it is eventually described as "iconic", is but one tiny moment in the life of a constantly changing, complex individual.