From Annie Leibovitz's MasterClass

Studio vs. Location

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

Topics include: Working in a Studio • Being on Location


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

Topics include: Working in a Studio • Being on Location

Annie Leibovitz

Teaches Photography

Learn More

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.

During this past month I have isolated myself from the world due to illness, this course has given me ideas and assignments that I will pursue when I am able.

Annie makes me step away from the business planning side of my photography. She rekindles the connection I had with photos before I made this a career

This class was amazing. Hearing from one of the biggest icons of photography today, was breathtaking. It was the next best thing to being in her class and at the same time made me long to go back 20-30 years and follow her more closely. There are so many quotables that will be with me during my photography journey. Thank you so much Annie for sharing with us a part of you.

Enjoyed learning her creative process. I found the course inspiring.


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.

Trípode A.

It's interesting, her vision. I mean, she's always in the pursuit of discovering who people are (in a very particular aspect of their lives). So I think the preference of location over studio is congruent, in the sense of capturing "essential" information rather than creating significance. For me, both scenarios are different worlds, standing there to be explored. I wonder what I want to explore.


Id like to get better at studio/strobe photography but I love natural light and helping draw out emotions from the person I'm photographing. It's intriguing how different locations can draw out different emotions from people.

A fellow student

i do mostly motion picture films, i find using strobe is horrifying because I have not even time to take the light into my eyes let alone into my heart to have a taste of it. I love natural light, and reproduce natural light is my business, but whether the natural light I recreate can carry the subtle emotional elements the real natural light brings, i have doubts. most importantly, film is edited moments, editing will take so much away from a single shot, even though it adds also a lot to the whole wave of the motion.

Paul M.

My friend and I had been playing with my new camera all day. He was was my willing subject for a while. Finally got back to his house and he was grilling outside, a bit weary and he heard my camera shutter. He turned, and that's when I got this shot. The candid shot was better than anything staged that day.