What Camera Did Herb Ritts Use?

by Buffalo Bob on April 2, 2012

Photographer: Herb Ritts

Specialty: Fashion, Portraits, Celebrity, Music Videos, Commercials

Favored Camera/Lens Brand: Mamiya, Nikon

Other Products Used: Scrims, Reflectors, Foam Core (guessing)

Check out these videos of Herb’s incredible work:

Herb Ritts (1952-2002) is one of the greatest fashion photographers in history with an illustrious run of shooting fashion editorials, ad campaigns, and portraits for the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Calvin Klein, Versace, and Armani, among countless others. Heavily influenced by classical Greek sculpture, Herb focused on beautiful, classic lines that emphasized the ideal human form. Herb was also an accomplished music-video director, having helmed legendary videos like Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do Without You.”

Even people that don’t know Herb, have seen his work, guaranteed! His images of celebrities and/supermodels like Richard Gere, Bruce Springstee, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and others are downright iconic.

So what camera did Herb Ritts use?

Note — this information was gathered primarily from videos watching Herb work, poking through books, and charity auction’s of Herb’s work.

Herb’s main camera for his fashion and portraiture work was the legendary Mamiya Rz67 medium-format film camera with a 150mm lens and 220 backs. For some work, he also used Nikon 35mm cameras.

As far as film goes, I could not get definitive information, but my research indicates that Herb used Kodak Tri-X 400 black & white film, and possibly Agfa film as well. He may have also used Kodak panchromatic film.

For lighting, Herb likely used strobes for some of his work, but videos indicate that he used very large scrims and reflectors to manipulate and sculpt natural light with his uniquely poetic signature.

As far as emulating Herb’s look goes, start with a lens in the 100-150mm range, like Canon’s and Nikon’s respective macro lenses, which are super sharp with beautiful bokeh for portraits and fashion images. As far as Herb’s incredible black & white tones, check out Nik Software’s Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture, which includes the incredible Silver Efex Pro film emulation plugin. It’s simply best-in-class.

And finally, if you’re inspired by Herb, check out incredible Herb Ritts: LA Style book. If you’re interested in Herb’s personal life, check out Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour, though keep in mind that it is very, very expensive and light on images.

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