Helmut Newton

My tutor suggested that I have a look at photographer Helmut Newton, and how he captures beautiful photographs with midday sun. I learnt a lot about my camera’s dynamic range, and how to capture high dynamic scenes correctly in part two, and this will definitely help to build on that learning. It will also give me a few tips on how to capture portraits in midday sun- and ultimately how to use this type of weather to my advantage.

Here’s a little background on Helmut Newton to begin with. Newton was a German-Australian photographer, he was primarily a fashion photographer who was renowned for capturing provocative images of woman. His black and white images were regularly shown in magazines such as Vogue and other publications. He sadly died age 83 in a car accident in Hollywood US. Newton used bright midday sun to his advantage, and created very artsy and unique images through side and edge lighting. Below are some of his iconic images, all taken in high midday sun, with my thoughts on each.

This stunning image shows how midday sun doesn’t necessarily need to be harsh and unflattering. The full frontal direction of the sun beams down on the model surrounding her in glorious sunlight. The brightness of the sun that would generally cause people to squint or blink rapidly- thus ruining an image, has been dealt with by the model simply closing her eyes in a beautiful pose. The shadows to the bottom of the frame are slightly underexposed- showing that Newton has exposed primarily for the model- another essential tip when shooting portraits.


This is an interesting image. We see that the entire photo is in shade- apart from the light shining through the window in the background. This is something that I have found tricky to expose for in a few of the images I have captured for my next assignment. Newton has chosen to expose for the subject- leaving parts of her hair and the window with highlight clipping. This has taught me to always expose for the model when capturing an image, as this is where I went wrong in my previous assignment. The backlit sun has also created a beautiful edge lighting effect, surrounding the model’s head in a rim of sunlight which works well compositionally to lead the eye to the subject matter.



I simply LOVE the lighting in this photo. The midday sun is hitting the model from the side, and is interrupted by what appears to be a building, thus surrounding parts of the subject in bright light, and other parts in harsh shadows. This has resulted in a very artsy side lighting effect and a very quirky image. The contrast between the bright sun and dark shadows creates a strong three dimensional image which I adore.



Newton has used side lighting again in this shot to create a dreamy appearance. Again we see the harsh contrast between the dark shadowed areas and bright sunlit areas. This image simply would not be the same in cloudy weather- as the striking sunlight makes up a large part of the drama and intensity of the shot.



From this research I have learnt how to deal with harsh lighting in portrait photography, and how to use it to my advantage to produce interesting and dramatic images. I have definitely learnt a few techniques upon approaching assignment two.

(1) ONTOSHIKI (2010), Inspiration- Helmut Newton, Available from: http://blog.ontoshiki.com/2012/01/31/inspirational-photographers-helmut-newton/helmut-newton/, [Accessed 26/01/13]

(2) DESIGN BOOM (2000-2010), Remembering Helmut Newton (1920-2004), Available from: http://www.designboom.com/history/helmutnewton.html, [Accessed 26/01/13]

(3) REFINERTY29 (2013), Sneak Peak- Pasadena’s New Helmut Newton Inspired Exhibit, Available from: http://www.refinery29.com/helmut-newton-exhibit-pasadena, [Accessed 26/01/13]


One thought on “Helmut Newton

  1. Pingback: Module Reflection and Evaluation | Hans Photography

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