What's it like to shoot with Annie Leibovitz? Behind-the-scenes video offers clues

As one of the most well-known American photographers, Annie Leibovitz likely has access to resources that could make a novice photographer swoon — but a recent video showing how the iconic photographer captured a campaign for Lincoln shows how she likes to keep it real. Well, “real” may be a stretch when there’s several assistants holding fans and hair dryers to get the hair to blow just the right way, but by the end of the shoot, her models were left with an authentic impression of Leibovitz’s work.

That authenticity started with recruiting nonprofessional models — a musician, an actor, a painter, and a director. The goal of the That’s Continental campaign was to capture a road trip vibe promoting the new Lincoln Continental, and that mean each of the models actually brought some of their own stuff along for the trip, from favorite pieces of clothing to a four-legged road trip companion.

“Annie sat us down and said she preferred us to bring our own look,” said Giles Matthey, an actor featured in the shoot. “She gave us a rough outline, really, and left us to sort of play. A good director will always let you play, but guide you.”

Open to possibility. #ThatsContinental, as interpreted by Annie Leibovitz.

A photo posted by The Lincoln Motor Company (@lincolnmotorco) on Oct 17, 2016 at 9:05am PDT

The shoot aimed to capture the road trip vibe — all using locations within two hours of New York City — telling the story of four different characters.

“I’m a big fan of starting with how you dress and who you are — we’re not trying to change you or make you into other people,” Leibovitz told the models during the shoot.

In good company, wherever you go. #ThatsContinental, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

A photo posted by The Lincoln Motor Company (@lincolnmotorco) on Oct 13, 2016 at 6:34pm PDT

But where Leibovitz’s authenticity really stood out was the way she knows how to make every shot count, said Ben Younger, a director. “She has to find that one moment in time that tells the whole story,” he said. “Yesterday, we set up a shot with Annie. It didn’t work for her and we scrapped it. [As a filmmaker], I would have just shot it thinking, ‘Oh, it’s digital now. We’re not shooting film.’ But she’s willing to walk away, which I thought was something I could learn from.”

When a change of direction changes you. #ThatsContinental, by Annie Leibovitz.

A photo posted by The Lincoln Motor Company (@lincolnmotorco) on Oct 11, 2016 at 3:06pm PDT

Leibovitz may get the gigs that novice photographers only dream of, with a crew of assistants, and an enviable gear kit including at least the Hasselblad, Nikon, and Sony shown in the behind-the-scenes video. But her goal, at least from the mouths of the models she works with, is to keep the authenticity in the story within her photos.

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