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Justin Bettman

Tituss Burgess

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I recently had the opportunity to shoot Tituss Burgess from the Netflix show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt! It was a cover shoot for the magazine Time Out New York.

The magazine came to me with the concept that they wanted to have Tituss eating cereal at a bodega. After scouting a few different locations, we were able to get permission for Brooklyn Fare to shoot in their store. In addition to the bodega concept, the magazine also wanted to try shooting some shots at a nearby studio to have another option.

For the studio shots, I wanted to be able to capture Tituss’ upbeat energy and movement. His character in the show is very energetic and expressive so I wanted to do a setup that would allow him to move around and be free. I ended up going for a lighting setup that had some punch to it and wasn’t too precise. I used a Para 133 with Siros 800 behind the camera and a Siros 800 with a reflector boomed over camera and to the left. On the sides, I had V-Flats with the black side facing towards subject so there would be negative fill.

Tituss Lighting Diagram

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In post production, the magazine ended up putting a color effect on the background as you can see in the final layout.

After shooting the full body shots, I wanted to get a few close up shots, so I walked the Para 133 (fully defocused) closer to the subject and shot some photos with just that light and not using the other Siros 800 with the reflector. I’m always blown away at how nice the Para 133 looks on it’s own, it’s such a beautiful silver light modifier.

Tituss Lighting Diagram 2

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After the studio shots, we moved to the Bodega set up. For lighting on this set up, I used two battery powered Siros 800 L strobes. I put one behind him and to camera right with a layer of CTO on the light with a P65 reflector to create a “sun” effect. I had another one aimed into the ceiling above camera to act as a key light on him. In order to add to the bodega ambiance, I used some Fantasy FX canned smoke to create a bit of atmospheric haze in the shot.

Tituss Lighting Diagram 3

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Overall, I’m really happy with how they shoot turned out. Tituss gave it his all and really got into character which made for a fun shoot for everyone.


Gear I used

Siros 800 L

Siros 800 S

P65 Reflector

Para 133

Canon 5D Mark IV with a 24-70 mm 2.8

Edited in Capture One Pro & Photoshop



Subject: Tituss Burgess

Publication: Timeout New York

Creative Director: Tom Hislop

National Photo Editor: Andrew Tess

Associate Photo Editor: Ann Sullivan

Photo Assistant: Paul Lee