Photographing Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

On returning from overseas one of my first assignments was to photograph Cate Blanchett and her husband Andrew Upton for a Time Out Sydney cover feature.

The feature is about their roles as Creative Directors of the Sydney Theatre Company and previewing the STC open day where the public can see backstage at the theatre.

I’ve shot a few famous faces in my time, but it’s still intimidating getting one-on-one photo time with one of the world’s most revered actresses. I’d photographed her before, but that was among an anonymous barking press pack.

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

In the lead up there’s no chance to actually speak with Cate or Andrew, all communication is via the publicist. It’s hard to get too conceptual or lock in shots when you can’t discuss ideas directly with the photo subjects.

I visit the theatre beforehand to map out some potential locations for pictures, but it’s hard to set anything in stone. It’s up to Cate and Andrew what they want to do. And i won’t know that till we meet and i have to start shooting.

True to form, when we meet, Cate suggests a spot underneath the stage that i wasn’t planning on using. But i’m flexible, so we head over and decide it’s worth a shot. If Cate’s keen, then so am I.

I quickly set up a single light, ask for some costumes to hang behind them, grab a nearby bloodied box as a prop and start taking pictures a few minutes from the moment we meet.

There’s no stylist, no hair and make-up. Just straight into it with my trusty 5D and 50mm combination.

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

I glance at the back of the camera to see how the shots look. I relax a little. Cate looks amazing in every frame. They have great chemistry and Andrew’s nice and playful.

After a dozen or so photos i figure i’ve got what i need from this spot and move on to a new location in a large backstage area where all the sets are built.

The interview is being done at the same time as the photos, so our editor-in-chief keeps them chatting while i set up.

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton
Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

I experiment using flash, but the natural light looks much nicer and i stick with that.

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

I’m aware of my time running out and try my luck at a few more shots in the props department. I shoot a few, but the momentum is gone and time is up.

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

I’m relieved. I didn’t reinvent the wheel, or get anything particularly outstanding, but I didn’t fuck it up. That’s the dread that always lurks in the back of my mind.

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

The magazine is in Sydney newsagents now and the story is online with a slideshow of more images.


  1. And it’s always frustrating to see such nice shots ending up so cramped. When you’ve seen the originals, the final cover looks half-ruined. :/

  2. Wow, they look great!
    It’s good to hear the great Dan Boud is not above nervousness. πŸ™‚

  3. Wow, you really got screwed there.
    You have som nice, no-frills pictures there (especially the last batch)–and they go and use one where Cate looks toothless and stoned.
    Editors always seem to find a way to use the ugliest crap on the cover, don’t they…

  4. I don’t know, it looks to me like Cate has just as many teeth in that photo as she has in any of the others. Okay, maybe it’s not the best of the batch, but it looks like a TimeOut cover, which is what you’re paid to provide. (They’re not likely to change their aesthetic anytime soon.) All in all, goodonya, I’d say.
    (P.S. Thanks for the vote of confidence you left for me the other day.)

  5. great stuff Dan, looked like quite a demanding shoot with those big group shots, and big shot (small) groups πŸ™‚
    btw, sucks it’s gone down to fortnightly publication. I guess advert budgets are always the first to get whacked in times like these.

  6. Agree about the cover, most publications can’t design a good cover to save themselves these days.
    There is a reason publications like national geographic and TIME (although slightly less so these days) slap crap all over their cover, and it’s because they still value the power of the picture.

  7. Gorgeous shots as always bro, I particularly like the one where they’re looking into each others eyes.

  8. Congrats mate. Can only imagine how the “must not fuck it up” feeling must have been!
    Needless to say it all went swimingly πŸ˜‰

  9. They all look amazing, they both look relaxed and comfortable in every shot – my favourite is the one where they are looking at each other.
    Nice job!

  10. Great Shots there! Is it fairly common that a mag would flip the pic for the cover? I work in music marketing and most of the people I work with (mostly record labels, managers and publicists) get all freaked out if I flip a picture to fit the design better.

  11. i was just going to say the same thing as jeremy. do your editors write a disclaimer that the picture was reversed for design/layout purposes when describing the cover on the contents page?

  12. Thanks for the feedback all.
    @Erik and @Matt – i’m pragmatic when it comes to the design of the cover. It’s just a fact that magazines need coverlines to sell the magazine on the news stand. If you don’t care for Cate Blanchett, then another coverline might grab your interest.
    People don’t necessarily know what sort of magazine Time Out is here in Sydney, so it needs the lines to explain.
    That said, i’m not a fan of the black column on the right.
    @Jeremy and @ww – i don’t know if there’s any standard practice, but i’d think flipping an image would be fairly commonplace.

  13. Great shots, and thanks for being honest about how nervous you were. It does reassure the rest of us!

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