Bret Michaels Gets Maximum Exposure

December 10, 2010

By Barbara Goldman

© Blair Bunting

Bret Michaels for <em>Billboard</em> magazine.

Recently photographer Blair Bunting delivered on “maximum exposure” for an issue of Billboard Magazine. Billboard found  Bunting  via and then looked at his Web site  and hired  him work on a special issue that would involve a cover shot  of celebrity singer, actor, producer  Bret Michaels completely exposed.


 Bunting’s impact on the photography and advertising communities has been immense. Widely recognized for his vibrant and unique imagery and lighting, his advertising clientele includes Pepsi, General Motors, Adidas, Discovery Networks, British Petroleum, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship series.  Additionally, Bunting has worked with numerous movie and television personalities, professional athletes, and high-profile politicians. His editorial and portraiture work has appeared in countless national and international newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, Business Week, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN Magazine.
This was Bunting’s first collaboration with Billboard and Art Director Amelia Halverson.   The concept they wanted was for Michaels to be naked, since the magazine was using this shot for the cover of their “Maximum Exposure” issue.  As Bunting puts it,  when the good people over at Billboard called and asked if he would photograph Michaels for their cover, he was  a bit occupied and busy at the time and managed to miss one big word in the e-mail: Naked.


“In the past, I have shot subjects such as the “naked centerfold” for Cosmopolitan, but they were always conveniently covered,” says Bunting.  When he had his first pre-production meeting with Billboard, he pitched the idea of Michaels with a cowboy hat covering the goods while his hands gave his trademark rock on gestures. Billboard’s response was that sounds great, but let&sup1;s get rid of the cowboy hat.

Going into the shoot Bunting’s main technical issues were making sure   Michaels felt comfortable and the lighting for the shot had to present the most complimentary shadowing possible.  However, when Michaels showed up, he was very easy to work with and had many ideas to bring to the table as well.


As Bunting confesses, “I had worked five straight days before the shoot and flew in from Chicago only hours before the call time.  As tired as I was, I couldn&sup1;t sleep, not out of excitement, out of anguish that I would have to ask the former lead man from Poison to drop [his] trousers and smile.”  Bunting was planning on using one very complex lighting setup he hoped would render him blind enough to not know what was in front of his camera, as long as he could pull a sharp image. He had 14 light sources, seven packs and just less than 20,000 watt seconds of Profoto happiness. There was so much light that when he popped each frame, the RGB in their vision separated. 


The exposed image of Michaels graced the cover of the October 2, 2010 issue of Billboard and sold out in less than a week, requiring a second run to be printed that has since sold out as well.  The cover also received  mention as SPD’s (Society of Publication Designers) “Cover of the Day.”


“In all honesty, they don’t get any cooler and more relaxed as Bret on set. We drank, we laughed, we didn’t take ourselves seriously, and we got the shot,” adds Bunting.


Bunting is represented by Tim Mitchell at and see more of his visionary work at and read more about the Billboard shoot and the comments he received  about it at his blogs:



Client: Billboard Magazine

Billboard Art Director: Amelia Halverson

Photographer: Blair Bunting