iPhone used to “perfectly” recreate Leibovitz Photo of Messi and Ronaldo

photo of two people playing chess

Who says smartphones can’t work wonders with photography? Certainly not the two photographers who made a nearly perfect reenactment of world-famous photographer Annie Leibovitz’s record-breaking composed shot of soccer (football) players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The image, which Leibovitz edited together after taking separate shots of both Ronaldo and Messi sitting over a suitcase with a chessboard pattern and apparently playing a game with each other, broke records.

On Instagram, it has become the most-liked image ever posted, with over 70 million likes and counting split between the profiles of Messi and Ronaldo after each athlete posted a copy to their respective IG page.


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A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano)

The image wasn’t taken as a single photo, however. Leibovitz revealed that she had photographed each many individually over the same suitcases and then composited them together.

The images were taken with the photographer’s pricey Fujifilm GFX100S camera for a Louis Vuitton shoot.

The fact that the photos were taken right before the 2022 Qatar World Cup, featuring two of the world’s most famous athletes and part of a shoot for a major fashion brand was simply irresistible to social media fans. This made them insanely viral.

With all that in mind, photographers Manuel Bechter and Manuel “Romez” Rom decided they could recreate their own version of the shot and help themselves to a portion of the original’s viral fame.

In both the composition and garnering attention, they both succeeded. The video of their own version of the shot itself went viral on TokTok, where it has so far gained over 8.7 million views.

Many social media fans applauded the simplicity of putting this little imitation photo project together.

One particularly cool aspect of what Bechter and Rom did is their use of hardware. Instead of pulling out a professional $6000+ Fujifilm GFX100S camera, they simply took one of their iPhones and set its camera to Panorama mode.

photographer using iphone

The resulting image, after a bit of photo editing and careful composition, does indeed closely imitate the look, color tones and feel of the original, except, obviously, without the world-famous athletes posing in it (or the Louis Vuitton bags).

According to the photographers, “We try to make super cool and impactful photos with easy tricks so that they are as reproducible as possible,”

They also add, “These tricks include optical illusions and photos with the panorama mode of the phone, among others. As soon as we saw the original photo of Ronaldo and Messi on Instagram, we realized it would be perfect to recreate using our panorama trick, for which we are well-known.”

The Panorama mode to which the two refer means setting their iPhone’s camera settings to Panorama and then placing the little device on a tripod for a wide-angle image that can be paused and restarted as new subjects are added to the shot.

photographers composing shot

Interestingly, the model used for the photo was Bechter himself, alone, wearing clothing that closely imitates the original outfits of both soccer stars.

This was done by having him sit as Ronaldo while a shot was captured. Afterward, the photographers stopped the iPhone camera’s panorama motion, while Bechter switched into his Messi clothes and posed in the other soccer star’s place.

At this point, the panoramic shot was resumed and he thus appeared in the same photo twice without the need for cutting and composition editing.

Aside from the inevitable differences between the original photo by Leibovitz and the recreation by these two photographers, Bechter and Romez added their own little easter egg too. This was a missing king chess piece from the board they used:

“One fun fact to create content with the potential to go viral is to incorporate a small mistake in the photo, a so-called ‘Easter egg,’ in order to catch the attention of people who really analyze our photos in detail,”

This of course caused people to comment on the detail and point out that the game should already be over based on the rules of chess:

“In this case, we took the white king out of the chess game and put it to the side. Indeed, several people actually commented on the photo and mentioned that the game was over already because the king was no longer in the game.”

You can find more of their clever photo tricks on their TikTok page.

Oddly, the single most liked photo ever to be posted to Instagram, in terms of likes for a single post, was a photo of… an egg. That’s another story though.

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