Who Shot It Better? Wonder Woman: Brian Bowen Smith or Craig McDean

Who Shot It Better? Wonder Woman: Brian Bowen Smith or Craig McDean

I grew up watching Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, and it’s difficult conceiving of any other actor playing the part (similar to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine). But times change, actors age, and series get rebooted. So here we are in 2017 and Wonder Woman is finally coming to the big screen with Gal Gadot in the titular role.

Gadot won the Miss Israel pageant before performing her compulsory military service for the Israel Defense Force. She credits her military service with helping to convince director Justin Lin in casting her in the Fast and Furious franchise. Good looks and athleticism made her a prime candidate for playing Diana Prince. We should also mention that Gadot did some reshoots for the movie while five months pregnant, which literally makes her a wonder of a woman.

But before we look at the covers, let’s bask in the beauty of Lynda Carter.


Starting us off is New York-born Brian Bowen Smith who did the honors for Italy’s Io Donna magazine. Smith used a big beautiful light that looks like it’s just about on the axis of the lens. It’s pretty high up judging by the shadow under Gadot’s arm. The dark background makes Gadot pop off the page. I also like the texture of the dress which helps to break up the very smooth tone of her skin and the background.

Next up is Craig McDean for W Magazine. McDean is no stranger to this series, having been previously featured for his work with Charlize Theron. Love the neutral palette of this image from the background to the clothing to make-up. The light is just off to camera right creating a little bit of a sculpting effect on Gadot.

Inside the magazine, McDean has a whole spread of images that show off his versatility. I’m partial to this image from the cover shoot. It reminds me a bit of Herb Ritts’ Madonna image, but tighter and not as high key. But the side profile, the lighting pattern, and even the off-the-shoulder is very evocative of Ritts.

Photo by Craig McDean

Photo by Herb Ritts

Verdict: Although Smith’s image is solid, it feels generic when directly compared to McDean’s. Also, in looking at some of Smith’s other work, I feel like his post production can be a little heavy-handed on the skin retouching. 

Ok, Lynda, take us out!




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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 9 comments for this article
  1. Alan at 4:42 pm

    Like Brian Bowen Smith, since he treated his subject with more dignity and did not sexualize her. Sexualizing women just makes it an easy sell… though I am not downplaying Craig McDean. If McDean had just covered her up a bit more the composition would not have so distractive and her eyes would have been more dominant.

  2. flexible fotography at 6:38 pm

    when i looked at the two covers side-by-side in the email, i was struck by the directness of Smith’s image. even though McDean’s is closer, Smith’s lighting and makeup combine to take Gadot’s face right off the screen. also, her wondrous mouth looks more bow-shaped in Smith’s photo.

  3. Steve Thornton at 8:13 pm

    Both are well done however to me Craig McDean is much more interesting. Shadows define an object, a face, a body and make a more 3 dimensional image. Light is important but to me shadows can be equally important, unless one is trying to hide something, like wrinkles. In looking, I doubt this was a real issue.

  4. Avril at 4:18 am

    Smith is the outright winner for me. His image shows a whole person with character, whereas McDean has gone ‘retro’, choosing flesh over identity and his skin retouching amounts to clumsy blurred pixels. Also, his lighting makes Gadot’s jaw look dislocated!

  5. Jack Foley at 8:58 am

    Smith’s support crew, hair, make-up and wardrobe, seem far superior than McDean’s in these to side by side shots, however Smith’s lens and lighting choice make Gadot’s face seem flat and round and frankly not very interesting for the very beautiful actress. The way McDean shapes Gadot’s face and the light bouncing off her clavicle is great!

  6. Craig at 8:24 pm

    Brian Smith, … much more definitive – we’re talking Wonder Woman – standing up, hair appears to move – shows more power for women. Small detail -, … didn’t care for the distracting leg showing at the bottom of the dress. Craig Dean’s photo shows a vulnerable sexual side highlighting weakness. No contest, for the article’s content – Brian Smith wins.

  7. Mark at 3:28 pm

    Smith’s image pops off the page and Gadot engages the viewer; I would have liked a mild kicker on her left hip & leg for even more pop. The image is glamorous. McDean’s color palette with that lighting looks muddy to me. Gadot’s face looks distorted, her torso looks bony and her hair limp. His image looks contrived and Gadot does not look comfortable posing for it. Not that I have an opinion……LOL

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