These are the best photos from a tumultuous year in the world of entertainment. Through the lenses of many talented photographers, this collection captures defining moments and portraits of figures in the arts, music, film and television.
Get a behind-the-lens look at the challenges, inspirations and unexpected moments that led to each striking shot as photographers share stories about their creative process.
Our critics and reporters select their favorite TV shows, movies, albums, songs, books, theater, art shows and video games of the year.
By David Billet at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood
I found this strange window that looked out to the office space we were shooting in. After convincing security that it would be a great picture and that we wouldn’t move anything, they gave us access to the room. I asked Judd if he would stand on a chair to look through the window for a picture. He proceeded to tell me what he would have for dinner that night as he climbed the chair.
By Sinna Nasseri at Scheinert’s home in Highland Park
Oftentimes I want a photograph to burst out of the frame, bending the four walls of the image. The Daniels seem to play with similar notions in their films. We had a lot of fun improvising and experimenting with different setups — a tiny peek into their genius.
“Barry” stars Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, Henry Winkler, Stephen Root and Anthony Carrigan
By Daniel Prakopcyk in Los Angeles Times studio
Being able to shoot the cast of “Barry” was truly phenomenal. I was inspired by a recent Avedon show and wanted to put a collage together to showcase everyone’s uniqueness. Being able to shoot on film is always the goal and these were captured on 4x5, where I shot three of the actors in one frame and two in another, then put them together. I loved the show and the cast was so unbelievably talented; it was a real dream to be able to shoot these legends. It’s not every day that Bill Hader makes a joke about you, and that’s something I’ll never forget.
By Ryan Pfluger at the London West Hollywood
I remember Emilia’s infectious energy — she’s a committed collaborator who radiates genuine warmth. I always tell my collaborators to breathe. It’s the simplest thing and yet drastically changes body language and helps imbue a sense of ease, which often gets interpreted to authentic or honest. Also, this was the rare press junket at magic hour, where I was able to just use natural light. Emilia and I had met at Sundance this year and her expressing her appreciation of our previous portraits together made my day. Most of the things that she says are a real hoot and you can’t help but laugh around her.
By Michelle Groskopf in Los Angeles
When I arrived at the HBO offices, I was led into a long room. All of the corporate furniture, fake plants, monitors, etc., had been pushed to the sides in order to make room for what I could guess was a seamless backdrop. As an editorial photographer, you often have to make some pretty fast and confident decisions using only the elements around you. This was definitely one of those times and, luckily, Haley was a great sport about it. She showed up with an Erewhon smoothie and we played around with the empty space and strange furniture. She even got down and did some pretty rad splits on this long-forgotten sad carpet. This particular shot was taken off the cuff while we rode in the elevator to the rooftop to do some outdoor shots. She’s flanked by her stylist, hair and makeup artist and PR rep. I saw the moment and grabbed it. When a location isn’t great, but you’re photographing an awesome performer, don’t panic — work together to make something great out of nothing.
By Vanessa Zican Feng in New York City
My goal was to create a comfortable atmosphere with a cinematic approach that mirrored Emily’s profound ideas. Despite time constraints, our hour with Emily was collaborative, showcasing her respect for the artistic vision. I used lighting and colors to capture the nuanced emotions conveyed by Emily in the session. I initiated amid the cozy embrace of a soft, intimate glow on the couch, then navigated into the stark embrace of harsh shadows, creating an evocative dance, vividly portraying the journey of transformation through the interplay of light.
By Bethany Mollenkof in Beverly Hills
I got a late-night, last-minute call for this shoot. Expecting a mundane office setting, and with no time to source a seamless or fabric backdrop, I painted a huge piece of scrap paper that night. With the help of a hair dryer, the paint dried overnight. Using a reflector and colored gels, I captured Storm in front of the textured paper, creating this image. I love the creativity that comes with limitations. Storm was lovely and collaborative, which made it all the more enjoyable.
By Mariah Tauger at the Sundance Film Festival
I had the honor of photographing this year’s photo studio at Sundance and the experience overall was, well ... sick! The people were sick, our crew was sick, the vibe and energy of the entire place was so light and down to earth.
We had the privilege of photographing some truly amazing women, including Skye P. Marshall and Daisy Ridley — both of whom brought strength, power, elegance and authenticity to our studio. Not to mention they both were lovely humans to be around.
By Sinna Nasseri
The Sphere is the perfect subject for a photograph — as striking and surreal as any man-made object I’ve seen. I wandered its perimeter for two days, trying to find the perfect frame to illustrate its audacity. My explorations took me from a top-down view on the 32nd floor of a luxury hotel to the faded blue upholstered seats of the Las Vegas Monorail to a dilapidated security watchtower. But the cover image turned out to be one from ground level — a couple in distinctly Vegas clothing under the watchful eye of the Sphere.
By Annie Noelker in Los Angeles
I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to photograph Billie Eilish. I’ve loved her for so long and her music has carried me through very transformative times in my life. It felt like another full-circle moment and it truly was a dream shoot. I swear the universe was doing something because it was just perfect; I’ve never had a shoot run so smoothly. She had the most beautiful, grounded and powerful presence. Again, I had the besties with me — Ethan Benavidez on the lighting, Sumner Howells on the assist. It’s just the coolest thing to make beautiful things with my friends.
By Jennifer McCord at the Soho Hotel in London
I’m always looking for intimacy or emotion when I’m taking photos, and while this image was originally a little bit wider, I wanted to crop in tight and go for something that felt really close, both emotionally and physically. We only had half an hour to get solos and duos, but Morfydd and Ismael were so wonderful to work with — very trusting and game.
By Elizabeth Weinberg at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.
Elizabeth is TALL! I’m almost a foot shorter so I had to stand on a chair (an apple box wouldn’t cut it) for some of the shots. The room was extremely small — too small for me to even set up a seamless — so we didn’t have a lot to work with. Elizabeth happened to be wearing all white and the decor was all white, so I just leaned into that monochromatic vibe and let her face tell the story. Her striking face made my job much easier. The windows happened to be looking directly toward the sun, so I leaned into the backlit/all-white concept. Standing on a chair helped me get that overhead angle. I really wanted to showcase how lithe she is — the way her arms and hands fell across the couch were so graceful!
Elle Souza at Pole Master’s Playhouse
By Michelle Groskopf at Heart Nightclub in West Hollywood
When I got the call to photograph a night out at Pole Master’s Playhouse, a queer pole-dancing party, I didn’t know what to expect. I left with a very full feeling of intense community and joy. It was such a positive vibe and the dancers were so good, athletically playing to the crowd, getting everyone dancing, and bills were flying for good reason — the audience had an absolute blast. It was definitely a celebration of queer bodies of all kinds. When Elle hopped on the pole, she owned it. Her big moves were really expressive and I knew the minute I took it that this shot drove that home. These dancers are strong, graceful, sexy and fun.
By Carlos Jaramillo at the DGA Theater in West Hollywood
I remember having very limited access to space to photograph Metro Boomin. I lucked out and found a red wall to shoot him up against. I kept the light very minimal but wanted it to feel a bit more sculptural. I had Metro Boomin sitting on a chair leaning back to create a more relaxed look.
By Annie Noelker at the actor’s home in Los Angeles
I remember pulling up to Dominic’s house and walking up his steps and he answered the door as if I was a friend, offering me something to drink and showing me around. His place was small and sweet and humble. He seemed unaffected and oblivious to the fame he’s collected over the past several years. His first album was the soundtrack of my first few months here in L.A. and it was absolutely surreal to be able to photograph him. Mia Barnes and Ethan Benavidez assisted. It’s so cool to make things with my friends, and Dom’s presence echoed that.
Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker of Boygenius
By Marie Tomanova in Manhattan
When I heard of the assignment with Boygenius I was very excited to meet them! We chose quite an unusual setting — to photograph Julien, Phoebe and Lucy dressed in Victorian gowns in a mattress store in Manhattan. They arrived at the store with makeup and hair already done, looking fabulous, and got dressed on the spot. Tattoos disappeared under rose pink frills, corsets were tightened, crinolines were adjusted and propped, pearls shone on their necks and ears. Everything was just perfect. And as they stood there, so precisely dressed, I asked them to get on the mattresses and jump! The energy in the whole room shifted and expanded, the mischievous and joyous fun of simply jumping on beds in Victorian gowns … it was FABULOUS!!! This photograph was taken right after that action; their cheeks were still blushed red, not only due to the makeup. What a crazy and spectacular memory to have.
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
By Nick Fancher at Silverlake Conservatory of Music
I’d recently visited a redwood forest and had been thinking a lot about tree rings, specifically within the context of our growth as humans. If we endure a year of trauma versus a year of peace, how might these experiences get recorded to our DNA? If we were to get a biofeedback scan of our brain or have our aura photographed, what colors might we see, and would this be the human equivalent of tree rings? To take this a step further, I thought about the color spectrum and specifically how red, green and blue light work together to create “white” light. By deconstructing light into its separate channels and having them sit in an image side by side, this would both look like rings while also giving a nod to the broad range of genres that are under the vast umbrella of music.
To illustrate this concept I made an in-camera multiple exposure, composed of three photos. For the first exposure, I lit Flea with green-gelled lights (I chose to use green for the center portrait to reference his youngest self). After making the first exposure, I swapped out the green gels for red (a color associated with passion) and returned to my camera to make the next exposure, but Flea was off doing a handstand. Thankfully, the Canon 5DIV makes it easy to compose subsequent exposures, as it overlays the previous images on the viewfinder. I guided Flea back to the spot and took the next shot. For the final exposure I worked with blue gels, which is a color commonly associated with wisdom, freedom and peace. The resulting image of receding, rim-lit profiles is also a visual reference to the Rolling Stones’ iconic album cover of “Hot Rocks.”
By Yuri Hasegawa at the writer’s home in Los Angeles
When I first stepped into Joanna’s house from the kitchen, the first area was the one in this photo. Dedicated to her cute son, Chico, the playroom had all kinds of different toys that fascinated me. I asked Joanna if I could photograph Chico and stage his playroom to be even more chaotic with toys spread everywhere (I love to hide weird objects in the flame to create a “Where’s Wally”-type portrait). And she was game! She said, “Oh my God, that’s perfect because I’m writing this column about being a working mom!” Us being on the same page and her free-spirited vibe really pulled off this photo. She was super comfortable in front of the camera, even though she usually works behind it. She gave so many options — from confident boss lady to hot mama to wrangler of Chico. I put the spotlight on her, making her the main character of the story. I love environmental portraits and photographing subjects in their own space, either at home or their workplace. I believe it reflects their life, personality and character, and captures the history, path and memories in their belongings.
By Annie Noelker in Los Angeles
Ethan Benavidez, Jordan Johnson (my lovely assistants and besties) and I stayed up until 3 a.m. the night before, testing the light to make sure it was stunning and SZA-worthy. We were all giddy and sleep-deprived and the biggest fans of hers. We shot SZA in a rather large bathroom. It was magical — I swear I was floating six inches off the floor the entire time. It was over as quickly as it started and she was so sweet, and thanked us, as her cute little dogs ran around her ankles.
By Jack McKain at the actor’s home in Studio City
This moment was captured in the backyard of Damson’s L.A. home. Before I got my camera out, we sat by the pool and listened to Knxwledge’s 1988 album. Shooting together was effortless, as Damson naturally radiates charm and elegance.
By Aldo Chacon at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles in Beverly Hills
Diego and I are both from Mexico City, and we talked and joked a little bit. He kept doing these extraordinary organic movements with his hands. This shot was one of those moments when he came close to the lens, looking to find who was behind the camera. I was just trying to keep up with his energy.
By Jason Armond in Studio City
On the day of the photo shoot, Nick almost had to reschedule. After being in a holding pattern for a while, Nick finally arrived on the set, pushing one of his babies in a stroller. He apologized for being late and assured me he would stick around as long as I needed. One thing that stayed with me was seeing Nick calmly rocking his baby in a stroller back and forth as we went through a rack of clothes to make our final selections. At that moment, I remember thinking, “Wow, this is very endearing.” I was impressed with his commitment to being a dad and his dedication to his work. That day, Nick gave me plenty of time to do a variety of setups, but what excited me the most was that Nick connected with my idea of portraying mystery and intrigue in the images. I think my images successfully convey that there is still a lot we don’t know about Nick, even though he’s a public figure.
By Joelle Grace Taylor in Sherman Oaks
I had 20 minutes to photograph Rob and John in a small office space with just a desk and black couch. Since they are both so funny and personable, I wanted to add a cheeky element to their portraits. I happened to find this mini ping pong set in the office and asked if they’d bounce the ball around. Of course, they totally ran with it, making everyone laugh in the process. This image was shot on 120mm film and I love that we got the shot as the ball was perfectly suspended over John’s paddle. I believe Rob even said, “I think we got that!”
By Justin J Wee at the Civilian Hotel in New York
This was the last shot of the shoot, and I was racing to wrap on time. It was all a blur, really! Josh was easy to work with and always seemed to trust what I was doing. I knew that I wanted to get a shot where he was in focus, and then a shot where the reflected skyline was in focus. I remember that there wasn’t a whole lot of sun that day so my camera had a little bit of difficulty finding focus on him. I decided to cut my losses and just focus on the skyline and ... that was the ticket in the end!
“Wednesday” creators Al Gough and Miles Millar
By David Billet in Hollywood
There was a moment when the three of us stood on the roof of a building looking down at Hollywood. It turns out that they wrote a lot of the show here. It was an incredible experience to watch the sunset over Hollywood with those two talking about life and its strange beauty while standing on the roof of the place they spent so much time and energy in.
By Nick Fancher at the Apple campus in Culver City
I wanted to explore several different techniques that would communicate the idea that there are more sides to a person, much like Jason’s multifaceted character on [“Shrinking”]. To make this image, I used a piece of plastic that came from a deconstructed iMac monitor, which seemed especially fitting given that “Shrinking” is an Apple TV+ show. The monitor plastic refracts light so that you can simultaneously see the front and side of any subject that’s placed behind it. I directed Jason to make a tongue-in-cheek, stereotypical “thinking” therapist pose. Jason, being the excellent actor that he is, managed to make the pose look both authentic and contemplative.
By Victor Llorente
This shot was actually pretty spontaneous — we were shooting a different setup and the makeup artist came in for touch-ups. I saw Ice looking into this heart-shaped mirror and I thought it would make for a great photo. We tried a couple different angles as I could see myself in the mirror in some of the shots and we had to adjust the lighting. It ended up being one of my favorite photos ever.
“Joy Ride” stars (clockwise from top) Sabrina Wu, Ashley Park, Stephanie Hsu and Sherry Cola
By Angella Choe at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills
When I got the call to shoot the cast of “Joy Ride,” I dropped everything, shrieked and immediately called my best friend, longtime creative partner, set designer extraordinaire and moral support Enoch Choi, to join me for this shoot happening in the next 48 hours, and to bring every prop he could get his hands on inside his prop studio. My goal was to make the talent look as cool, empowered, energetic as possible. Cardi B hits were blasting on set as the talent showed up and we were just having a fun, carefree time, laughing and cheering during the whole shoot. It was like shooting with friends I had grown up with, each with their own unique personality that brought a special energy to the group. This final group shot of the cast happened by chance toward the end of the 10- to 15-minute window we had, and we jumped on the hotel furniture to create beautiful chaos, capturing the candid moment of traveling through life with your closest friends and chosen family.
By Aldo Chacon at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood
I remember I asked John to do something related to boxing and he made movements toward the camera. I kept asking him to get closer and closer to the lens, and he stopped and mentioned something about how all photographers love taking portraits with subjects close to the lens. We both started laughing, and the shot happened. After that I played some cumbia, John was dancing and the shoot was wrapped.
By Karla Hiraldo Voleau at La Maison Favart in Paris
When I arrived at the location, a Parisian hotel, I got some news about the shoot: My time with Adèle had shrunk to 20 minutes. Those schedule adjustments are quite common, but this time I didn’t have to be quicker, I had to be extremely quicker. Every second mattered, especially if you’re like me and decide to juggle between analog and digital cameras, doing the film roll hustle, playing with mirror reflections. Adèle made my life easier. She was lovely and knew the posing game, which made the shoot successful in such a short time. I do like pressure situations from time to time; you get to be creative with what you’ve got, and often surprise yourself.
By Tania Franco Klein in Mexico City
Rodrigo Prieto is a true genius in every sense of the word. I must confess, I was a little bit nervous as this was the first time I did a portrait assignment with someone that I knew personally. But for that same reason, I wanted to do something special for him. So I constructed some giant film rolls with scenes from “Barbie” and “Killers of the Flower Moon,” and some numbers, to project shadows onto him. I took them to his temporary residence in Mexico City and made a mini set with his closet doors and another in his living room. Monica, his brilliant wife, and Ximena, one of his talented daughters, joined us for the adventure and we played some good oldies music, sang, danced, ate pastries and laughed a lot while doing his solo portraits and also managed to do some family portraits too. Rodrigo and his family are authentic, humble, talented and loving. I will cherish that day forever.
By Ashley Markle in New York City
I spent a lot of time researching locations for this shoot because I knew it had to be the perfect setting to capture such a beautiful rising star in a lighter, more carefree perspective. I try to strip down the façade of fame with my celebrity shoots, and it’s always nerve-racking to get the reaction from the celeb. Luckily, Reneé was an absolute pleasure to create with. It didn’t feel like I was just placing her in the frame, it felt like a true collaboration with a friend. The location we shot at had three small bedrooms and that meant it was usually just her, me, my assistant and the DP in the room. I would show Reneé a crazy posing reference on my phone and she would just smile and say, “OK, let me know when you’re ready” or “Thank God I do Pilates.”
By Celeste Sloman at the Whitby Hotel in New York
For this shoot, I was met with the usual challenge of making a compelling visual story in a simple hotel-room setting and, of course, with major time constraints. I really wanted to focus more on Penélope and less on the environment, since her presence alone is so captivating. It was amazing to work with Penélope because she is so collaborative, visionary and honest. She wanted to be photographed true to herself, without a façade or fake expressions. Penélope has a beautiful sense for light and composition. After I captured the portraits on the seamless backdrop, I asked her if she would be open to taking some pictures in the bathtub, because it was the only part of the hotel room that had character and I loved how the textures in that room looked in black-and-white. Penélope was open to it, and we had a lot of fun making this story come to life.
By Elizabeth Weinberg at the actor’s house in Los Angeles
I try not to bring assistants with me so I can keep the mood intimate and light. Sarah was very gracious with her space and allowed me to photograph her anywhere I chose, so we used the yard, pool, living room and den area. The space gets great light, so that was helpful! Sarah was so easy to work with that she and I seamlessly bounced ideas off of each other. It being late November, the sun was low in the sky so I was able to capture the kind of dreamy, glowing portrait I love. Honestly, this was an ideal situation — just me doing my own thing with the natural light that we had outside.
By Maiwenn Raoult at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills
I remember this day as being calm and organic. We shot at the Peninsula Hotel — one of my favorite parts of assignments is arriving to a location and scouting all of the possibilities of what might be an interesting setting to photograph in. There were a few areas we got in trouble for shooting in, but everyone just went with the flow — my favorite kind of team to work with. This shot was one of the last ones we took and I had already packed up my lights. I thought the dress she wore was unique and vintage but, more importantly, what I remember about that day was that Alice had a beautiful, unassuming and kind energy about her.
By Daniel Prakopcyk at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood Hills West
Cat is a musician that I’ve loved for a long time but never met. And she really exceeded my expectations. She was so cool, easy to work with and just down to have a good time. She has such a presence about her. As a photographer, it’s a dream to work with someone who feels like a collaborator and not just a subject. This was shot on film with natural light at the Chateau Marmont — it just doesn’t get more Hollywood than that.
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