As Adele’s smash hit record 25 continues to dominate the music scene—it has already sold 5 million copies in the U.S. alone—TIME asked Erik Madigan Heck to photograph her for the cover of this week’s issue.
“I wanted to create timeless images that showed Adele in a simple and colorful light,” says the photographer. “She is like an old world beauty, so I just wanted to show her natural elegance. I was extremely nervous leading up to the shoot, as she’s inarguably the biggest pop-star in the world. I tried to tell myself it was just like shooting one of my friends in high school.”
But once he arrived at the New York City set, Madigan Heck found that his nerves disappeared; Adele was funny and very easy to photograph. “We worked together for an hour,” he says, “but it felt like 10 minutes as we just joked around as if we had met before.”