How to Create Cinematic Style Photography and Lighting

Theatrical lighting produces stunning photographs that look like stills from Hollywood films. But these types of images can be made using common photo equipment. Lauri Laukkanen provides a quick tutorial showcasing the set-ups he used to create dramatic lighting in two photos from his WWII-inspired photo series. For both photos, he used three lights in a simple studio to compose cinematic-style images:

Take a look at the images highlighted in the video and see how they were produced. Double Agent, the first image discussed in the video, was made using two back lights positioned equidistant from either side of the subject’s shoulders. These lights highlighted the edges of the model’s cheek lines:


Double Agent

The main light was positioned fairly far from the subject and served mostly as a fill light for the subject’s jacket and hat from camera left. Laukkanen asked the model to place his hand on the brim of his hat, which cast a shadow across the model’s face and increased the dramatic effect.


Gentlemen, We Are at War

For the second photo, Gentlemen, We Are at War, Laukkanen moved the main light to camera right and set it at a 45 degree angle high above the subject (Via SLR Lounge). Rather than pointing the light directly at the subject’s face, Laukkanen feathered this main light away from the subject to produce a Rembrandt triangle on the subject’s cheek. By shooting from the shadowed side of the subject’s face, a cinematic-style was achieved. A back light was pointed at the back of subject’s shoulder to bring in a bit of fill light.

In the video, Lauri Laukkanen shows that works of art can be made without a lot of bells and whistles. With just a small studio and three lights, you can create photographs that look like dramatic film scenes.

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