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Cinematic Lighting for Portraiture

Lesson 1 of 49

Class Introduction


Cinematic Lighting for Portraiture

Lesson 1 of 49

Class Introduction


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I'm Chris Knight, I'm a portrait photographer, primarily based in New York. And today, I am here to talk to you about one of my favorite loves, which is creating images that look very cinematic. I love movies, it's always been something that I've been passionate about, pretty much my whole life. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a film director. And so this kinda scratches the itch for me as a photographer. And I've spent a lot of time trying to hone and work on these kinds of sets, with this kind of lighting. And I wanna kind of lift the veil up, so to speak, and show you a little bit about what that production looks like. And so, we've got a few different, few different things that we're gonna talk about over the course of this entire program. We are gonna talk a bit about what cinematic lighting is, what that looks like, kind of how it's evolved and changed a little bit over time. We're gonna break down a little bit more of what that classic cinematic look is, that we kind...

of associate to the cinematic-looking photographs. And then I'm gonna take you on two different productions, and it's entirely location-based. We're gonna do a shoot in this beautiful old theater, here in Seattle. And I'm gonna show you what that production looked like and how involved that production was. And then on the second shoot, we are going to be taking a look at this really, this really cool shoot that we did, where we got to shoot at the historic flight here, here outside of Seattle. We got to shoot a bunch of vintage airplanes and we, we created something that was themed around some old World War II imagery. And so it's very, very exciting, we have a lot to show you and a lot to break down. Now over the course of today, I'm gonna show you a little bit about what we're gonna be talking about, so specifically, what cinematic lighting is, breaking down that process and giving you some nuggets that you can take away, what, where the inspiration can come from, in a lot of these different situations and kinds of shoots. I'm gonna take you through the entire pre-production process, for me, what that looks like, the elements that are involved. This whole thing, more or less, is created way beforehand. And so, this kind of shooting, at least for me, is rarely something you show up on the day with and spend an hour putting together and expect to get these kinds of results. We spent a whole lot of pre-production time on both of these shoots. And I wanna take you through what that process looks like, so you can kinda see how the planning comes around. And then, because I think it's something that photographers don't get enough love for, I'm gonna spend a bit of time talking about the tools that we use to create these sets and work with on these sets, specifically the gear and the grip. I think grip is probably an underutilized bit of knowledge by a lot of photographers, and so I wanna spend some time talking about that, not just the tools that we as photographers use, but also the tools that filmmakers use, that you might not be as familiar with. So we're gonna take a look at these concepts. We're gonna talk about the things that are involved in this pre-production process. I'm gonna go through things like mood boards, what those look like, so you can share them with your team, the actors or the models that you use, different considerations that we would make for wardrobe, hair and makeup, et cetera. Think of yourself when you're doing this kind of stuff as, you're like an actor, producer, sometimes you often give input on styling and hair and makeup. And so it's important to have a little bit of understanding about what's happening across each of those spectrums that you can contribute your decisions to the overall image. I'm a big believer that concept is king, and so what that basically means is, all of these little creative decisions that go into the image should all serve the greater purpose of what that shot is trying to say. And when your little ingredients fight the bigger picture, the image is a little bit less successful. And so if you can keep making these decisions that go along with what the image needs to look like, it's gonna set yourself up for success down the road.

Class Description

Most photographers get comfortable with the lighting setups they use, and tend to shy away from trying new or different ones. Pushing yourself to incorporate new lighting techniques can help to expand your photographic style. You don’t need to buy more lighting equipment to start thinking about how the light is appropriate for what you’re shooting. Learning to see and light a location or scene and bring it to life in your images takes an in-depth understanding of lighting, direction, and creative vision. Join Chris Knight, well-known photographer, instructor, and author, to learn how to create cinematic lighting that allows you to be more innovative for your clients and yourself.

Chris will explain:

  • How to think like a filmmaker but apply those ideas to a single image
  • Motivated lighting and how to incorporate the techniques into your creative vision
  • Framing and layering for your images
  • How to use direction and guidance to achieve a cinematic look
  • How to enhance the cinematic lighting you achieved in-camera through post production processes

In this class, Chris takes you through his creative process during two cinematic style shoots at two different locations to share with you his behind-the-scenes thoughts, motivations, and scenarios. Chris also takes you through an in-studio shoot to explain the importance of prop placement, intentional set design, and light. You’ll learn the confidence to develop and incorporate new thought processes and get out of your everyday routines when lighting your subjects.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. What is Cinematic Lighting?
  3. Motivated & Practical Lighting
  4. 5 Cinematic Lighting Tips
  5. Low-Key & Upstage Lighting
  6. Control Your Fill Lighting
  7. Show Depth In Your Image
  8. Pre-Production for Cinematic Lighting
  9. Grip Tools: Clamps
  10. Grip Tools: Apple Boxes, C-Stands & Grip Heads
  11. Grip Tools: Pins & Portable Gear
  12. Grip Tools: Scrims, Silks, Flags & Tape
  13. Grip Tools: Wind and Haze Machines
  14. Grip Tools: Unusual Tools
  15. Grip Tools: Filters
  16. Grip Tools: Q&A
  17. Theater Shoot: Concept
  18. Theater Shoot: Pre-Production Considerations
  19. Theater Shoot: Lighting Gear
  20. Theater Shoot: Motivated Lighting Considerations
  21. Theater Shoot: Lighting Walkthrough
  22. Theater Shoot: Capturing The 1st Shot
  23. Theater Shoot: Hero Shot
  24. Theater Shoot: Capturing In The Seats
  25. Airstrip Shoot: Concept
  26. Airstrip Shoot: Pre-Production Considerations
  27. The Haircut: Location Specifics and Motivated Lighting
  28. Working With Scrims On Location
  29. The Haircut: Getting the Shot
  30. The Haircut: Shooting Plates
  31. Staggered Planes: Location Specifics and Motivated Lighting
  32. Staggered Planes: Getting The Shot
  33. Capturing Plates With Talent In Background
  34. Airstrip: Environmental Portraits
  35. Airstrip: Location Shooting Q&A
  36. Using Plates to Create a Pano in Lightroom®
  37. Transform Tool
  38. Post-Processing 1st Theater Shot
  39. Retouching Details in Photoshop®
  40. Color Grading in Alien Skin Exposure X3
  41. Post-Processing Theater Hero Shot in Photoshop®
  42. Creating a Spotlight in Photoshop®
  43. Adjusting Color for Cinematic Lighting
  44. Post-Processing: The Haircut
  45. Coloring the Sky and Removing Modern Building
  46. Creating a Pano Using Plates in Photoshop®
  47. Developing Cinematic Portraits in Lightroom®
  48. Retouching Cinematic Portraits in Photoshop®
  49. Color Grading Cinematic Portraits in Alien Skin


Bruce Walker

This course is simply terrific, and I highly recommend it. Firstly it arrived at the perfect time for me as I am soon to do a studio shoot very much in keeping with a cinematic or theatrical aesthetic. Secondly it's taught by Chris Knight who I swear is like a long-lost twin brother. :-) There are so many parallels in the way he thinks and works to my own style. So I avidly watched this as soon as it was available for anytime streaming. This is the first time I have made extensive use of the CL iPhone app, btw, and I love how it pretty much enabled me to seamlessly switch back and forth from desktop viewing to my iPad that I carry around the house during the day. I was able to make coffee and still carry on taking in the course, uninterrupted. The content is fantastic, delivered succinctly yet entertainingly. Some material and ideas are already in my repertoire and were reinforced and validated by Chris' demonstrations. But he also introduced a lot of ideas and methods new to me and very welcome. I was particularly glad to see how practical it is to stitch a series of tripod shots into a wide pano. I have been afraid to try that but I will now be using that in my next shoot, for sure. As alway, his post production practices revealed all kinds of tips about Lightroom and Photoshop I didn't know. Negatives. The volume level mastering is iffy. It started out at a decent level then midway through one of the early lessons dropped so much I had to turn up my sound system to compensate. And as I write this one lesson (34) is missing and in its place was a duplicate of the next lesson (35). I expect CL will have that fixed shortly though (I sent support a note).

Jeph DeLorme

One of the best classes I have viewed at Creative Live. Definitely worth the investment of time and money. The pace of the class allows you to learn extra tips and tricks throughout the process. Great instructor, highly recommend this class to anyone looking to step up their creative game.

a Creativelive Student

excellent class in all regards. outstanding instructor with experience in complicated cinematic shoots but who also is willing to thoroughly cover the basic nuts and bolts. i wish all creative live classes were of this quality.

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