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Cinematic Lighting for Portraiture

Lesson 6 of 49

Control Your Fill Lighting


Cinematic Lighting for Portraiture

Lesson 6 of 49

Control Your Fill Lighting


Lesson Info

Control Your Fill Lighting

So this becomes the let's control my fill section, okay? So here I have lots of fill on the left hand side. I have no fill on the right hand side. In the next slide, I have some fill. So I'm going to take you through what that looks like. There we go. This is done through two polar opposite modifications. So the one on the left, the fill is controlled through the use of a v-flat. It's just a white piece of foam for reflection. It's brought in relatively close to the side of his face. With the right image, there is a ... It actually uses negative fill. So what I have used here is a black flat brought in really close to the face, and that's absorbing the light. It's making the shadows even darker. Now, if you do decide to use a v-flat, or maybe you're using a secondary fill light serving the same purpose, it's analog control, so the closer it is to your subject, the brighter it's going to be. The further away it is, the darker it's going to be. Then when you want something to be really d...

ark, you bring that flat in and you put it really close. That's generally how that works. That's kind of my in between. Here you can see what the actual set looks like. So we have the v-flat brought in really close. That gives me the lots of fill. You can see that umbrella being held kind of just off axis and behind him a little bit to the left. Then over on the right hand side, I have the fill, the black fill brought in, to make that a little bit more shadowy and darker over on the right hand side. Then we have to build in separation, and this is adding in something like a rim light or a hair light. Call these whatever you want them, but what they are trying to do is achieve a little bit of visual separation on the dark part of the side of your subject. So on the left side of the image, you can see there's no white on the hat. There's not really much on his dark shoulder. So he gets lost a little bit in those very shadowy areas. This becomes our way that we can work around the image being too dark overall. We're looking at a lot of dark images. Chances are, you might end up falling into some darker tones then you're maybe used to when it comes to lighting photographically. You know, we're always talking about shadow detail and preserving shadow detail. This tends to get a little bit darker overall, because cinematography tends to have a few more kind of leniencies in that direction. Now this particular light in the background the one above had, this is a pro tungsten, so it's a continuous tungsten light. It's relatively bright. I've used barn doors on it to just create a very tight pocket of light on the shoulders and the hat. We are working in a really small space with white walls. The idea was all about controlling what the different lights were doing. So had I just put that light up an pointed it down, it would have bounced light off all of the sides of the hallway and made the fill a lot brighter. So by using barn doors to constrict the light, I could really put it specifically where I wanted it to go. As an extra thought on that, that rim light also looks like it's coming from the overhead light. Okay, and it's very subtle. It doesn't have to be overwhelming. You don't have to be going many stops over what your key looks like. But I have just that little bit over here. I have it on him. The whole thing kind of works together, and it feels like it's being lit by what is a relatively complicated scene. One of my other favorite elements about this was a little bit of a stroke of luck. Because of the angle I was at, you can actually see how the light up top is bouncing off the back wall, which has given me a little bit more separation on that collar, and I really like that element of the background. I didn't plan for it. It was just kind of one of those happy accidents of the space. The walls had, they were dark painted, but there was a little bit of a glossy finish, so it caught light at just the right angle. So that gave me that look. As a one extra aside step, which is a little bit of a tangent, with film noir kind of framing, they use lots of wide angle lenses and lots of close kind of more extreme angles compared to how a lot of other filmmakers were making things during the period. So that's why it's shot at a pretty wide angle, kind of low. It's just meant to call back to that stylistically a little bit. I know this is a little bit more of a lighting class, but also things like framing and composition are important things to remember when it comes to these other technical stylistic decisions for how the image is meant to look.

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.