Skip to main content

Cinematic Lighting for Portraiture

Lesson 31 of 49

Staggered Planes: Location Specifics and Motivated Lighting

Chris Knight

Cinematic Lighting for Portraiture

Chris Knight

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

31. Staggered Planes: Location Specifics and Motivated Lighting


Class Trailer
1 Class Introduction 04:29 2 What is Cinematic Lighting? 06:42 3 Motivated & Practical Lighting 07:41 4 5 Cinematic Lighting Tips 04:53 5 Low-Key & Upstage Lighting 06:26 6 Control Your Fill Lighting 05:18 7 Show Depth In Your Image 13:24 8 Pre-Production for Cinematic Lighting 22:42
9 Grip Tools: Clamps 08:41 10 Grip Tools: Apple Boxes, C-Stands & Grip Heads 10:53 11 Grip Tools: Pins & Portable Gear 04:50 12 Grip Tools: Scrims, Silks, Flags & Tape 13:52 13 Grip Tools: Wind and Haze Machines 04:07 14 Grip Tools: Unusual Tools 04:47 15 Grip Tools: Filters 11:05 16 Grip Tools: Q&A 15:04 17 Theater Shoot: Concept 08:03 18 Theater Shoot: Pre-Production Considerations 08:48 19 Theater Shoot: Lighting Gear 04:27 20 Theater Shoot: Motivated Lighting Considerations 26:47 21 Theater Shoot: Lighting Walkthrough 20:45 22 Theater Shoot: Capturing The 1st Shot 27:37 23 Theater Shoot: Hero Shot 21:47 24 Theater Shoot: Capturing In The Seats 21:48 25 Airstrip Shoot: Concept 05:49 26 Airstrip Shoot: Pre-Production Considerations 19:31 27 The Haircut: Location Specifics and Motivated Lighting 13:17 28 Working With Scrims On Location 06:34 29 The Haircut: Getting the Shot 24:28 30 The Haircut: Shooting Plates 08:21 31 Staggered Planes: Location Specifics and Motivated Lighting 08:10 32 Staggered Planes: Getting The Shot 08:23 33 Capturing Plates With Talent In Background 16:26 34 Airstrip: Environmental Portraits 07:01 35 Airstrip: Location Shooting Q&A 22:05 36 Using Plates to Create a Pano in Lightroom® 16:08 37 Transform Tool 04:50 38 Post-Processing 1st Theater Shot 09:48 39 Retouching Details in Photoshop® 13:09 40 Color Grading in Alien Skin Exposure X3 06:27 41 Post-Processing Theater Hero Shot in Photoshop® 08:11 42 Creating a Spotlight in Photoshop® 05:31 43 Adjusting Color for Cinematic Lighting 12:28 44 Post-Processing: The Haircut 12:08 45 Coloring the Sky and Removing Modern Building 05:10 46 Creating a Pano Using Plates in Photoshop® 17:12 47 Developing Cinematic Portraits in Lightroom® 07:29 48 Retouching Cinematic Portraits in Photoshop® 08:57 49 Color Grading Cinematic Portraits in Alien Skin 13:20

Lesson Info

Staggered Planes: Location Specifics and Motivated Lighting

We've taken a look at the first shoot so far, which was a lot of fun and was really focused on recreating something pretty authentically, or at least to the best of our ability. For this one, we were looking to do something a little bit more of a bigger production, a little bit wider, a little bit more involved, and not rooted in something we had to adhere to quite so specifically. Just to throw this back up on the screen, this was the source material that we are working from. It gave me a general idea of what I wanted that composition to look like. You can see the bigger plane in the foreground, the Spitfire in the background. I've got someone standing on the back of the Spitfire, which I thought would give me a little bit of visual interest back in that corner. I've got the two guys interacting in the foreground. Now, I also, for this shot, only have two subjects. When I was looking at the, researching the source images for this, the ones that I really liked were the ones that had a ...

lot of different people in the scene. What I would do in addition to having the scene created over on the left-hand side was actually had them take off their hat, move around in the scene. Because they were all out of focus, they got to play multiple roles in the image. We're gonna go ahead and take a look at the intro to this and get us started. We're setting up here for shoot two, so I wanna take you through, logistically, a little bit of what's happening. Now, for the most part, the entire approach to this particular shot is very similar to the first one. The theory behind it, what is motivating the shot, really pretty similar. Again, I'm using scrims this time. They're stacked one on top of the other to give me a little bit more coverage for my two subjects standing up, because the light has now moved and we have changed positions, so the light's a little bit more directionally to the front. Which is fine for hard light, but I actually want it to be a little bit softer so it matches the other image. Now, I know that this is gonna create a few complications in the image. Basically, I am looking at harder shadows across the board. I've got hard shadows on the ground because of the scrim. This is something that I'm actually going to have to remove a little bit in post-production. It's gonna be a little bit tricky on that particular idea, but I do need to spend some time softening those shadows a little bit if I wanna get something that feels very similar. Also, the light is now not totally separate from the scrims. I'm shooting through the scrims. Again, this is about creating light that's already motivated by reality. By putting a light through the scrim and making it a little bit more powerful, it kinda works the light that is already there, but it becomes, the background becomes a little bit more dramatic because we're able to overpower it a little bit. I am still shooting on my 3-stop ND with the polarizer, so it allows me to shoot at a pretty low aperture, along with my relatively slow shutter speed. I'm shooting, again, at 2.8. I'm gonna be at 1/125th of a second in ISO 100. The lens choice for this particular image is a little bit different from the first one. In the first one, we shot with a 90 mil lens, somewhat similar, with 72 millimeter on a full frame. That gave us a significant amount of compression between the subject and the background, put the background really out of focus and kept the perspective pretty consistent. Here we've switched to a 55 mil lens, which is about a 40 mil equivalent on a full frame. If you think about it, it's somewhat similar to about a medium length, 50 millimeter lens on a full frame, more or less. And so, what that's gonna do is it's gonna give me a little bit of distance between my foreground, midground, and background. We're creating a little bit more depth with this composition. The bomber is taking the left side of the frame. The Spitfire is now in the back, and it's creating converging lines of perspective. The bomber, on the one hand, is gonna poke in the left side of the frame in camera and the Spitfire is gonna go in the back. It's a little bit of a zig-zag of composition, helps us showcase a little bit of depth. I am still on this lens running my ND filter, the 3-stop ND with the polarizer. That's helping me gauge what the reflections on top of the glass look like a little bit. I can temper that and make that look exactly how I want. A polarizer, when on, is also gonna give me a little bit more blue to the sky. Because this particular sky is pretty without, pretty much no clouds, the little bit of extra blue helps it retain a little bit of something visual so it just doesn't look completely washed out. I have that going for it as well. I've got the scrims in place. Obviously, they are needing to be supported and held up. It's a little bit precarious. We're kind of, at this particular point, almost holding up giant sails when they're sideways like this. What I'm trying to sort out is making sure the height of my octabox is correct. Too high, it's gonna skull out the eyes. I'm trying to make it a little bit lower and balance it to my subjects. They are gonna be on the left side of the frame. We're gonna have 'em interacting, shaking hands. Then, in the background, we're gonna add in, one of 'em, we're gonna have him do double duty and stand on the Spitfire in the back. They're gonna be out of focus, so you're not gonna be able to see it, but it's gonna give us a little bit of extra depth, and we can utilize the fact that we are using only two people to achieve the roles of three. All right, so let's take a look at what that lighting diagram looks like. I have my two subjects. This is obviously just a small section of what you're about to see in terms of the overall scene, but it's what I have to light. I've got the two guys. They are interacting with each other in my frame. They are blocked from the sun by scrims, and I've had to stack these. This was a little bit precarious, because remember how I said we generally wanted to make them flat? Well, we couldn't. Because of the angle of the sun, they were hitting 'em pretty straight on. They are really heavily anchored, and made sure that someone is standing with them so they don't blow away. Now, to soften that light, but give it a little bit more of a punch, that five-foot octabox is behind it, which basically reinforces the direction of the overall light so it's not competing. It's meant to feel a little bit natural. But the light itself is gonna be quite a bit more flattering than what that hard direct sunlight would have been. That's the reason for putting that over on the left-hand side. Basically, the sun and the octabox are coming from the same direction, but the octabox is a little bit more powerful relative to what the subjects' light would be naturally with those scrims in place. That's what the lighting looks like. I believe we have a question. Yeah. When you're taking multiple shots and composing multiple shots, are you thinking about a narrative or continuity between the shots, or is it okay if they end up looking really different? I mean, it totally depends on what the purpose of the set of images is meant to be. Because we were in this one location, I was aiming for cohesion. I wanted them to look similar, and I had spent quite a bit of time in the development process last night messing around with it because I wanted to make an image that was back-lit, almost, more or less, match something that's front-lit. It took me a little bit of time and effort to play with those contrasting tonal values a little bit to match it up. Secondarily to that, the color of everything that's in the image is a lot different. In the first image, I went a little bit more traditionally RAF, where there's a lot more blues in the frame, whereas this one uses a lot more yellows and greens. I also wanted to play a bit with tempering that color to balance it out. I took the opportunity to make it seem like they were a series of images. Even though they're both very different scenes, they at least feel close. Because I wanted some cohesion, I can present them together and say, "Hey, look at this project I shot," versus, "Hey, these couples of singular images "that don't really connect to anything "one way or the other." There's no rule that says you have to. I just think it's a little bit more impactful when it's presented as something bigger than one frame.

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.


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.