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Lighting and Posing for a Cinematic Portrait

Lesson 3 of 9

How to Create a Natural Light Cinematic Portrait


Lighting and Posing for a Cinematic Portrait

Lesson 3 of 9

How to Create a Natural Light Cinematic Portrait


Lesson Info

How to Create a Natural Light Cinematic Portrait

So there's an older building in my hometown, and I had a studio there for a while, but it had this one, random room, it was an old break-room, when there used to be some company run out of there, it was no longer used, but every night at about six o'clock, the light would come through the blinds and put this pattern. So this was one of my former client's daughters, I just had her sit in, I knew she was real photogenic, she always liked doing photos, so I thought "How about you just come, all you need to do is sit here, and when the light's right, I'm just gonna shoot natural light, nothing else." There is no story, but again, it's just this quiet moment where the light tells that graphic story, you have all these lines in the background, whether they're the molding and trim on the door and walls, the general reflection of the table, her sitting there just looking out the window. And again, there's no real story here, it's just a cut moment that's kind of an interesting photo, and we ju...

st sat there until the light disappeared, so this was my favorite frame from that shot, so there's not a lot to it. When using natural light, I allow the light to help tell the story, in this case it's pretty obvious, it's the graphic lines from the blinds on the wall, in other cases it's not so obvious, you just need to find it and figure out what works for the story you want to tell. Interesting light patterns, and I always play with shadows; there's another shot, I don't have it on here, where there's a parking garage where there was these harsh lines of light coming through wider pillars, and it's playing with things like that that lead the eye to where you want it to go that help tell that story, so I'm all about guiding people's eyes towards where I want them to be within an image, from a technical standpoint, it's where is that center of interest? Where do you want people to look in your frame? And leading them there, and then also using that light in weird ways; the class I taught before this was a one-light portrait, it was all about how to properly use light, and how to know the fundamentals, and with this it's kind of like "Okay, now how do we throw that out the window and screw it all up, and do something that's totally different, a little bit weird and tells a story that's less technically sound?" But at the same time, I still can't get away from the technical background I have, so everything's always gonna be properly exposed and all that. Again, it doesn't matter the type of light you use, it's whatever tells the story; if you're telling a story that's a real quiet moment and gentle, maybe you want to use soft light, because it accents that type of moment. If you want to use hard light, maybe you have a moment that's a little more rough, or something that's tough, or maybe it's something to do with sports; I did a photo of a guy dribbling a basketball, I wonder if it's in, it's probably later on in the slides here. But that was a time where I used two, really hard, Magnum Reflectors, just silver reflectors to cast light, almost like it was the stadium lights shining down on him to overpower ambience, so you just gotta figure out what type of light you want and what the scenario is, so what kind of light does that scenario call for? And that'll help you pick your lighting, so you just want to compliment the subject or story, not detract from it and be distracting. Here's a few more, these were just random moments, again, bottom left is just a guy going down the stairs into the subway by my old place, shot from above, again, you can tell graphic compositions; the one above it is a girl, not a big smile on her face or anything like that, but just leaping back and forth off of this bottom staircase off of the curb, and I just like the graphic composition of that. All that green and the yellow curb line, and the bottom with her jumping up, just one moment, still a flattering photo. So these are all natural light, the bottom middle one is a girl walking on the beach, and again, embracing that shadow that was cast; I could see that when I was down low, but I wanted to capture the shadow to almost mimic what she's doing, so I needed to get up high and make it more of a graphic composition. Using depth like the photos on the right and the one above it; shooting through windows, or in that case, a pillar to create that depth where it feels like there's something between you and this image, you're not right there with the person, but there's something else going on that helps tell the story, whatever it may be.

Class Description

Creating a cinematic look to your portraits will add another dimension by incorporating depth, emotion, and movement. Award-winning editorial and advertising photographer Dan Brouillette breaks down the components of lighting for a strong portrait. He will show you how he uses different lenses and lighting setups to make your portraits stand out and take on new life. He'll also explain how to direct the subject so they are involved to help bring all of the elements together for an amazing and cinematic photograph.



I was interested in this course firstly because I am interested in this type of image and secondly because of the negative reviews. I seldom watch instructional videos these days because I want to be instructed on all the details but I do watch lots of them because of the inspiration they can be for new work. This video is a walk through of some great shots taken by the photographer but that is fine by me and certainly gives some ideas for new material. The little bit of studio work on a white seamless is also fine and gives some insight into capturing the image, which is easily transferred to a hosed-down, back lit, cobbled alley or anywhere else you can imagine. I use this type of image in pre-wedding shoots and my only criticism is that the video could have given better examples of a really cinematic look. e.g. there is a scene in the movie 'Unbreakable' where Bruce Willis falls onto a pool cover in the pouring rain. The shot is made low to the ground with a long lens and it makes a terrific inspiration for a photoshoot. Or, there is the airport scene in 'Casablanca' or pulling the boat up-river in 'The African Queen', which I recently saw a Hong Kong photographer reproduce for a pre-wedding shoot in Iceland. There are millions of examples like this so finding more challenging scenes to motivate a cinematic look is not really hard. Google 'movie posters' and you will see what I mean. Nevertheless, there are good examples and some great ideas available here, making the videos value for money.


This course provided a practical application of some the basic creative tools and techniques that I learned years ago in an entry-level photography course in college. The beauty of Dan Brouillette's creative strategy and teaching style lies in his ability to make dynamic and interesting portraiture simplistically attainable. Brouillette breaks down his own work, walking you through the creative and technical process that he used. He is an interesting speaker--well-informed, technically proficient & relatable. I was lucky enough to be in the audience for this course. I found the content incredibly useful and easy to learn. Thank you for an awesome course!

Gilles Nahon

It is kind of weird. There are some really good advices for advanced photographers and then the last two parts are so basic it hurts. By the way, if you don't have a strong understanding of lighting beforehand, I would advise to look somewhere else first and come back when you are more seasoned. I would still recommend it simply for the approach and some nice tips here and there.

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