Lighting and Posing for a Cinematic Portrait

Lesson 5/9 - Shoot: Cinematic Portrait with Strobes


Lighting and Posing for a Cinematic Portrait


Lesson Info

Shoot: Cinematic Portrait with Strobes

So what I wanna do, this is Tierney, she's our model, she's gonna be helping us create some in studio cinematic portraits. Let me click forward here. Let's quick go over the lighting kit. And we'll get started. So what I have that I work with is Profoto B1s and B2s. I like them because they don't have cords. They're all battery powered, I can take them on location, I can use them in the studio I don't have a mess of cords to trip over plus I love the Profoto modifiers and how they work well with the lights. I use Photek softlighters. So they're just umbrellas with a little bit of a sheen to 'em. They also have a baffle on the outside, a diffusion sock if you will, to soften 'em so they can be either medium hard harsh light, a little more specular, or you can soften 'em up nicely. On top of that I use magnum and zoom reflectors, so for anybody not familiar this is just a seven inch reflector but it's the same idea using a real hard light so I just use one of these to create that hard li...

ght. This is like the shot that I showed you of my brother looking through the car window with his wife. I use something like this with a grid to give that nice harsh light but really control the spread. And we're gonna use that today to create some cool stuff. Moving forward. Silver and white reflectors. I use a lot of foam core for reflecting light, filling in shadows and things like that. Same with silver reflectors, silver cards. They help just add a little extra pop and then occasionally I'll even use gels. As you saw in the back of the car I used a red gel to create the look that was brake lights. I'll use different colored gels depending, because when you're trying to mimic a scene and you know the brake lights just aren't bright enough, I'm not using gels to correct light or anything like that, I'm using them to pretend that they are different types of lights so it's a little different reverse use of gels to try and create something that looks realistic so I'm using gels to get that look. All right, well let's start shooting. We're gonna do a couple of basic scenes in here. I'll move the tether cart out of the way so you guys can see. If we wanna switch the, computer over to our tethering. There we go. And I'm gonna be shooting with a Nikon D and we're gonna mess around with that a little bit, oops, ran over a cord, we're gonna mess around with using gent, basically two lights. We're gonna have a main light that's gonna be really harsh, and then we're gonna use a little bit of fill because we're in studio we don't have ambient light to fill for us. So what we're gonna use is, we're gonna mix we wanna create a scenario in which Tierney here is walking and almost leaping a little bit so there's not a real story it's just a moment where I wanna have her jumping and catching that moment with really harsh light that is real graphic cinematic to it because between her hair and a nice neutral outfit, it'll just pop on the background so the background will actually appear a little bit gray. And we're gonna put the light pretty far away in the last class I talked about if you wanna make your background lighter you need to move your light further away from your subject and I want this background to appear somewhat white and we don't have a, we have a full sweep here so we can have her feet included in the shot or we can crop it if we want. John if you wanna grab, this is gonna be our fill, so if you wanna put that just in the middle. Right back here kinda by my computer. I'm a big fan of on access fill, meaning I like my fill light to be directly above my camera because then I can see it's from the same aspect the same viewpoint as where my camera, that's where it's gonna be filling shadows plus it doesn't create confusing catch lights and all that stuff so you're actually gonna be coming across the frame this way so I'm gonna move this light as far back as possible and we're gonna get this light nice and high so we can mimic you know, almost like street lamp or something like that and this light'll have quite the spread because we're gonna push the reflector all the way on and leave it open, there's gonna be no grid. So I don't care where the light spills. It's gonna be all over the place. And we're gonna get that guy about as high as we can for this set up and as far back as I want there to be not a lot of fall off. I want it to be pretty evenly lit and have a definite direction to it. All right so we'll fire that guy up. And we're gonna shoot since we're shooting with strobes no high speed sync or anything like that we're gonna be shooting ISO so we can drown out all this ambient light we're gonna shoot at a 200th of a second, cuz there is gonna be a little bit of motion so that'll be enough, the strobes will help freeze that. And then we're gonna shoot at about F because that's just an aperture I like shooting at in studio. And with motion if we shoot anything more wide open than that if we're at 2-8 or something like that. If she's moving across the frame and you're trying to track her at 2- you're gonna get a lot of photos that are really not in focus. Or your background will be in focus and nothing else. So here's our fill. What I'm, when I'm metering for two light setups we're gonna start by metering just for the main light so we want that at F8. Everything looking good there. So we're gonna fire one flash, that's all we have on so we're gonna go for F8. 5/6, so we need to go up a stop. We're pretty darn close. All right, close enough cuz we're gonna add fill. So we're at F8. So plus she's gonna be walking across the frame and all of that so, it's gonna be, it's gonna be a little bit of a mix here. It's not, it's never gonna be perfect perfect because of the situation. I'm gonna flatten out our fill just a little bit because this is, it's a large silver umbrella so it's gonna be really specular. A lot of times when I'm using hard light as a main light I match it with the fill so you get the same type of light quality. We're using hard light and hard light. You can mix 'em and match 'em as you want but for this one I really want a certain quality of light And we're gonna put that nice and high and I guess I should probably turn it on before I put it nice and high. And what I wanna do now is I'm actually we're gonna re-meter on the shadow sensor. I'm gonna have you walk forward about two steps and I'm just, John I'm just gonna have you meter from right back here, blocking that main, and I want this to be quite a bit lower somewhere around like that's not lower, that's 10. That'll work, that'll work. So we'll consider that good. We'll do a little chimp in here and see. We're gonna be shooting tethered so we can adjust as we see fit. So what I wanna do to create our little bit of moment here I'm gonna make sure I have the correct lens. We're gonna actually shoot this twice with, once with, once with the and then again with a 70 to a to get a totally different look. With the 50 I want a full body shot, so I'm gonna move this outta the way. I'm just framing up, you don't have to do anything yet. I'm gonna have you take one step forward, so we're gonna find the sweet spot of this light. So you're gonna be looking just glance off, almost towards, like look towards that light once, okay a little lower, right there. So what are you looking at right now? Like the bottom of the whole of that. Perfect. So every time you're gonna do this movement that's what you're gonna look at. Because from right here, that's where the light looks good. So I'm gonna take a test frame, so we can see if we want more or less fill. We're shooting tethered. Okay, we want less fill. I want a little more shadow to this image. So I'm gonna turn this down about a stop. And we're gonna take one more test frame. So again, we have our harsh main light. The background's the color I want it, there we go. So you can see, we introduced a little more shadow, by turning down the fill. And it looks, it looks even, probably depends on which angle you're looking at the monitor. But, I'm shooting to capture one. I'm gonna turn up the shadows a little bit, turn on the highlights a little bit, desaturate slightly. Because I just like to work with an image that has a little leeway in it, amd is a little more flat. So there we go. So here's our base, our base shot right here. So now what we need to do is, we have our sweet spot, it's just off of this. So what I'm gonna have you do is walk backwards from there. And we're gonna have her walk, and do a little bit of a leap. So I'll do it first, so you can see what I mean. And just out of, if you know basic posing, you'll know that you're gonna want this left leg to be forward, 'cause that's gonna be the most flattering spot. So I'm gonna have you walk, and when you get here, I'm just gonna have you go like this. And look towards that knuckle. And we're gonna have to do this, probably at least three or four, 10 times, to catch it. Because, she's gonna be moving, we're gonna miss steps, and all that. I'm gonna screw up and forget to take a picture, 'cause I'm talking, and all that. So, whenever you're ready. And I'm gonna be sure to leave plenty of room. We can always crop in. I don't wanna cut anything off. So I'm gonna back up as far as I can. We're gonna be on continuous focus, so I can track her. And you're ready. Whenever you're ready go ahead. Alright, so I'm gonna have you get into it even more. So a little more aggressive with your walk. Don't be afraid to get your arms into it. And don't be afraid to really leap forward, like you're trying to jump over a puddle or something. There we go. Alright, so I need to a shoot a little bit later, and really get her at the peak. So you can see how now we have all the technical details figured out, we're just trying to capture the moment. There we go, we're closer. Now I'm gonna have you look down a little bit lower. So from wherever you're looking, chin down. So maybe look directly below that, about three or four feet. Alright, whenever you're ready. There we go. I kind of like that one. We'll do one more, just because now that we're there, we'll see what else we can get. So keep going. Yup, we had good hair movement there. Yeah, that's pretty cool. Now what I'm gonna do is throw a total wrench into it. We're gonna take out the whole foot aspect. I'm just gonna go for closer up. So we're gonna throw a 70 to 200 on. I like to shoot everything with multiple lenses, because, even though in my head this picture was full body, I don't exactly know what it will look like looking through here. So I'm gonna switch to this. I got to focus. Yeah, you hear my lens squeaking? That's not ideal. (laughing) Okay, whenever you're ready. I think that one went in somewhere in space. Let me do a test shot. Step back up into the frame where you should be. Yeah you don't have to jump. So just kind of glancing off. Actually, I see another portrait here. Turn this way. And now look over your shoulder down this way. So, open up your shoulders more. Head down that way, yeah. So what I'm gonna do here is, I want the tether to reconnect. Let's see if it worked. Alright, so stay in that same moment. Looking that way, yup, there you go, one, two, three. Should be reconnected. Yeah, so here's another moment. So I'm gonna have you walk back through the frame again, just what you were doing. But I'm gonna track you, and shoot something that's closer up. So we're just catching a little bit different moment, but in the same thing. So, keep doing that. I had a terrible focus there. So I'm just framing her up, and then following her with the camera. Ready, go ahead. So, we're just trying to capture different moments of the same thing. I really love the first one the best here. That's what we were going for. Once you crop that in, take it out of context, she's not out in street jumping up a curb, or over a puddle. She's just in studio. But it's a moment, where if we're able to bring it all in, and put it into one frame that's not quite as noticeable. Oops, wrong button. We have something like that. That's not clearly the perfect step. I would probably keep doing it if we had all day, and get it till we get it absolutely perfect. But just the idea that we took this harsh light, mixed it with the fill, tried to keep the background white, and added a little bit of motion, so you can do all sorts of things, with the images. And even that in itself, I need to get rid of this. Even this in itself, it's just interesting light. It's not your typical soft studio light. And using this fill to control the shadow. Step back in there, where we did this photo once. Just to kind of show you guys how much the fill is helping. And we're gonna go down two stops. I'm gonna throw the 50 back on. Same idea there, one. Oh yeah, that was with the 7200, that's why. Looking back over your shoulder, one. Clear this hair once. One, two, three. There we go. So just turning down the fill to even get more shadow. So you can, once you have a basic lighting setup, it's easy to tweak things based on what you want. If we want to go the opposite, and make it almost totally flat, we can do that too. So now it's gonna go, probably be nearly overexposed. One, two, three. Come on information. Come on, there we go. Alright, same thing, this should have a lot more fill. One, two, three. Okay. And this, yeah, so you can see, all we did was turn up the fill light. So it's just a different shot, depending on what you like, what the mood is.

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!


I like Dan's easy going nature when presenting this information. Loved watching him demo this live!