Like most people, I love movies. I’m a storyteller; there’s no way I could dislike them. I love experiencing the magic of movie-going experience, salty popcorn, and escaping into other people’s lives.
But my love for movies runs deeper than just going to the movie theater. I love seeing well-done cinematography. It just brings the story more to life, and because of that, my photography is definitely influenced by cinematography in quite a few ways.
(Check out some sick film stills inspriation above!)
1. Composition and Lighting
Actually, cinematography’s influence on my art even predates my photography career. One of my favorite college professors frequently gave us illustration assignments using movies. He explained that movie stills were a great learning tool, because most movie stills had great compositions and lighting. He also strongly believed that the best way to learn was from imitating skilled artists.
Each week, we had sketch book assignments to create using this method. I would get comfy in front of my little 12 inch tv, my sketchbook and charcoal in hand, and create my own dusty versions of stills from my favorite movies. It sounds simple enough, but it really did help.
Whenever I paused a movie, I’d analyze the scene on the tiny tv screen. How did the lighting affect the mood of the shot? What was the lighting emphasizing or bringing attention to? What did the use of shadows or color add to the shot? Were there leading lines that could satisfactorily lead the viewer’s eye through the frame? This repetition of analyzing and recreating the film stills, successfully planted these questions in the back of my mind. To this day, I ask myself these questions every time I shoot.
2. Depth of field
Cinematography often uses shallow depth of field, or having a small area in focus with the rest of the scene softly blurring away. It’s a useful tool to help draw attention to the subject in focus, and helps create a certain mood for the shot. I’ve noticed that shallow depth of field is often used in emotional close ups, or in scenes that are supposed to insinuate a dream-like or surreal scene.
Personally, I am a hue fan of shallow depth of field, largely inspired by paying attention to cinematography. My beloved Frida, a Fujifilm x100F, goes with me everywhere, and sports a beautiful, fixed(non-zoomable) 35 mm lens, and when we shoot, I tend to leave my aperture as wide as possible, f2, as a nod to the cinematic technique that I love so much.
It really makes the images feel more real to me. No one ever sees the world in complete focus. Whenever we look at something, our eyes focus on one point, while the rest of the world blurs away. Shooting this way, I really believe, helps the viewer really believe they could have been there, and adds a grounding, almost personal touch to the image.
3. Shooting Style
With this knowledge, whenever I go out to take pictures I like to imagine I’m framing shots for a movie. First off, it’s just kind of a fun pretending game, to imagine your life is a movie (don’t lie, you know you’ve done it, too). It adds a certain magical quality to daily life. It also forces me pay attention to details I might normally overlook, and in my opinion, its the details that really help ground a good image.
But this method of attempting to create imaginary movie stills, also really helps me create photos that fit together and collectively tell an interesting story. Don’t get me wrong, I love a striking solo image. It’s just my preference to group images together. I feel like they work better that way. My images are meant to go together to tell a story as a group. I even do it on my instagram!
Below are some examples of images I like grouping together.