How to Create Beautiful Cinematic Portraits in the Studio

Screenshot image from the Cinematic Portraits video by Adorama TV

The cinematic aesthetic is one of the big trends photographers from various genres are currently jumping into, for good reason. It creates beautiful results that effectively evoke emotions and sentiments to the viewer. This technique is popular among photographers who primarily want their work to tell a story. Portraiture is a pretty popular application of this look, so if you’re a portrait photographer keen on knowing how to do it in the studio, here’s a video tutorial right up your alley.

One element of a great and effective portrait is emotion. In a quick video tutorial by Mark Wallace for Adorama TV, he demonstrates how you can achieve an emotive portrait in two ways. First, he does a straightforward portrait on a plain background, diffused light, and a fan. Now, this is something pretty standard for studio portraiture. But, if you really want to bring out the emotions and create a more dramatic scene, his trick for cinematic portraits is worth trying out. Watch the video below.

The key to the cinematic aesthetic, as Mark has briefly mentioned and effectively demonstrated in this tutorial, is borrowing from the movies. You can say this is most likely why many photographers who are also cinemaphiles or double as cinematographers are adept at taking cinematic photos in various genres.

For his cinematic studio setup, Mark made use of a constant modeling light to illuminate his subject, and a brighter light source further away behind the subject. This allowed him to use a wider aperture and higher ISO to blur the background, and play with color temperature as he set the white balance correctly for his subject. He also shot with cropping the image to a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9 to mimic a movie still, something you might see as optional. His model made use of make-up to create an emotional scene, but emphasis on poses and facial expressions will do the trick as well.

To sum up, shallow depth-of-field, color play, wide screen look, grain (noise was converted to mimic film grains here, so you might want to try this with film as well), and emotive poses or expressions — this is Mark’s formula for cinematic portraits. Give it a go and see if you can create beautiful results with it!

Check out Adorama TV on YouTube to see more of their photography tutorial videos.