Pro Tip: How to Shoot Cinematic Portraits with Hard Light

Hard light isn’t always the best choice for portraits, but you can get really cool results if you know how to use it well.

When it comes to portraits, soft and diffused light is often the go-to setting to create the most flattering results. However, hard light can also open up your portrait photography to a lot of creative techniques and cinematic effects. In his quick tutorial, Jeff Carpenter of Readylight Media shows us a quick setup in the studio that will let you create beautiful cinematic portraits when your projects call for it.

In his video below, Carpenter breaks down the lighting setup he used to create a beam of light on his model’s face to evoke drama and interest. It’s a really cool way to get creative with your portraits, so watch and take notes!

The three-light setup for this shoot is comprised of a Paul C. Buff Digibee flash unit with barn doors for key light, another Digibee flash unit with a gridded strip box and blue gel for rim light/hair light, and another Digibee flash with a snoot and blue gel on Savage Universal Fashion Gray Seamless Paper for a subtle background light. To produce a prominent shadow on his model, he used a V-Flat with the corner kept slightly ajar to get a strip of light passing through it. By using the barn doors, he was able to make the light as controlled as possible.

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If this image were a movie poster, what would it be called? 🎥🍿❓ If you want to learn how to create images like this, and control the lighting in any shooting scenario, join me in LA September 25th for my next lighting workshop, and take your photography to the NEXT LEVEL! Early bird tickets are still available, so click the link in my bio to register today! . . . . . #sonya7rii #sonyalpha #sony24105mm #sonyportraits #sonyportrait #sonyportraitphoto #sonyalphaportrait #sonyalphaportraits @sonyimages @sonyalpha #creativelighting #paulcbuff @paulcbuffinc #vflatworld @vflatworld #savageuniversal @savageuniversal #gelphotography #colorgelphotography #photographyworkshops #photographyworkshop #lightingworkshop #losangelesworkshops #nextlevellighting #captureonepro #betterwhenyoutether #outsidethesoftbox

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It’s a really clever way to make use of hard light to produce a contrasty and powerful portrait. Because of the cinematic quality of the result, this lighting technique explores light as a storytelling device. It’s easy to imagine this setup being used for dramatic, high-contrast film-noir styled portraits, for example!

Check out the Readylight Media YouTube channel for more photography tips and tricks from Jeff Carpenter.

Screenshot image from the video