Friday, November 22, 2013

The Cinematic Look

       Its amazing how time flies. Oftentimes people say its because you're having fun, but it always seems to pass ever more quickly for me whether I'm having an enjoyable time or not. You will all have to forgive me for missing last Friday's blog post. I become distracted by work and school, among other things. Sometimes I find myself so caught up in editing, that I forget to go outside and shoot. Occasionally, it turns out to be the opposite. This week has been an editing week, and Photoshop has been my best companion.

       I've been having a grand old time editing old photos. That being said, I never edit the same photo the same way twice. I've found myself enjoying the "Cinematic Look" as of late. For those who do not understand this, it's basically a form of color correction that attempts to make a still photograph look as if it were taken as a frame out of a film, as opposed to being shot as a single image. These "cinematic" images have a very cool vibe to them, and its something that you can do so many different ways, depending on the mood that you are trying to achieve.
       There are a couple things that I aim to do when creating this look. The first is to simply make all shadows appear as a cool, dark shade... and yet make the highlights appear as a warm, orange glow. All this must be done while subtly maintaining skin tones.

       I have a personal vendetta against placing subjects in the center of a frame. Not because the photographer's handy "rule-of-thirds" draws the eyes attention, but rather because I feel that an off-center position helps to pass the mentality of that film look. If a frame was taken out of a movie, its unlikely that the subject will find themselves dead-center in the frame, and so I avoid it.
       Like most photographers, I dislike shooting portraits in harsh sunlight as it creates dark shadows that pass over a subjects face. On the contrary, if the cinematic look is something you are trying to achieve, then the harsh midday sunlight actually benefits your image. Deep shadows will add contrast to the image, and make the photo more believable, as if stage lighting were shining on the "actor."

       A shallow depth of field plays an important role in this style as well. Often, when cinematographers are filming, they are not presented with the best of locations, especially on a budget. To compensate for unpleasant backgrounds, a shallow depth of field can be used to isolate the subject and maintain a clean frame that is not distracting. The above photo shows an example of this. The cage and bird-toys would have been extremely distracting elements to this photo, so I simply opened up to f/1.4 and shot this wide open.

       Up next, color. Its amazing how humans are drawn to and pushed away by color. The above image may simply just be a shot of my door with some blinds on it, however it transcends that simplicity and becomes so much more. Everything about this photo corresponds to a sad and lonely mood. The cracked and broken blinds, coupled with the shade-ties hopelessly dangling create a effect that is certainly somewhat depressing. But with all that, this photo would not achieve this feeling without its color. If this were a warm image, full of oranges and yellows, it would tell a whole different story.
       Note the change in color between the above image and the one below it. The emotion is real, and the color compliments the mood perfectly. Even though the image is primarily warm, it still achieves a cinematic look by maintaining the cool blue shadows, that fade out of focus in the background.

       By this point you've probably all begun to notice a pattern. These images share something beyond their color. Its their aspect ratio as well. Most photos are taken in a standard 2x3 aspect ratio. This ratio of height to width is standard for a 4x6 print. If you cut off the top and bottom of the image, and reduce the aspect ratio to a 16x9, the image will look much more like a frame from a movie.

       This has been a much more technical blog post, especially for those who aren't into photography at all. If you made it this far and you weren't particularly interested throughout, thanks for sticking with me. For those of you who are into photography, definitely give this style a try, it can be difficult to learn, but its very fun and rewarding in the long run. Thanks all for reading, and see you next week!

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