Photoshoot: How to Create Lighting for Cinematic Portraits

It´s been quite long since I wrote short article about creating cinematic portraits. It was mostly about post processing. This time I´d like to tell you bit more about lighting.
Let´s get started!

Final Result

Arranging the photoshoot

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts I couldn´t take photos for quite a long time. But at the end of previous week I finally had a new photoshoot. I worked with really beautiful model Veronika which contacted me via Fotopátrač again and tallented MUA Jana, I´ve met during previous studio photoshoot.

It took almost two long months till all three of us were available for shooting. We have to combine Veronica´s school schedule, Jana´s job and free schedule in studio. Let me say that it was much more complicated than I imagined. But I´m glad I waited because I´m really thrilled about the photos.

Final Result

Something always goes wrong

I´ve already get used to the fact that during every photoshoot something goes wrong and you have to use your improvization skills to save the situation. Sometimes it´s  worse (like when you go to studio and they don´t have correct lights - read here), sometimes you can work with it.

This photoshoot was full of little glimpses. Everything was solved at the end but left me with pretty headache.

It started already at the station. Veronika arrived from different city so I waited there on her. The problem was that it was the bussiest hour of the day when the station was full of people and I wasn´t completely sure how Veronika looks like. Photos can be pretty confusing, you know.

Luckily we found each other after few confused phone calls and headed to the studio to wait on MUA. To save time I started preparing the backdrop. There were two in white available so I though: "Awesome. One less thing to worry about!" But I was such a naive girl!

First backdrop was too short, it didn´t even reach the floor. The second one was long enough but it didn´t hold on the stand. I was afraid that I was going to use black backdrop, which absolutelly wouldn´t  fit to the photoshoot and the grey one wasn´t available. But then well proven idea came to my head: you can fix everything with a duck tape! So I did it :)

Final Result

I wanted to create "movie poster look"

I had planned to shoot with soft box as main light source. In the studio there is big one and I always used soft box during previous photoshoots so it was a safe choice for me. But ... another problem showed up. Holder of the soft box was melted and because of that I couldn´t attach it to the strobe.

Right now I´m very grateful that the soft box was broken. Because of that I´ve learnt how to work with beauty dish and think that photos look better than they would look with soft box. Beauty dish has bit stronger shadows and according to me it preserves skin texture better.

Originally I wanted to use three lights - soft box as main light and two lights from back to recreate "movie effect" similar to this one . There were enough strobes in the studio but guess what? There were only two tripods!

You may ask why I still visit this atelier when there is so much problems with equipment. Well, I have one really strong reason - it´s for free :)

On the photo below you can see how the studio looked durin shooting. On the left site there was the beauty dish. As you can see I put reflector on the opposite site of the beauty dish to create very subtle shimmer on that side.

And here is the light diagram.

I think it would look better if the strobe is on the opposite site than the beauty dish but I didn´t realize it while shooting.

Let´s look behind the scene

Below you can see few behind the scene photos. On the first two Jana is making "big hair" and adjusting clothing.

And here she creates smokey eyes which fit better to next outfit.

Both Veronika (model) and Jana (MUA) were great to work with. They´re very nice persons and full of patience and creative ideas. I hope that I´ll be able to work with them more often in the future.

We were so concentrated on shooting that we lose track of time and receptionist had to ordered us out :) (Is it correct verb?)

Post Processing

The main objective of post processing was to preserve the skin texture and get better in dodge and burn technique. It may be little time consuming but offers best results. I spent around six hours on every photo and I can´t imagine how much longer it took me if I used mouse instead of tablet.

Below you can see zoomed in part of the photo showing Veronika´s face. It´s rollover so if you move your mouse over the image you´ll see non retouched version.
(It may take few seconds before the second photo shows. Be patient please.)

I may write about d&b technique in some of the future articles if you´re interested. Just let me know.

You may wonder why I spend so much time on retouching. According to me it´s important part of portrait/fashion phohotographer´s work. If you look at any magazine you´ll see nothing else than perfect skin. And if you have aspiration (like me) to become professional photographer you must have photos with perfect skin even with 100% zoom.

Final Result


I´m really happy because of the photos I took during this photoshoot. I think that they´re my favorite so far! And I finally feel bit more confident about shooting in studio.

Thank you very much for reading and hope it was interesting reading! Let me know in comments what you think about the article and photos and if you want to know something more!

Have a great Monday
- Jarka

Final Result