Defining cinematic

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Over the last couple of posts, we’ve looked at the qualities of bokeh, and some examples of cinematic photography in New York; although one of the most obvious hallmarks of the cinematic style is an abundance of very out of focus zones, in reality there’s a lot more subtlety to it. Since this is one of my most frequently used and well-developed styles, I felt that perhaps a little intellectual exercise was in order.

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As we’ve previously discussed, in this article, style is a both a very important thing to be consciously aware of, and perhaps the most difficult of all of the photographic techniques to develop simply because it’s so difficult to nail down precisely. Style can influence subject, location, technical qualities, light, postprocessing…the list is endless; basically, anywhere a photographer has to make a conscious creative choice, stylistic decisions are in play. Being able to identify exactly what hallmarks a particular style is the first step in being able to replicate it, which is in turn the beginning of a photographer’s own creative evolution into finding their own style – and being able to consistently execute it.

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Personally, I enjoy the shooting in the cinematic style because of the emotional charge and intensity of the moment you can convey; the richness of color and texture, and the overall feeling of drama. The other styles I shoot in – a more formal and natural ‘fine art’ style, and a rich B&W – both lack this, but have other redeeming qualities of their own. Surprisingly, despite this kind of imagery being already very prevalent socially – in the movies, of course – and highly developed, I’m not aware of any other photographer who’s actually spent time shooting in this style*.

*There is one exception – a photographer whose name I forgot but is on exhibition in the ‘Picturing Modernity’ exhibition at SF MOMA; he hired male prostitutes in LA and used artificial light plus posed setups to give the illusion of being in a movie.

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In cinema, absolutely everything is controlled: the light, the backgrounds, the props, the expression and precise position of the actors. You could, in theory, do exactly the same for a still photograph – and this is what we do for commercial work – but to do so on a more casual basis would be rather time consuming. What I do when ‘shooting cinematic’ is rather than create scenes, as I would for clients – is look for them. With the exception of anything in an ‘On Assignment’ post, every single cinematic image I’ve posted on this site was unplanned and candid; I was not in control of light, subject, background – or anything else for that matter. This of course represents an enormous challenge; I tried setting this as one of the exercises in my recent USA workshops, but the students didn’t find it quite as straightforward as it appeared.

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The two obvious hallmarks of the style are an abundance of out of focus areas, a narrow/ wide format, and highly directional light. The first is both a consequence of typically very tight shots on human figures, and the desire for as much isolation as possible. The second follows the big screen, and I find is quite a natural way to view the world as our eyes are side-by-side anyway. Finally, directional light works together with shallow depth of field to provide two of the five ways of isolating a subject (light, depth of field, color, texture, motion). These are all fairly straightforward – it’s easy to execute in the real world, and to my eyes, don’t represent much of a departure from conventional “too much bokeh” images. Knowing precisely how much depth of field to use is important too – I think the right amount of blur is enough to separate, but not so much to fully abstract. Let’s call this stage one, for easy reference.

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What isn’t so obvious is what goes into stage two: color grading and metering. Metering is straightforward: you should be making conscious choices on how bright or dark your primary subject appears, and dealing with the rest of the frame accordingly. Together with color, the brightness of your subject heavily influences the way the viewer of the image feels; high key signals purity, low key signals mystery/ danger etc. I previously dealt with the inexact science of emotion and color; all Hollywood directors know this and color theory inside out, and apply it all the time. Have you ever stopped to wonder why a particular movie or scene makes you feel a particular way? It’s certainly not by accident: the choice of colors for both the subjects/ objects in the scene, as well as the color temperature, direction and mood for the lighting are all carefully engineered to cause a particular emotion in the viewer. This is good for storytelling, and generating an immersive viewing experience because of the subconscious emotional connection built.

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Mastery of stage two means that you have to both have an extremely acute awareness of the quality of ambient light, quick access to your spot meter, as well as the discipline to get as close to perfect white balance as you can – this is important so that when you create the color shift in postprocessing, the hues are accurate. Hold on a minute: color shift in post processing? Well, since there’s no way to control your ambient lighting most of the time, the next best thing we can do is a) recognise direction/ diffuseness, and b) shift the white balance (and to a lesser extent, hue) to give the illusion of a different temperature source.

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Finally – or at least this is as far as I’ve gotten personally – the third stage adds depth – literally. Here things diverge slightly from motion pictures: whilst they have a sequence of frames to be able to tell a story, given that each individual frame or scene doesn’t last very long, they tend to avoid putting too many subjects in a single shot otherwise it confuses the viewer and obfuscates the plotline. Cinematic stills are different: the viewer can spend as long as they wish taking in the frame, and this opens up several options for the photographer that aren’t possible for the director. Firstly, to maximize the storytelling element, we have to carefully use secondary subjects and backgrounds in the composition, otherwise we’re back to just a blurry background; secondly, since we don’t have the benefit of camera motion to illustrate depth, we have to artificially create that by the use of foreground-to-background layering.

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One of the techniques I like to use is making the secondaries the back layers, and adding another ‘veiling’ layer in front; the spatial relationship between primary and secondary subjects (this article on compositional theory might be useful reading as background) tells the story, translated into two and three dimensions – the visual cue for depth being the relative amount of blur. I think of the foreground layer – almost always very out of focus (or even well-used flare) – as controlling viewer involvement. Depending on how much the foreground hides, and the perspective you choose, the viewer can feel more or less part of the scene – for example, if you have the impression of peering through a peephole, or some feeling of distance through a separated background (telephoto), then you’re definitely an observer, not a participant. If you’re clearly close to the subject with a wide perspective and eye-contact, you’d feel much more directly engaged and involved in the action.

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One thing I haven’t mentioned is the use of perspective; though the majority of these scenes tend to be shot with longer lenses due to their depth of field isolating properties, it’s also possible to create cinematics with wide lenses; it’s all in the light, color and subject positioning. Typically, the camera is also held straight so that verticals are vertical; anything else is used only deliberately to create a feeling of disorientation. Though I tend to favor the use of longer lenses personally – especially when photographing strangers (it’s the ability to capture candid emotion rather than fear of engaging people; if you interact with the subject, then you often won’t get the shot you originally saw), I’ve been experimenting with wider lenses to create more dynamic scenes, where the focus is somewhat shifted from the participants to the scene itself.

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The challenge, of course, is to find and execute all of this in a very short amount of time – perhaps ‘cinematic’ is not precise nonclemanture; it’s really a fusion of street photography, photojournalism and cinema. Even if all of the technical elements I described above are present, it doesn’t mean that the frame creates an emotional response or connection in the viewer; far from it. Generally, the most successful frames have some strong human element that engages directly with the viewer; timing the moment is still highly critical – except now you’re not just looking for peak action, you’re also looking for peak emotion. MT

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Comments

  1. An informative article, Ming. Have you found yourself beginning to favour, or reacting to, a particular colour palate, given that you emphasise the importance of colour in this approach to photography, or is what’s happening in front of you the key driver?

  2. Hi,

    interesting write up!

    like yourself, i thought i was the only one shooting this style,… i was shooting video with anamorphic lenses and wound up liking the stills so much that i went out and just shot stills with them. i did this for a good few months, posting on flickr, and a guy by the name of James Yeung got in touch. he shoots and processes in a cinematic style as well, but he shoots with spherical lenses. not as masochistic as i am :D

    He’s a photog out in Hong Kong, and he, along with a few other people around the world started a group on flickr ” cinematic street photography” i believe its called. it’s pretty quite but has some awesome work from the netherlands, italy, hong kong, and a big chunk from south east asia. they’ve been shooting and processing this way since around 2009.

    I’ve also stumbled upon a 100 page thread on photography-on-the.net that goes back to 2009.

    a few months ago we started a facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/cinematicphotography/

    if you’re on facebook, do drop in :)

    re your article,… persoanlly, i’ve found that greater depth of field is more conducive to achieving the cinematic look. the best ones i’ve seen so far have very deep Dof. sadly, alot of guys doing video and film recently are overusing shallow dof resulting in scenes that are suffocating to watch. the UK show misfits,… 3rd seasons was soo bokehmental that i could watch that season at all.

    anyway, i could go on and on, so i should probably stop :P

    great site, lovely work, and i hope you drop by our little group someday.

    cheers,

    Shuji.

  3. Jorge Balarin says:

    Interesting article. One question: Wich type of focus are you using in this kind of scenes ? Greetings, Jorge.

  4. Ruhayat says:

    “Surprisingly, despite this kind of imagery being already very prevalent socially – in the movies, of course – and highly developed, I’m not aware of any other photographer who’s actually spent time shooting in this style*.”

    Erm. Actually. This particular style, at least based on the images posted here, are quite prevalent in wedding photography. The look has been around for the past few years. They are often referred to as “reportage”, but they look just like the images presented here.

    • No, they don’t. Everything I’ve seen in wedding photography lacks several of the points I’ve just described. There’s no use of backgrounds, just walls of bokeh; there’s no consistent use of color, and the processing is usually a disaster. Look again carefully. Doing things superficially is always easier than doing them properly and most people can’t tell the difference.

      • Ruhayat says:

        I have to humbly disagree. Just read a years’ worth of the British Photo Professional magazine, especially their wedding issues, and you will see this style is not quite that unique. They use the reportage aspect of storytelling as well, so it’s not just about “walls of bokeh”. They are also not posed – the reportage style is mostly candid, that’s where it gets its energy and “look” from. It started about 4-5 years ago and was in fashion until about a year ago.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “consistent use of colour”. You might want to check out Jeff Ascough and Jose Villa; they both use colour consistently – Jose Villa shoots Fuji Pro 400H on a Contax 645. As for their processing being a “disaster”… Hmm. Okay. You might want to take that up with them (or notify their clients). Hoho.

        • You can always find specific examples to counter any argument; I’m not familiar with the work of either of the people you mentioned. But the fact that he uses film means that there’s less control over color palette than with digital – consistent yes, able to adjust for ambient light, no.

          And you’ll find I’ve been shooting this way since 2009; I just decided to write about it now. This isn’t true reportage or photojournalism in the classical sense; that’s done with wide-normals and much greater depth of field.

  5. nice

  6. Michael Matthews says:

    Here’s what may be an interesting alternative to out-of-focus foreground and background for cinematic composition.

    Jane C. Goodall of Cambridge, UK is a photographer with diverse interests but a concentration on landscape images. When she finds herself stuck in the urban harsh light of Atlanta, Georgia she makes the most of it:

    http://thebeautifullight.co.uk/photo_10777276.html

    I would suggest that with a bit of crop to eliminate the blue sky, and perhaps a bit off the bottom if we’re sticking to 16X9, this is about as cinematic as it gets.

    • I don’t disagree with you: light has to be directional rather than low, and when you use a wide, you’ve got not choice anyway. The first image in my post is entirely in focus and was shot with an 18mm lens…

      • Michael Matthews says:

        Two photos in this series have the strongest impact on me in terms of cinema style: the taxi-top at night and the commuter train shot. I expect the taxi to leap into motion at any moment. The entire composition of the commuter train photo — given a subtle emphasis by the roughly parallel angles of the main subject’s eyebrows, eyelashes, nose, and upper lip cutting a diagonal line across the larger view — is a masterwork.

        To help me get a better feel for your sense of cinematic style, what do you think of these two examples from your preview of the E-P5:

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/mingthein/8719091647/ and

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        Even though the second doesn’t adhere to the widescreen format convention, something about it says cinema. Plus it proves the term ‘candid portrait’ is not always an oxymoron.

        • Thank you. Neither of those two particular examples were intend to be especially cinematic, but it’s tough to shoot any differently when you’re used to working in a particular style…

  7. David Babsky says:

    ..our eyes are side-by-side anyway..” ..but their images are superimposed onto each other, so we don’t normally see in widescreen or CinemaScope.

    But what we are used to doing is moving our eyes – and our head – left and right, probably more so than up and down. So we’re generally aware of a wider view than our eyes normally see when we’re simply looking straight ahead.

    • But then why is it when you stare at a point in space without moving your head, your left-right peripheral field of view seems to be greater than up-down?

      • David Babsky says:

        I think it’s mainly force of habit: when crossing the street we seldom look down at our feet, or up at the sky – because what are the hazards there? – but we DO look left and right – and use that left/right peripheral vision – to see if something may be approaching us horizontally from either side along the street ..something which might hit us. When hunter-gatherers were out hunting (or being hunted!) – imagine you’re out in a safari park filled with lions and other carnivores – would they (or you) be looking up and down for dangerous creatures which might eat you (if there were few trees or undergrowth) ..or to left and right and behind you?

        I don’t notice much that’s above eye-level normally, but then my eyes are deep-set, and I just see the bottoms of my eyebrows if I engage upwards peripheral vision(!) ..but when I’m looking straight ahead, or at my laptop screen, I do see, peripherally, what’s below what I’m looking at ..the keyboard, for instance, and my lap.

        I think that if we lived in a culture in which there was a great risk of things dropping down on us from ledges on closely-built skyscrapers, or we lived in vertical tubes with slippery steps (as in Hugh Howey’s “Wool” trilogy), we’d pay more attention to our up/down peripheral vision.

        • Quite possibly. But in the jungle, things can definitely fall out of the sky – or trees, rather. Yet I’ve never read or seen anything to believe that cultures who evolved from jungle dwellers have any different peripheral vision from others…

  8. very nice post indeed – I like your “layered” approach of having your subject sandwiched between blurry fore- and background! Also the one with the cab is very cool – it feel very different style-wise when compared to the other shots. Maybe it is the positioning of the subject in the lower right corner and the stark contrast?

  9. Michael says:

    Excellent post!

  10. Yorkshire Mike says:

    Did a lot of this stuff when I owned a D700. I think everybody goes through a period of shooting at f1.4,cropping to a 2.39:1 ratio and adding a heavy vignette in PS.

    The harsh reality is that most of the greatest shots ever taken where shot at f5.6 or f8.

    And for good reason.

    • I think you’re drastically oversimplifying the process. But hey, whatever works for you. It’s not about f1.4, or vignetting, or the aspect ratio. Those are merely tools. If you think that’s all there is to it, that may well be why the period ended for you.

      I’m not sure what you consider ‘the greatest shots ever’, but there are reasons why they were shot at f5.6 or 8 or whatever: firstly, they’re old, which means a) no AF, and prefocus; b) they’re journalistic in nature, which requires backgrounds to be at least identifiably in focus; c) lenses of the day simply weren’t that fast to begin with. I suggest you check your facts first…

  11. I really enjoy reading your posts. You are an excellent writer and your thoughts are fascinating.

  12. Excellent post. Makes my head spin to understand what you convey and how to interpret it in real live…

  13. Martijn says:

    Apologies for diverting from the cinematic discourse, but mentioning ‘rich B&W’ en the limitations of Silver Efex pro triggers a long lingering question: what actually makes a ‘rich’ B&W picture? Smooth gradients, highlight/shadow detail, micro contrast? And what about shooting technique, post processing, etc. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this …

    • Mostly smooth tonal gradations, but the ability to discriminate between many input levels of luminance. It’s especially important in the deep shadows and highlights just before clipping. I cover specific B&W processing techniques in the intro to PS video, available here.

  14. Hi. Is the photographer who’s name you couldn’t remember Gregory Crewdson? If so I am also a fan of his work. He methods are the very definition of ‘cinematic’!

  15. Once again an excellent article which made me reflect at length. It’s definitely a very interesting style that I’d like to try out myself in the near future.

    However, I think you forgot to mention one technical detail that at least to me is very important. Maybe you don’t agree and left it out on purpose. The depths of the blur as you mentioned should just “right” so not everything in the else in the fore- and background are completely unrecognisable, but for me – particularly in the cinematic style – the blur should also be “uniform and smooth”. In other words, the out of focus area should not be swirly or contain to many harsh edges or other distracting artefacts.

    To mind come Leica’s most recent generation of aspherical lenses that provide an almost perfectly uniform bokeh similar to the human eye, where many older lenses have unique blur that can distract the mind from the story and emotions conveyed in the pictures.

    Many thanks for your many well written articles and outstanding pictures!
    Dan

    • Thanks Dan – I covered that point (non-distractingness of blur) in the previous article on bokeh. I thought it was taken as given…

      Agreed on the modern Leica ASPH lenses: these are usually my favourites in terms of isolation; they can cut the image into planes at any distance. However, there are times when a more gentle transition is desired – usually for portraits or ‘emotional’ subjects – then the Carl Zeiss Planars and Distagons are my preference…I think the king of these double-Gauss type designs must be the Nikon Noct-Nikkor, though. You get everything from dreamy, low-contrast softness (but still with bite) all the way to cut-yourself-sharp in one lens with just a small twist of the aperture ring through a few stops.

      • Found a good spot to join in, lens choice. Your article on bokeh and lens choice answers a lot of questions. But in this article you said, “Though I tend to favor the use of longer lenses personally – especially when photographing strangers . . . ” This reminded me of a comment you made in your review of the Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens (150mm on m4/3). You like this lens a lot (I bought one!) but said that this was not one of your favorite focal lengths for street shooting. I seemed to think it was good for that purpose precisely because of what you’re saying in this article of cinema style with moderate bokeh that helps create the image seen in actual movies.
        Does this mean that in the present article you are referring to even longer focal lengths for this street/candid cinema-like style? It would be useful to know what focal lengths you mean here. I assume that if too long a focal length you lose the appropriate cinema type bokeh you are after here.

        Very useful article for me; thanks for sharing. I have never purposely tried this to create a style. It’s just a style a like and often approximate without this explicit knowledge. It’s what makes me like the old B&W masters who used Leica and 50mm lenses. And movies! Of course, until you pointed it out by the terminology itself I never realized that in a sense I have been brainwashed all my life into liking that style. I once interrupted a book store lecture on photography when someone asked how to improve quickly (examine the masters of photography and painting), I suggested simply paying closer attention when watching movies. I said that a movie consisted of hundreds/thousands of still photos that were–as you pointed out–the opposite of accidental. At home, I suppose you could pause a DVD and spend more time with each one. You quickly discover too many movies feature gratuitous?) back lit blonds in the early morning hours. Lots. So, for many years I’ve joked with my wife that I had the perfect set up for a photo and was simply waiting for the back lit blond to walk by. In Italy one time, while I was waiting, a black African woman walked into the setting sun for me in Siena. Her black hair absorbed all the light, nothing came through. Finally got a kid with a soccer ball. So, by preference developed over a long time, I have been trying to approximate the style you’re describing. Your article helps us focus better. I cannot imagine how long it would take to get better with just a film camera–still or movies. The modern digital camera with multiple fixed lenses speeds up the learning curve dramatically if, of course, one practices enough and keeps watches what’s going on in the cinema. So, what lenses do you turn to for this purpose, say, if you’re in Siena or San Francisco?

        • Sorry, I should have clarified: to me, long is anything >50mm. So I’ll use about 85-100 for cinematic street, as opposed to 28-50 for photojournalism. That said, I do sometimes go wider as well if the scene requires it – some of the images in this post were shot with 24 or 28mm. With an even longer focal length, one can just stop down a bit.

          Not sure I agree with the learning curve on film – I think if you’re religious about your developing and do it yourself after every roll, and take notes on what you did/ didn’t do, then you can get pretty fast feedback too. I believe I’ve gone from making a complete mess of my negatives to being able to control the tones I want quite well in the space of 60 rolls or so…

  16. Reblogged this on Communication Breakdown and commented:
    Ming Thein is back with a very interesting article, especially to me. I began to take pictures in film era, but when digital came my interests went to video. My love for movies brought me to study cinema language, style and photography. That’s how I went back to my old passion. This article is a very good place to begin understanding this style of photography that I love so much. Enjoy the reading :)

  17. Tom Liles says:

    I’m not aware of any other photographer who’s actually spent time shooting in this style*

    I’m not sure if she’s spent a long time doing it, but I love the work of Alex Prager. I don’t know enough about photographic technique to know if I’m on the right lines, but she is so cinematic to me [probably because I love films and have seen PLENTY of Hitchcock].

    If I could ape any photographer, it’d be her.
    [For some reason, not you MT---don't take that the wrong way, your photos give me plenty of viewing pleasure: commensurate with anything I've looked at.]

    • Not that it matters, but out of curiosity, why her and not me? As a relatively objective external observer, what do you see as being the obvious differences? I see it as a difference in color/ light and to a degree clarity; you’ve also got to remember that she’s also a cinematographer: the ‘film stills’ really are extracted still frames from video. I on the other hand have never shot any serious video…

      • Tom Liles says:

        I think it’s fair to say you and Alex have completely different interests and styles [both shooting method AND that hard to pin down version of "style"]… that may have something to do with it, but, yes, simply put: my response to the photos is purely subjective, and uncontrolled—I just can’t decide which pictures affect me in a certain way. Hence the difference is quite quite hard to speak about. I know that doesn’t help.

        There’s a tension in Alex’s images; they are pregnant moments. Ever so slightly unsettling [beyond the surface surrealism]—I can’t take my eyes away from it. David Lynch achieved the same thing in Twin Peaks with shots of tall conifers swaying in the wind, at the dead of night. You could hear the branches and leaves rustling as the wind went through. It just cut straight to the quick of something in me. Likewise a shot by an unknown videographer I saw years and years ago—a stationary car, set in a wintry Scandinavian landscape, in the gloom at dusk, engine running, headlights on, driver door slightly ajar, no human in sight anywhere; the car engine runs, the car stares directly at the viewer, separated by about 10m. I have no idea why, but this image was very very powerful, I know because I remember it, or should I say the emotion plus the image, all these years later. It pops into my head unannounced once or twice a year. Alex Prager has an image [obviously inspired by Hitchcock's THE CROWS] of a lady being attacked by crows. It was taken in the hills, in very contrasty noon light [plus strobes I think], there is a pylon in the background. The hills, the light and the pylon, I think, I’m grasping here, hit me very hard; the immediate story of the woman and the crows is supplemental [but VERY complimentary to the mood]. Why should that affect me so much? I have no idea.

        This taste is not foreign to you, as seen above. Or was that all me reading things that weren’t intended to be there? We’re back to Roger’s inescapable point: the picture, the complete picture, is a co-creation.

        A select few of your images affect me in similarly strong ways; but it’s a completely different reaction and touch point.

        All the stuff about color and etc etc aside, for me, a quintessentially MT picture is about i) reflection, ii) abstraction, iii) geometry. I think your strongest pictures are all intellectual in nature and are something like a commentary on or a rephrasing of a mind at work. They say architecture is music frozen in time; I analogize an MT picture to be a thought structure frozen in pixels. You go for conceptual gestalt shifts, re-modelings… crystalline forms… for all the street shots there isn’t much portraiture, you seem more comfortable being stealthy and capturing the natural moment [often without interfering, to steal your QM analogies with photography, but also to be right in the mix---there are plenty of PJ shots like that, granted]. But this is rather than sitting with a subject in a studio, no context, just you the subject and what happens next. Yet, when the subject is Canterbury Cathedral or a motorway system interchange, or the KLCC, etc., we see your interest peak. These objects must suggest something to you; thoughts on infinity, thoughts on scale, thoughts on thought itself. What is it that draws you to the resculpture of corporate steel and concrete into geometric abstraction via light. This is what interests me in an MT image.

        But let’s just recall that photos are all just one-liners to me.

        The KLCC tower photo from yesterday. In terms of surface image qualities it didn’t shout MING THEIN to me — it could have been another photographer, in fact the very rich and deep B&W tone seemed quite un-MT in a way — but the underlying content was as MT as it gets [in my book]. The vertical gaze, the repeating patterns, the scale of the object… unmistakeable. I voted for it the first of my three picks.

        So Alex Prager’s images perhaps do something to my unconscious [the dark depths of the psyche where only symbolism exists]. There’s no rhyme or reason, they just do something. Yours affect me too. But hit a different spot. I’m leaving out all consideration of the street shots now, people buying things at the market, a chef cooking a steak, etc. I’m talking stone cold serious buildings, glass, steel, reflections—everything i), ii), iii) above [which don't preclude street shots]. You have images that perhaps do something to my subconscious: the grey bit of consciousness that ticks over in the background, i.e., my brain is processing every little thing that is in front of me right now, but it edits and only keeps itself conscious of what it determines is the important stuff. The rest, while not sunk into the unconscious, remains at the periphery in the subconscious. I notice but I don’t notice. The is the MT zone. It’s surreal in its own way, but a more… No, no. That’s not quite it. No, I do think your images work mostly in my conscious and hit me there. When inspected they always lend themselves to a kind of mannered introspection. A calculus of cognition?

        Perhaps that’s the difference…

        Though safe to say: it’s just me.

        [My 10 lines rule didn't last very long :o ]

        • Subjectivity is good: it’s what creates the difference and keeps things interesting. If I had to pin down the difference in a nutshell, I’d say it’s more along the lines of dirty/chaotic vs formal/ structured. I’m not sure it’s quite so much about reflection/ abstraction/ geometry – the human element in my cinematic work tends not to be very suited to this – but yes, there’s undoubtedly some underlying structure I’m fond of. I can do stolen moments, being in the mix, and geometry – but I admit the still lifes are becoming increasingly appearing, maybe because the larger formats I’m working with now tend to require a bit of a slowdown in both technique and shooting speed (ISO 100 film in marginal light isn’t good for portraiture at all). As for those deep tones – I beg to differ: tonal richness in both color and B&W is something that’s always been a conscious part of my processing gestalt.

          How about this: I feel like my work is almost becoming a translation of form into abstraction, where the end composition transcends the subject: after all, everything is just shapes. This probably doesn’t work at all on the emotional level, though – leaving me to poke at the emotional subconscious through color and other visual cues…

          Always useful to have this kind of discussion though: understanding one’s own standpoint on art is important to develop one’s vision as an artist, so thank you – even if it went well over ten lines :)

          • Tom Liles says:

            As for those deep tones – I beg to differ: tonal richness in both color and B&W is something that’s always been a conscious part of my processing gestalt

            Yes. Apology is in order there. I was flat out wrong. And I agree, tonal richness is a very MT signature. Why would I make a mistake like that? I suppose “crisp” is the word we always bandy about when we bang on about your work. Crisp… Crisp, crisp, crisp. This label, conceptually — and remember this is in my head that we’re talking about, and we know what a mess it is inside there — sits opposed to adjectives like “rich,” “deep,” “velvety,” etc., to me. Crisp is light and see through and sharp. Rich/deep/etc is heavy and thick: treacly.

            “Crisp” isn’t the word for the KLCC shot. Hence, my lunge to a comment like: …quite un-MT in a way. I was wrong.

            It’s interesting that you were telling me about the same field of view rendering differently on different formats though. One look, yesterday, at the KLCC shot and I guessed it was probably shot on medF. The aspect ratio, too, yes, but that could hardly be counted on as evidence. Well, my guesswork is nothing to 99% of the guys on here, but I felt like some of what I read and learn here is starting to sink in!

            If I had to pin down the difference in a nutshell, I’d say it’s more along the lines of dirty/chaotic vs formal/ structured

            Yes. Good surmise. Alex’s work is obviously model oriented [requires people/actors], is dramatic, staged and laden with danger. “Danger” is probably the word I was fumbling for before. Your non-commercial images [broadly speaking, though some of the commercial images may conform] don’t have any of that, as they are obviously not about any of that [save the drama, perhaps save the people]. This is a difference. It’s interesting that you use the word “dirty.” That’s from a technical standpoint or some feeling you take from the images, or both? Likewise with the chaos.
            Ms Prager’s images are obviously choreographed and thought up. Discovered before the fact. But definitely intentional [as far as that is possible]. Though, yes, I couldn’t honestly say I don’t see chaos, either. What I see ties back in the “danger” angle: they are planned images, but chaotic too—and when confronted with disorder we, or I do, sense a latent danger. Feel a desire to resolve [make safe again]. Perhaps that’s the source of the tension I mentioned. If I can now contrast by jumping to your street images [which are the ones which mostly contain people. While I'm there, I didn't state it clearly above, but the sentence starting "But this is rather than..." previously was about we don't see many model in a studio, Richard Avedon, style shots from you. "Subjects in a studio" wasn't about inanimate subjects, which you obviously excel at, are a market leader in; it was about animate ones]. Your street images are obviously not choreographed and discovered as they happen. This again is a difference.

            I wouldn’t say you weren’t interested in people. A guy who goes out in the thick of it as much as you do: this clearly isn’t the case. All the images in the Flickr stream to prove it. But I would say that you’re interested in structure much much more. People are usually just for counterpoint.
            Alex Prager, well, she seems interested in mood a lot. But I think — without knowing, I’m just guessing — she probably remembers a scene from a film, a picture she saw in magazine, a childhood memory, and tries to recreate it. Perhaps not verbatim. Maybe just the underlying something that she felt. But it’s about acting out.
            I’d say, again just saying, your work is not, and is not supposed to be, as rash and sensuous as this. Your strongest images [to me] are all precisely the opposite: considered, controlled, conscious—but one step beyond this: aiming at the transcendent.

            my work is almost becoming a translation of form into abstraction, where the end composition transcends the subject… This probably doesn’t work at all on the emotional level, though – leaving me to poke at the emotional subconscious through color and other visual cues

            Agree. But I’d like to see you drop all pretense of “emotion.” Someone like Alex Prager trades on that exclusively; but you [the images which to me are the strongest expression of MT] don’t. And you don’t need to. Though herein lies the entertainer’s reality: your images don’t elicit a strong emotional reaction [because they're not about that side of us] and so for most people they don’t elicit any reaction at all, is this acceptable, or not?

            Perhaps Gordon or Jeff, or the guys who have some art training and know of what they speak will chip in? I feel like an ant talking to God here :D

            • Is there any fundamental reason we can’t have crisp and rich? I like to think not; something along the lines of an old Dutch master/ hyperrealist painting. I throw out anything that isn’t sharp at the pixel level; this includes the KLCC shot: in the full size scan (or on the negative) you can actually see the bolt heads fixing the cladding to the facade. Yes, it is medium format – test shot from the defective SWC, actually. I think part of the signature is that whilst the FOV is wide, it doesn’t have the same level of distortion as the same angle of view would on a smaller format – it is 38mm, after all. I’m actually curious to see if the 21mm converter + square crop on the GR V would render the same – the angle of view is identical, at any rate.

              I think ‘dirty’/’danger’ can be used interchangeably here – perhaps ‘gritty’ fits better overall. There’s a level of looseness, coarseness and grit in the images from both emotional and technical perspectives. One certainly has something to do with the other; it’s well executed, that’s for sure. I’ve done the model-in-a-studio stuff, and still do for commercial, but most of the time it’s embargoed or not really of much artistic merit, which makes them either impossible to or not worth sharing.

              Can the rash and sensuous and emotional not also be transcendent? Of course we want it all, but perhaps some things are at odds with others. I suppose I won’t know if I don’t try. However, lack of emotion IS a problem. It means that there’s no deeper attachment to an image on any level; your audience – at least your appreciative audience – is restricted to the intellectual; the person who stops to look and consider. They don’t draw you in and tug at your subconscious. I need to work on that. Bottom line: one has a big audience and more commercial value: the other has a smaller audience but perhaps more depth. Maybe it’s a question of commercial success vs personal/ artistic satisfaction.

              No idea about the ant talking to God bit…I’m the other ant trying to figure out if I’m heading in the right direction to the hill or not.

              • Tom Liles says:

                Maybe it’s a question of commercial success vs personal/ artistic satisfaction

                Yes. Sorry, I wrote some half-hearted phrase like “the entertainer’s reality,” when what I meant to say was “the entertainer-artist dilemma.” I don’t envy you.

                They don’t draw you in and tug at your subconscious. I need to work on that

                These two statements seem to pull in opposite directions—can you consciously affect the subconscious?

                • Why not? I use color all the time to give my images a certain feel and mood, and if this isn’t consciously affecting the subconscious of the audience, I’m not sure what is.

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    Aha, OK. And you even said it once already above the line:

                    Have you ever stopped to wonder why a particular movie or scene makes you feel a particular way? It’s certainly not by accident: the choice of colors for both the subjects/ objects in the scene, as well as the color temperature, direction and mood for the lighting are all carefully engineered to cause a particular emotion in the viewer. This is good for storytelling, and generating an immersive viewing experience because of the subconscious emotional connection built.

                    I suppose what I was thinking of was all that unconscious baggage [I'm using subconscious and unconscious interchangeably now; I mean the bit that gives us Freudian slips, etc., though I was more rigorous a couple of posts back and didn't use interchangeably] all that unconscious baggage which the viewer him or herself brings. Can we consciously affect this? No, of course not. How big a factor is that baggage in this person’s reaction and interpretation when looking at picture: 50-50? Supplemental: can we consciously affect every aspect of the unconscious? Also no: that the mentally ill — psychologically, not physiologically mentally ill — cannot cure themselves by conscious thought alone: this proves a point.

                    This said: you are right!

                    And with that climb down, I hereby climb down for the night :)

                    Night Ming, night all.

              • So in typical fashion I have been sitting on the side lines waiting for an opportunity to chime in. Seeing as Tom called me out as someone with art training and that I know what I’m doing (I appreciate the vote of confidence, but sadly I only have the faintest idea of what is really going on!!) I’m really having a hard time articulating where I am coming from on this discussion. The thing about art is it’s so damn subjective. When talking about Ming’s different branches of expression, be it cinematic, photojournalistic, or architectural I have a hard time singling out one expression as a defining style of MT. What defines MT varies from each individual and which portion of work they connect to. Myself for example, though I appreciate the skill and technique displayed in the architectural abstracts I do not generally connect to this style of work. That is not an absolute, as there are always exceptions. Is this the fault of the photographer. Not a chance. It’s how I’m wired. I do connect to much of the street photography, but once again not all of it. It is at this point that I struggle with the idea that a strong image should always result in a strong emotional response. In a perfect world yes, but there are far too many variables and the subjective nature of each individual viewer makes this very difficult indeed. Well I’m not really sure i added all that much to this discussion, sorry. I struggle with the aspects of analyzing and critiquing others work. For myself it is often times a gut reaction, it works (for me) or it doesn’t. To go beyond this (again for me) I end up over thinking things instead of just “feeling” it. Ok, that’s all I got. Really struggling to put anything down to contribute……

                • Subjectivity matters, though. One of the things I always tell my students is that photography is art, and art is subjective: I am not necessarily ‘right’, I just have an opinion. My opinion is related to my aesthetic and the way I see the world – you can agree or disagree, there is no correct answer. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another – and whilst we can incorporate some pop culture or mass human psychology (think babies and cats, in the crudest form) into our images, it doesn’t always mean that they’ll appeal to us as the photographer – and I think that perhaps matters the most.

                • Tom Liles says:

                  Hey Jeff,

                  Thanks. Contributing is contribution enough! Never mind the useful thoughts and honesty you put down. Here:

                  often times a gut reaction, it works (for me) or it doesn’t. To go beyond this (again for me) I end up over thinking things instead of just “feeling” it.

                  This is how I feel about it too. I’ve decided this is so important, I liken photos to one-liners. That’s my philosophy. It might be completely wrong, naive, whatever, but Ming swoops in to save me/you/all of us:

                  …photography is art, and art is subjective: I am not necessarily ‘right’, I just have an opinion. My opinion is related to my aesthetic and the way I see the world – you can agree or disagree..

                  Talking to Ming about this and re-reading the Cinematics pieces and comparing these images to Ming’s other “styles” [that's surface styles, not the quintessential "MTness" of an MT image, which should be in all of them] has made me think more about a point you’ve arrived at in advance of me:

                  I struggle with the idea that a strong image should always result in a strong emotional response

                  I think I’ve just joined you in this struggle. For me the answer is “yes, BUT.” When considering artworks [well, not only artworks but OK] the base line, the start, the first step on the stairway to somewhere, seems like this emotional response. Anyone can do it / have it. Layman, pro, child, adult. You need no education, training or anything to know how you feel [best line ever: I know what I like!]. But why should this be held in such high esteem? Be the gold-standard?

                  Photographs are a visual medium. The image, not the emotion, is surely supposed to be everything. It doesn’t play out like that; but just going from the premises of the craft, that’s what it should be, no? The image, not the emotion should be the key to what lies behind [and it is surely WAY harder to make the transaction happen that way/route].
                  So, photos without emotion? I can hear the booing and see the eyes rolling already… I know, I know… emotions make you connect, make you remember things better, etc., etc—almost every thing in human culture that’s regarded as “good” has some emotional side to it. Books, plays, speeches, food, whatever. Remember that I agree. And so what. Who says that’s the zenith? I mean as good as it gets… not “what works”; I mean as good as it gets. Who says?
                  [This ties in with being an entertainer or being an artist, I think. Though it depends on your views of what both are!]

                  I’m thinking here about what Ming said himself about his work. And yet more apologies to Ming, for all my banging on about your images are like this, other photogs are like this as though it were news; Ming had already said as much in the article [and probably not just here either!]:

                  Personally, I enjoy the shooting in the cinematic style because of the emotional charge and intensity of the moment you can convey; the richness of color and texture, and the overall feeling of drama. The other styles I shoot in – a more formal and natural ‘fine art’ style, and a rich B&W – both lack this, but have other redeeming qualities of their own.

                  I don’t know how he bears with pillocks like me… he certainly does it politely. Now, Ming said that he felt like lack of emotion in some images WAS a problem. I suppose it depends on who the images are intended for and what they’re intended to do. But I can’t help feeling, although I know it would result in NEGATIVE INDUSTRY ACCLAIM and complete and total COMMERCIAL DEATH, that less emotion would be more artistic [perhaps in Ming's case? Don't know]. I’ll draw an analogy—the ascetics. Monks that go and meditate on mountain tops, deep thinkers sitting silent in chairs… not emotional people [in the act]. But operating on a higher level, for sure. Likewise their output—not emotional stuff. How emotional a response can you have to the writings of Immanuel Kant, or the axioms of Euclid, the precepts of Confucius or the proof of abc conjecture by Shinichi Mochizuki.

                  Ming had said:

                  I feel like my work is almost becoming a translation of form into abstraction, where the end composition transcends the subject: after all, everything is just shapes

                  I mean if this isn’t Li Mu Bai territory [ha! crowbarred it in!], I don’t know what is. Well, fictional swordsmen aside—it does sound like the utterance of pure mathematician or research physicist, or yes, a very conceptual artist.

                  Just me?

                  All in all, it doesn’t matter… Whatever we do, it should

                  appeal to us as the photographer – and I think that perhaps matters the most

                  Well said.

                  • I think my head has packed in now. I’m going to load the ‘blad for this weekend, go out and shoot, and just capture what looks interesting/ beautiful. Too much thinking can result in the photographic equivalent of a Vulcan nerve pinch!

                    As for Li Mu Bai – I got anti-tomato into our last discourse several times, surely that deserves some credit…

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Agreed!

                      Just do it. :)

                      No!

                      Just feel it :D

                      No!

                      Just contemplate it!

                      No!..

                      /kernel panic

                      I’m nearly out the office and onto the streets of Tokyo => CAMERA IN HAND

                      Cheers Ming, cheers all!

      • Tom Liles says:

        To answer the why her and not me? question:

        This is a completely transitory choice. At the moment, that kind of image is what I like, stylistically. I think it’s cool. That’s all there is to it.

        Here’s me trying to copy in my own [crappy] way. Or maybe this.

        The shot discipline is not there, and this was before I understood much about PP. I’m still undisciplined and I still can’t PP very well [starting with crap doesn't help! But it's MY crap, at least]. I won’t say this’s where I want to copy you, Ming, and that’s what you are for. Because it’s not the case; I’m here for your artistic taste [as outlined above]. Yes, I try to follow your guidelines on how to take a picture, but I have every intention of ignoring it all down the line. I’ve been trying to ape your cinematics all this week, as it’s topical!, to not much avail—but this is just an exercise to me. Not like trying to ape Alex—which is just a transitory fad.

        It’s all toward just being able to do it my way. Which is obviously the ONLY way to do it, in my opinion :)

        [TONGUE IS FIRMLY IN CHEEK]

        • Actually, I think your images are more in the style of contemporary Japanese photography than Alex’s work – there’s an underlying darkness and ambiguity that’s missing…but yes, one’s own style is usually a product of first imitation then development and experimentation. I wrote a much earlier article on defining style that you might find interesting…

          • Tom Liles says:

            Thanks for the charity and thanks for the article, will read :)

            • David Heintz says:

              Alex Prager’s photography is more in the realm of illustration (using a camera) than photography. She is spending a lot of effort to wind up with something a good illustrator (and a highly creative one) can do in Illustrator and Photoshop, without even looking at a camera. This is faux photography. Some of the images are startling to be sure. Would make great magazine illustrations…

              • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – most commercial work is treading the line between illustration and photography anyway. In some cases, there’s so much retouching that the original photo is nothing more than a camera-obscura guide for where the illustration has to go, much in the same way as some of the older hyperrealist paintings…

              • Tom Liles says:

                more in the realm of illustration…
                This is faux photography

                I guess this confuses me:

                If so, what is [genuine] photography?

                [honest question]

                • I would say content/ structure captured by the camera, as opposed to being re-drawn in afterwards in post? Put a different way: how much post-capture retouching was done?

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    I suppose this calls up a question along the line of what does it matter — what qualitative difference does it make to the viewer and the artist — if the image was drawn or photographed, or both?

                    To me the joke, the punchline, the transaction is all. So it doesn’t matter much. Though, the other day Gordon pointed out to me that “The medium is the message”… I’m still thinking about that, but it isn’t rocket science to make the connection that what I call the joke, then, is 100% reliant upon the delivery. Just going from actual comedians [the stand up type, etc] and jokes, that’s certainly true!

                    But I feel like I disagree. I don’t know why. Am I just a hopeless contrarian?

                    There’s a function on my old DMC-L1, and I think my D7000 too, called “multi-exposure.” I can take two or three frames and the camera overlays them, burned in as one photo. I’m sure the same is possible on PS, but staying “in camera” for now to keep the argument its strongest:

                    Would an in-camera “multi-exposure” count as a photograph [for David, etc]?

                    • No, it doesn’t matter unless the nature of photographs being supposedly un-edited conveys legitimacy somehow.

                      I think multi exposures or layer blending are still photographs – you’re just putting one on top of another (and your D7000 has this, too) – but not if those layers are drawn

  18. Well, I can’t recall another photographer sharing verbally their guiding thoughts on the aesthetics of their style so openly with the possible exception of Edward Weston. It is a true privilege to be given access to this level of an artists working process. Thank you. Since going m43 but without yet getting a lens with a large maximum aperture I have not gone in this direction at all yet, but you amply demonstrate the possibilities. For now I will stick to B&W and composition and continue learning the possibilities and limitations of post processing with Silver Efex Pro, but a little bit wiser to other aesthetic factors at play in the results.

  19. Excellent content.
    Outstanding images.
    Many thanks!

  20. It really comes together having the various elements in one article. Very helpful.

    • Thanks – now I’ve given the game away, I have to find another style…

      • Heh, heh…! If only it were that easy to replicate style, much less quality of photography…! If only I had your “photographic eye”!

        The way Marissa Mayer of Yahoo (and even the infamous Ken Rockwell) make it sound is that everyone with a camera or camera phone can take high quality pictures. Nothing could be further from the truth… Sad though…

        I think camera phones are unfortunately marginalizing the art of photography (much like MP3’s with music). People are confusing volume with quality or art.

        Digital technology however has made it easier and easier for photographers to develop their own style. However, I think the challenge is that there are so many choices, “where to start?”.

        Keep the articles coming. I’m curious how you developed and continue to refine your own style.

        • Hi Ming,
          – One more comment… I read your article on defining style. I would make an argument that your style (IMHO) could also be described still as more “photojournalistic” (if that’s a word?) in nature, rather than cinematic. I always feel there is a real story waiting behind each photograph.
          – I tend to associate cinematic more with super wide angle shots (ala Tarantino), 16:9 type formatting, and very dramatic lighting (not necessarily natural or balanced lighting).
          – Angel “A”, a movie by Luc Besson, is one movie that I recommend you check out for its lighting, camera angles and shot selection. (It is a good movie, as well…) I’d be curious what you think.
          – The funny thing is that photographers, like Vincent LaForet are moving towards shooting movies and picking out frames they like, under controlled lighting situations. There may be less and less of a line between cinematic and journalistic as technology progresses…

          • The photojournalistic element comes from the need to have the image tell a story or say something meaningful. The cinematic portion is the presentation – I don’t think they’re at odds with each other at all. And these are 16:9 format; not all movies have Tarantino-style lighting, either; it’s a fairly wide genre.

            Haven’t seen that Luc Besson movie, but I do love his work so I’ll check it out. Wong Kar Wai is another director with an excellent sense of lighting and mood…

            I’ll have to ask Vincent about this next time I see him.

            • Hrrmmm…. had to comment here. When you say Wong Kar Wai, to my mind you really mean Christopher Doyle, his cinematographer. It might be difficult to separate one from the other, but the visual feel of Wong’s movies is all down to Chris, who has what can safely be said to have a unique shooting style. Only Wong’s two most recent major films have been shot without him, and… the results speak for themselves.

        • Actually, I still believe it’s just a matter of practice.

          Mayer said what she said out of ignorance, I believe. But I think she’s right, too: there eventually will be no pros because nobody will be willing to pay for what they think they can do themselves. It’s already happening in Malaysia; selections are made on price, not quality, and one by one the pros are dying out. To survive, one has to find alternative income streams.

          As for Ken – he’s also right, but he didn’t explain that there’s a lot of other ‘stuff’ in the learning process one has to go through before getting there. I can take a good shot with my iphone, but that’s because I understand composition, light and how to apply them within the limits of control I have with the device – not because the phone does the work for me. I’d in fact argue that the capture devices with the highest potential are also the hardest to use – my Hasselblad 501CM and CFV-39 digital back gives undoubtedly the highest quality images; however, it’s 100% manual, without meter, the LCD on the digital back might as well be useless, and you have to shoot it on a tripod. Oh, then there’s the matter of viewfinder inversion, limited aperture/ shutter speed combinations etc…

          You may enjoy this earlier article on defining style.

  21. excellent post, this clarifying certain doubts I had about it … and gives me good ideas … thanks for sharing

  22. Globules says:

    The photographer you’re thinking of is Philip-Lorca diCorcia. He’s also well known for his “Heads” series, in which he set up strobes on the street and photographed strangers as they passed. Google for “philip-lorca dicorcia heads series” for examples.

    • Yes, and there was another one who recently exhibited at SF MOMA too – but the big difference between their work and mine is that their is entirely staged; mine is entirely candid.

      • Lorca’s Heads series was not staged. The camera was set-up and fixed but the people captured were random and unaware they were photographed. I’m somewhat surprised by coining this style cinematic and believing that only one other photographer (that you’re aware of) has used it. Check out all of the amazing giants of documentary storytelling from Magnum or the VII agency and you’ll find varied styles of soft or selective focus with a particular bend on directional natural light. Also many fine newspaper photojournalists like Todd Heisler employ a dramatic look. For the ultimate staged cinema-style images, check out Gregory Crewdson.

        • You’re drastically oversimplifying it. Crewdson doesn’t count because he’s using posed subjects and preset lights. Magnum and VII photographers work predominantly in B&W, and thus lose the ability to use color to influence mood.

Trackbacks

  1. […] open foreground to make the compositions work, I eventually landed up combining elements of the cinematic style – namely OOF foregrounds – with layering and more ‘traditional’ street […]

  2. […] photography, I’ve also wanted to capture using different styles. Color street photography. Cinematic (bokeh) street photography. But these weren’t enough. The lessons on conveying motion using slow shutter speeds came […]

  3. […] was the start of cinematic for me: I learned quickly about color grading, mood, use of foreground, implied motion, wide angles […]

  4. […] think there’s very little question that this series of images calls for the cinematic treatment to fully convey the mood, and add that little bit of perceived orderliness I observed in person. […]

  5. […] by the things we’ve seen and shot thus far. I wouldn’t attempt food or watches with cinematic lighting, for instance, if I hadn’t already been exploring that style of reportage. […]

  6. […] Think carefully about your color palette: landscapes generally invoke feelings of some sort in the viewer; the question the photographer has to consciously answer is what those feelings should be.  Even if you don’t have control over the subjects themselves, you do have the ability to influence the color bias through a choice of the season or even postprocessing. This article on the inexact science of color and emotion explains just why color is so important – and to get further inspiration, have a look at defining cinematic. […]

  7. […] though; and all images are more successful if the aesthetics work, too. I keep referencing the cinematic style and cinema itself as a good example of a balance between subject, story and context; the simple […]

  8. […] point with the same focal length on the same format, something with shallow depth of field and cinematic color treatment is going to have a very different impact to black and white, high contrast and […]

  9. […] stylistic shifts in our photographic journey as we explore new things; having shot a lot of street, cinematic and reportage work in recent years, perhaps it’s time for a […]

  10. […] In a much earlier article, I covered the observation vs participation paradox. In short, the story contained in an image changes dramatically depending on whether you’re an active participant in the scene or not; and this is a conscious choice that has to be made by every photographer of people at some point or other – often on a frame by frame, or at very least set-by-set basis. There is no right or wrong answer here: it depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your image. Regardless of the choice, there are compositional techniques that can be used to give either impression, whether you’re part of the action or not – I touch on this briefly in my article on cinematic photography. […]

  11. […] on the process of taking and making photographs.  In one of his essays, he defined the ‘cinematic style’ as “an abundance of out of focus areas, a narrow/ wide format, and highly directional […]

  12. […] almost certainly also not coincidence that a lot of my students find they greatly enjoy the cinematic style after attending one of my workshops* – that would be because it’s something I teach as […]

  13. […] it was pretty obvious when I read that he creates many of his photos on a sound stage). Ming Thein has a lengthy definition of cinematics, but in short it’s basically focused light on a […]

  14. […] The lighting at the Embarcadero Ferry Building is great for taking ‘cinematic’ style photos. You might be looking at the word ‘cinematic’ and thinking “What?”. Photographer Ming Thein has a pretty good description here. […]

  15. […] another way looking at your surroundings I highly recommend reading his essay on the topic “Defining cinematic” and while I am at it I recommend his blog without hesitating. Well worth you […]

  16. […] Over the last couple of posts, we’ve looked at the qualities of bokeh, and some examples of cinematic photography in New York; although one of the most obvious hallmarks of the cinematic style is an abundance of very out of focus zones, in reality there’s a lot more subtlety to it. Since this is one of my most frequently used and well-developed styles, I felt that perhaps a little intellectual exercise was in order.  […]

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