Shadow, Emotion, Mood, Storytelling; all of these are foundational elements of dramatic portrait photography. For photographers aching to improve their grasp on the tools of dramatic portraiture, knowing where, and how to start, can puzzle even the most sophisticated of artists.
PRO EDU partnered with Chris Knight, one of the best in the portraiture industry, to provide you with the highest quality educational experience possible. Chris shares his approach to using light, shadow, and mood to tell the stories of his subjects. This portrait photography tutorial focuses on the methods to understand and craft light, and is perfect for photographers looking to take their portrait work to new levels.
In this tutorial you will learn:
Few things move viewers like the emotion and mood of a well-executed dramatic portrait. Chris takes you step-by-step in this all-inclusive walkthrough of his advanced portrait light workflow. The story-telling centrality of his method lies in the understanding that crafting light should help to fulfill the narrative, not the other way around.
By the end of this tutorial you will be able to make an informed and intelligent approach to your portrait photography lighting setup, light your sets with intent and purpose, focusing on direction, angle, and falloff as well as capture images rich in story, with cinematic lighting and styling.
This 13 hour tutorial uses Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Several actions are included: Frequency Separation (Pratik Naik’s Action), Sharpening, Noise, and Output. Raw practice images are also included.
Welcome to Dramatic Portraiture with photographer, Chris Knight. In this series, follow Chris in creating mood, emotion, and story to create dynamically dramatic portrait images. Learn the foundational pillars of dramatic portraiture, with in depth, industry leading techniques in gear, process, and practical in studio approach. Dissect the tools, settings, and creative perspective to build your own approach. Understand the tools, techniques, and behavior of light. Learn how to form, manipulate and control light to build dramatic, professional images that completely stand out from the crowd.
How We See (2:33)
In this first step, begin your journey with the central core of image creation - light. Explore the value of understanding luminance, color and contrast. Identify the characteristics of what direct and compel our focus and attention in the images we create.
Qualities of Light (14:05)
Continue to develop a study in light. Go on set with photographer, Chris Knight, as he discusses and practically displays the language of light. Learn the value of using a light meter (in this case a Sekonic 358). Define and explore practical examples of hard and soft lighting in a studio environment. Examine specularity, contrast, and shadows with a consistent subject and one light setup. Practice and examine examples using hard light, soft light, hot spot, falloff, and feathering.
Modifications of Light (24:46)
Go deeper into the concepts of direct, diffused, and reflected light. Working on set, follow photographer Chris Knight, as he shapes light, evaluating transitions, specularity, contrast and distinctive quality. Build the foundations for lighting and composing incredibly dramatic portraiture.
Size Matters (17:41)
With a firm grasp of hard and soft light, diffusion and modification, focus on the size of light sources and the relative distance to the subject. Understand the relationship, the cause and effect of changing from small to large light sources, adjusting distance for effect. Begin to hone your ability to shape and manipulate lighting with intention.
Lighting Patterns (21:31)
In this section, follow photographer, Chris Knight, as he examines the relationship of lighting position to a subject’s face. Create intentional patterns, honing your ability to evoke a master of lighting - Rembrandt. Dissect Rembrandt lighting, identify components that create the aesthetic. Examine the cinematic styling and qualities to create classic film looks with Paramount lighting.
Purpose of Light (8:53)
In this section, begin to assimilate all of the practice, terminology, and examples, to form an intended purpose in the way that you light for dramatic portraiture. Consider the purpose of what a light is doing by breaking down jobs of light. Learn to identify the roles and application of a lighting setup, building up step by step in a studio environment. Examine Key, Fill, Rim, and Background lighting to confidently light with purpose, intention, and industry leading quality.
Ratios of Light (12:30)
With command of the equipment and theory, begin to manipulate lighting to control the overall contrast of your image. Move through a spectrum of power and lighting intensity across the key and fill for specific control over the contrast of your subject’s face. Define stops and push the boundaries of detail to understand the limits of your camera and optics for highly detailed results.
Shape of Light (12:36)
Build on your understanding of light, transitioning focus towards shaping your lighting setup. Examine with practical examples the effect of using modifiers to shape light with intention. Shape your lighting setup with examples using common modifiers like an octobox, rectangular softbox, large umbrella, stripbox, and beauty dish.
Controlling Light (20:42)
Learning to control light is as much about blocking where you don’t want illumination as it is where you do. In this stage, follow photographer, Chris Knight as he uses a variety of modifiers. Learn about grids, barn doors, snoots, grids on modifiers and flags.
For this stage of the process, learn even more advanced lighting toolsets. Examine the uses and benefits of specialty modifiers like the umbrella with diffusion, ring flash and the spot projector. Follow photographer, Chris Knight, as he demonstrates more advanced and subtle lighting to give your workflow versatility and flexibility.
With theory, practice and plenty of examples, it's time to put it all together and create some amazing imagery. In this stage of Dramatic Portraiture, follow Chris Knight in creating an old Hollywood style shoot inspired by Vanity Fair. Use the techniques, examples and theory to create an image rich in tone and texture. Explore broad brush lighting, leveraging Profoto, Westcott and a variety of other gear. Listen as Chris gives an overview of the tone, styling, set, lighting gear, and overall intention of the concept.
The Gentleman (32:51)
In this Vanity Fair, old Hollywood themed shoot, begin the process of creating The Gentleman image. Follow photographer, Chris Knight, as he gives a complete walkthrough of his set. Examine his lighting setup, modifiers, wardrobe, set, and color decisions to learn the what, how and why in creating an image of this calibre. Watch as Chris, iterates through a series of test captures, to dial in the look and atmosphere of this rich, dramatic portrait.
The Lady (27:28)
Expand your experience with a subject change to create a dramatic portrait of The Lady. In this example, continue to develop the broad brush lighting technique. Use the lessons learned in shaping light through ratio, modifiers, and distance. Develop your skills in posing a female subject, creating elegance and dimension. Alternate lenses, manipulate perspective, to create a cinematic, dramatic portrait.
The Couple (35:54)
With theme, set, and lighting accomplished, create a relationship between subjects for a Vanity Fair inspired portrait. Work through a series of standing and sitting poses. Put all of the theory into practice creating gorgeous, motivated imagery with confidence. Follow photographer, Chris Knight, as he shapes and controls lighting for a dramatic portrait in studio shoot.
With the studio shoots complete, transition your focus to the post-production phase. Follow photographer, Chris Knight, as he walks through his retouching workflow. Using Lightroom, cull through a series of captures to select the best images to be considered for retouching. Hear Chris explain his philosophy and criteria for making his selects for processing.
Quick Development (10:00)
In the next stage of the retouching workflow, create a method to process your RAW imagery using Lightroom's Develop module. Learn to process a RAW image capture to retain fidelity throughout the retouching process. Move rapidly and efficiently considering dynamic range, exposure, manipulating vibrance and saturation. Work to create balance, flexibility, and repeatable process for an optimum workflow across the entire post-production pipeline.
Begin retouching a final select from The Couple - a dramatic portrait shoot. Leverage the power of Photoshop and its layer based editing capabilities to create a cinematic portrait image. In this phase of the process, follow photographer Chris Knight, as he begins first of seven steps in his retouching workflow - the cleanup. Follow a methodical, procedural method to create industry leading results. Learn how Chris creates a plan using markup, using the power of Photoshop's healing brush and clone stamp tools to begin a global cleanup pass of the image.
In this stage of retouching, work to refine the skin of your subjects in The Couple dramatic portrait. Utilize a powerful Frequency Separation, from retoucher, Pratik Naik, and Photoshop's mixer brush. Learn to effectively retouch skin, while maintaining natural texture, shape and tone for a cinematic and dramatic portrait.
Global Dodge and Burn (10:27)
For this stage of the retouching process, utilize Photoshop to create a global dodge and burn pass for your image. Focus on preserving and enhancing dimension in your subjects skin tones, developing sculpted highlights and shadows for nuance and aesthetic.
Liquify can sometimes have a negative connotation within photography and retouching. And indeed, there can be misuse and abuse of the tool. In this section, learn the subtleties of liquify as filter to enhance your subjects, shape, wardrobe, and perspective within the image, without losing context or reality.
Color and Tone (17:32)
Push The Couple dramatic portrait into the final stages of retouching, focusing on color and tone. Manipulate contrast, blend modes, saturation, channel and luminance masking.
Sharpen, Noise, and Output (7:27)
For the finishing touches, learn how to create a Photoshop action for sharpening, adding noise, and creating output settings to expedite and create consistency across your final deliverable images.
For this section of the training, begin the process of creating one of literature's most memorable characters, Don Quixote. Listen as photographer, Chris Knight, gives a background to the story, films, and other creative renderings behind this iconic character. Become inspired to create a tragically comic man of an era, for this dramatic portrait.
Pose 1 (48:35)
With technique and practice examples established, focus purely on creating a nuanced image. Watch as photographer, Chris Knight, makes adjustment to lighting, modifiers, and pose to create a dramatic pose for the Don Quixote Portrait shoot.
Pose 2 (32:38)
For this second pose, push further into the narrative of the concept. Using the same lighting setup, transition the subject from standing to sitting for to create a different story and mood for the character. Instead of shooting up to create a heroic pose, shift the tone and power of the image to something more subdued and contemplative, by changing perspective. Create a variant in pose and story for the Don Quixote dramatic portrait.
Pose 3 (37:57)
For the third and final pose of the Don Quixote series, use the spot projector and ring flash to create a series of character portraits. Create an incredibly stylized and dramatic realization. Strip lighting away for a high contrast mood, creating intentional specularity and highlights. Utilize a tripod, variant lens and change in perspective for an illustrative, expressive, and dramatic portrait.
Culling and Quick Development (7:17)
With production complete, transition from the studio to the retouching phase of the Don Quixote dramatic portrait. Follow photographer, Chris Knight as he processes his RAW selects for retouching, using Lightroom. Learn to optimize your imagery for Photoshop.
Image 1 Workflow (1:04:52)
Begin retouching the hero image, the standing portrait pose from the Don Quixote series. Over the next hour, follow photographer, Chris Knight, as he builds a stunning vision for the dramatic portrait using Photoshop. Learn best practices for cleanup, frequency separation, dodge and burn, and continue to build on previous lessons with new application. Complete the entire retouching session within this module for a finished hero image - the Don Quixote hero.
Image 2 Workflow (52:41)
With the hero complete, retouch a more intimate portrait with higher contrast lighting and focus on the subjects face. Leveraging the power of Photoshop, focus on things like naturalizing the theatre wig and beard, honing your skills with frequency separation to create natural skin texture and tone. Enhance and further sculpt dimensional lighting with targeted dodge and burn practice. Create a stunning, personal portrait, the second and final in the Don Quixote dramatic portrait series.
For the final phase of this series on Dramatic Portraiture, explore the them of Caravaggio's Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence. Listen as photographer, Chris Knight, gives a brief history of the painting, Caravaggio and the influence of the work. Examine light, composition, and meaning behind the work. Through that study, prepare to create a modern retelling of the classic painting - with subjects playing the roles of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Begin the process of creating - The Nativity Scene.
Kim + Kanye (39:43)
With a prepared set, jump right into the creation of this dynamic, modern retelling of a Caravaggio classic. Follow photographer, Chris Knight, as he identifies his key, fill, and rim lighting setup. Work through posing of subjects and the intentional direction of lighting to achieve the Caravaggio styling in a modern retelling.
Culling and Quick Development (10:32)
Hear photographer, Chris Knight, focus on the elements of importance and what he is looking for when selecting captures for retouching in Photoshop. With selects in hand, process them with ease in Lightroom's Develop module for optimum file fidelity and workflow within Photoshop. Create a processed look that shakes the overall tone and then a second image that is cooler to be brought into layers for retouching.
Before beginning the cleanup, toning, and final color of this image, follow photographer, Chris Knight as he creates a basic composite to blend some of the best elements from the Nativity Scene shoot. Watch as he assemble pre-isolated elements create a well balanced composition using Photoshop's lasso, masking, blend mode and clone stamp tools.
With compositing complete, proceed to the cleanup and final toning of the Nativity Scene image. Clean up skin, use frequency separation for balanced texture, and liquefy facial structure to better closely resemble the likenesses of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
Move the Nativity Scene towards the final stages of retouching, using Photoshop for targeted and global adjustments. Using a variety of steps, push the image into the final, finished look. Apply dodge and burn, curves, color fill, and vignetting to hone the final color and contrast of the image. Complete the finished grade for the final image example of this series - The Nativity Scene.
Personal Style and Closing Statement (11:27)
Congratulations! You have successfully completed Dramatic Portraiture with photographer, Chris Knight. We really want to see your work in our online community. We encourage you to practice these techniques and reflect on the philosophy presented within this training. But most importantly, we want you to implement these skill sets in a project of your own. We look forward to seeing what you will create!
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