Studio Lighting | How to Use Flags to Shape and Control Light


How often do you remove light from your scene, before you begin shooting? Whether you are taking away top light from an outdoor natural light setting, or keeping excess spill from hitting your seamless backdrop in-studio, when to remove light can be just as important as when to add it.

The use of flags is often overlooked in the world of photography, but used extensively in cinematography. The late Jordan Cronenweth, the cinematographer behind Blade Runner, once said “It is not what you light that counts but what you don’t light.” Simple words that hold great weight, as it relates to photography.

In today’s episode of Digital Beret TV, we take a look at how flags can help you shape light and add cinematic impact to your photographs, using examples from our training series How to Light Like a Cinematographer.

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Cinematic Inspiration: City of Ember

© 2008 Twentieth Century Fox

Let me begin by simply stating that City of Ember is a visual feast for your eyes.

Of all the four elements of light, color is the element that really rises to the top here.

Each bold hue clearly defines a different area of the city and gives each part a unique fill and mood.

Here a just a few examples of the cinematic mastery of Xavier Pérez Grobet and City of Ember.

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I am surprised by how most photographers are not utilizing this cheap tool to create more dramatic images


Green is not a color you normally think about when setting the key light for your subject and scene.

When lighting motion pictures, cinematographers use color to help tell the story and evoke emotion.

Oftentimes photographers are worried about white balance and having the the color as neutral as possible.

While there is nothing wrong with that, I hope to provoke the idea that using color through the use of gels can greatly enhance your photographs..

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