Cinematic photography has been popular in the last decade or so for its ability to make visual stories more immersive. Angles and framing are the landmark storytelling tools for this style, while color sets the mood that complements the narrative.
We see it in both digital and film photography projects, but the latter remains one of the most effective ways to achieve a riveting cinematic quality. After all, it’s where all the moody color palettes and grainy, lo-fi quality come from.
If you’re looking for some inspiration for this visual style, the impressive film photography of London-based fine art photographer Henri Prestes deserves checking out.
“Phantom Plains” and “They Drive by Night” were among the first of Henri’s works that I discovered and found impressive. They resonated with me not only because I shoot film as well, but also because of my interest in emotive photography and surreal visuals.
I find that cinematic photography like these sets achieve these qualities very well. In turn, film photography works great to set an eye-catching look.
Getting lost in mood and mystery
To me, browsing through “Phantom Plains” feels like taking an invitation to dive into Henri’s dreams and join him in exploring all these mysterious and desolate places. As with most cinematic photography projects, every shot looks and fees like scenes from a movie — as if the frame will pan out or transition into a sweeping shot anytime. The colors he captured also effectively emphasized the surreal mood in the scenes he captured.
Meanwhile, I consider “They Drive by Night” as the more cinematic of the two, especially since it features one of the most common scenes in movies. I also like how the car lights also act like leading lines in each scene while adding an eerie touch to the already mysterious settings.
As with “Phantom Plains,” prominent silhouettes are set against dreamy and foggy color palettes to create a strikingly atmospheric look to the series.
The cinematic quality of film photography
Henri’s work is a testament to how film photography remains a great medium for exploring the cinematic photography. This is a quality inherent to film, especially since it practically comes built-in with the nostalgic and grainy look that works really well with the visual style. So if you’re a film photographer looking for more approaches to make the most out of the medium, this is certainly right up your alley.
However, if you’re a digital photographer looking into giving your snaps a cinematic look, you may want to take notes from Henri’s sets and borrow the quirks and nostalgic colors of film photography.
All photos by Henri Prestes. Used with Creative Commons permission.