This past weekend, I was very excited to see The King’s Speech win Best Picture at the 2011 Academy Awards. It was one of those films where you walked out of the theater and thought, “That is going to win Best Picture.” Same with Colin Firth as Best Actor. If you saw the movie – you knew. It’s just like when you see a stunning print come around in competition and you know it is going to win a lot of awards. Great stands out among good.
The weird part was that every time I asked a photographer friend if they had seen King’s Speech or even Black Swan, they would usually say no. Talk about missing out on an educational opportunity! Film-making is not all that different from photography – they are both visual mediums, trying to tell a story. Because of these similarities, a photographer can learn a lot by watching a great film.
The biggest thing I always notice is how they light the scenes. Is there very stark, dramatic light or a soft, overall light? The lighting makes a huge difference in the feeling of the scene – just as it does the feeling of a photograph.
Another thing to look for is how they film. Do they use a lot of wide angle shots or uncomfortably close shots? Do they film from unusual angles or perhaps with a shaky, handheld technique? Many of these factors go completely unnoticed when you are watching a movie, but they help to tell your brain what kind of emotion they are trying to convey.
Next time you watch a movie, try to notice things like the lighting and camerawork. Try to imagine how you would recreate that shot with your camera. How would you light the room, what lens would you use, etc? By challenging yourself to solve these types of problems, you will be better able to handle situations when they occur during an actual photo shoot.
By the way – if you haven’t seen The King’s Speech or Black Swan … please turn off your laptop and proceed to the theater!