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From ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ To ’21 Grams’, This Breakdown of Rodrigo Prieto’s Work Is Major Photographic Inspiration

By Kishore Sawh on December 4th 2016

The video below is 6 minutes of video made for the modern ADD consumer that hits direct and hard, relentlessly delivering information and insight you as a photographer could benefit from – but you’ve got to pay attention.

If you ever get a chance to sit down with a successful photographer for a drink and ask about their influences, you’ll find (about 3 gins in) that films and videos feature heavily. Of course we draw our inspiration from our collective experiences, things we see even in the peripheral, but inspiration directly from film is pretty much standard. It could be the work of Tony Scott in Top Gun, Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’, or pretty much anything from Rodrigo Prieto.


Prieto is a cinematographer and director of photography for movies like Wolf Of Wall Street, Babel, Argo, 21 Grams, 8 Mile, Lana Del Rey’s Blue Jeans short, and a succession of others. His visuals have played a significant part in representing a more raw and modern gritty film style, paired with classical theory, and part of what makes it masterful is you as a viewer are imperceptibly drawn in without directly recognizing why. That’s masterful, and in case you were interested in why his visuals make such an impact, either to borrow or appreciate, Wolfcrow does a fantastic job pointing it all out.

Wolfcrow explains Prieto’s use of handheld cameras to pull you in; his use of specific colors assigned not strictly to scenes but to individual characters, and a common color to bring them all together; why his rim is never hotter than the key light; why the key is often overexposed; the choice to vary the format from anamorphic to Super 35, to 16mm in different scenes and locations, and even what lighting techniques and filter choices.



The brilliant thing about all of this isn’t just that he lists out Prieto’s choices but more importantly gives the reasons why they exist: he gives the ‘Y’s behind the ‘Q’s, and when you know why, it lends ideas on how to implement this into your photography. Make no mistake, this isn’t just about and for filmmakers, as you can learn a lot as a photographer. You can get a sense of why and when film is better than digital; or primes versus zooms, and how to implement color. It helps you evoke something rather than catching it as it happens.

[REWIND: Leonardo DiCaprio’s Latest Film Shot Only With Natural Light | Foolhardy or Impressive?]

It’s 6 minutes that’ll give you ideas and a much greater understanding and appreciation for the films you may already love. That’s 6 minutes well spent.

Check out more from Wolfcrow on YouTube and his site.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

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