Simple lighting is all you need to transform nighttime architecture into a beautiful scene. In this video, I’ll be walking through how to use dramatic lighting to create Hollywood-style evening portraits.

Video: Simple Dramatic Lighting for Hollywood Style Evening Portraits

We found ourselves in Orange, California in front of a beautiful building. The scene called for a nice symmetrical image and I wanted to bring out the glamour of a Hollywood portrait using dramatic lighting. To do this, we’ll follow the C.A.M.P. framework and we’ll begin with our Composition.

Related Reading: The C.A.M.P. Framework | What You Should Check Before Taking a Photograph

Step #1: Composing the Frame

The building featured these pillars that I could use as leading lines. Keeping symmetry in mind, I captured a basic composition of the scene.

Step #2: Set the Ambient Light

Captured at 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200 @ 20mm

The rule of thumb is that for a dramatic look, darken the ambient light. For a natural and airy look, keep the ambient light bright. Since we’re going for dramatic lighting, I kept the exposure dark.

Step #3: Add & Modify Light

I used the model light on my Profoto B10 Plus to light up my assistant, Jay, who is standing in for my couple, Chris and Salome. Notice that by itself, the light spills everywhere. To fix this, I added a grid to focus and create the dramatic lighting on my subject.

I then brought in my couple and had Jay hold the light from a higher angle. I wanted to aim the light on Salome to have her as the focus of the image.

Step #4: Photograph!

dramatic lighting final one

Check out our first final image with the dramatic lighting, edited using the Mood Pack from Visual Flow Presets.

I also wanted to capture a wider image, however, Jay would be visible in the shot. To accomplish this, I first captured the image Jay in the shot. Next, having my couple hold their pose, I had Jay step out and captured a plate shot. Then, I can merge the two images together in post-production to get the photograph I had in mind.

dramatic lighting final 2

Here is the final merged image.


I hope you enjoyed this article/video. You can use the C.A.M.P. framework in any situation to bring your vision to life. To learn about dramatic lighting and more, check out the Flash Photography Training System in SLR Lounge Premium. You can also check out Visual Flow for intuitive lighting based presets and retouching tools.