WEDDING SEASON SALE! 30% Off Training Systems!

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds
Tips & Tricks

Using Flags To Control Light For Cinematic Style Images

By Chris Nachtwey on November 19th 2014

Light, light, and more light. I’m not sure about you, but I’m obsessed with light. Light is something that photographers love and hate. Sometimes the light is perfect, sometimes it’s horrible, but no matter what the situation is, we need know how to correctly use it, shape, it and create it. One lighting tool used a lot in cinematography, but often overlooked for still photography, is the use of flags. Flags are great tools for shaping light in the the studio or out in the field, and can be used to shape light exactly how you want it for a more cinematic look to your images.


In the video below, Joel Dryer walks us through how he uses flags to shape light to achieve a cinematic look for still images.


As you can see in the video, flags are very versatile light shaping tools. Joel uses flags in two very different situations. In the first situation, he uses large flags to help shape and prevent two different key lights: one to create a blue temperature mimicking moonlight and the subject’s key light, which was a neutral color temperature. To keep the moonlight from spilling onto the subject’s key light, Joel uses a large flag to prevent any spill. This is great because if he didn’t use a flag, he would have two different color temperature lights spilling into the scene and not creating the look he wanted.


Large Flags Usedusing-flags-to-control-light-for-cinematic-photos-1-2

Final Image


In the second situation, Joel places a flag in between a large softbox acting as his key light and his subject to help create a bit of gradation and help draw the viewer’s eyes to the subject’s eyes. Essentially, what he is doing is creating a bit of a shadow which can create texture and mood in an image.

Lighting Set Upusing-flags-to-control-light-for-cinematic-photos-2-2

Final Image



As you can see from Joel’s examples, flags are extremely versatile light shaping tools. What’s even more fun, if you’re a DIY photographer, you can create endless arrays of custom flags to fit any shooting situation you’re in. If you were to walk onto a film set, you would see similar lighting situations and flags being used. Cinematographers know how to light complex scenes and applying the use of flags in your images could help you create a more complete cinematic style lit image. All in all, I love seeing simple and easy to understand lighting tutorials like this, and this reminds me that I need to use flags more when I’m shaping my light!

CREDITS: Photographs by Joel Dryer are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify, or re-post this article or image without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

Via: Joel Dryer Youtube Page

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Basit Zargar

    awesome pictures

    | |
  2. Fernando Lachica

    Yes lighting do matters most and you give it at most. thanks

    | |
  3. Joel Dryer

    Hey Brandon! Thanks for the positive feedback. Glad you found it helpful. Take care!

    | |
  4. Brandon Dewey

    great BTS video, thanks for the tips

    | |