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Aakaash Bali: Creating Cinematic Images

Aakaash Bali: Creating Cinematic Images

If you're a fan of storytelling and moody, cinematic, and almost eerie imagery, then you will love Aakaash Bali's work. His photos feel like they have been pulled from a film and are often accompanied by short-form videos that bring you deeper into the world surrounding them. From his carefully planned compositions and use of light and color, Aakaash makes us feel like we are a part of the story he crafts. In this article, we delve into Aakassh's influences, artistic process, and what advice he has for other artists striving to find their voice.

Team Credits Far From Home:

Original Concept & Still Photography: Aakaash Bali (@aakaashbphoto)

Woman In Red: Emily Nelson (

Woman In White: Caitlin Davidson (@cat.a_lyst)

Director of Photography & Editing: Abe Bello (@abeediting)

Colorist: Paul Del Vecchio (@pdelv)

Original Score & Sound Design: Christian Ladigoski (@christianladigoski)

Grip, BTS & AC: Matt Bell (@mattbellphoto)

Special Thanks To Elinchrom LTD, The Mac Arthur Inn

“I'm a fine-art photographer based in New York. I'm a simple guy with an overactive brain most days. I watch too many movies, and they've rubbed off on me. My style is heavily inspired by cinema, from color and light to storytelling. My stories are sometimes tragic, nostalgic, ethereal, and even innocent. I tend to create whimsical situations out of everyday activities, but with a dash of sadness and a heavy heart.”

“I am self-taught. When I was young, I picked up my father's camera and never put it down. I remember being the only 12-year old in class who enjoyed playing in Photoshop instead of riding a bike. I guess, to an extent, it started as an obsession with photography. My father was an illustrator back in his day, and I feel like some of those genes rubbed off on me somehow. With that and constantly watching every movie I could, I guess the cinematic look’s appreciation was taught to me pretty early. Over the years, all I've done is tried to refine the cinematic + tableau look(s), and I don't think I'm anywhere near finished.”

“Throughout life, I've been in some dark places and some rough situations. I believe we all have, and those shape us into who we become. For me, remembering how a certain situation made me feel in the past has become a building block of the emotional response I aim to achieve in my stories. I also aim to create images based on the childhood or life I wish I had. I grew up in the city between four small walls, having not seen much of the world. I never had peace and quiet, open space, or access to a magical sunset every day. In a way, I try to create these "feelings" just to experience them.


Every image starts with an emotion: loneliness, sadness, anger, fear, happiness, or anything under the sun. I then try and craft a relatable story around this with influence from my childhood memories or someone else's. This next leads to a sketch and a description of the concept.


After the concept is final, I scout for a location, cast talent, and coordinate the set design, color, and light. Generally, my team also produces a short film of these concepts. We use these to demo a service I offer to clients, called The Cinema Experience.

When we asked Aakaash if he pre-visualized color in his images, he answered with a resounding “Yes!”

“I can't stress this enough: Great color happens on set, not in post.

I'm a strong believer in color design, coordination, and color psychology. Choosing colors that "feel" real is something I consider important. As images age, color trends do as well. I believe that timeless images feel like a slice of reality, so I aim for realism and believability. I chase colors that feel like a lucid dream.

I didn't always do this, but I think it's a great habit to develop. Learning to use color effectively, rather than simply capturing color, has changed my work for the best.”

Model: Liana Riccardi (@_thisisliana)

Original Concept & Photography: Aakaash Bali (@aakaashbphoto)

Promo Reel: Abriel Bello (@abeediting)

Grips: Emily Nelson (, Tim Kohn (@tkohn40)

Aakaash told us that his primary motivation and inspiration is his team:
“I absolutely could not do anything without my awesome team. Baptiste Carrara (@baptistecarrara_dp), Abe Bello (@abeediting), Christian Ladigoski (@christianladigoski), Isabel Flemming (@smoltog), Matt Bell (@mattbellphoto), and Aaqil Khoja (@aaqilkhoja).


This amazing, epic, talented group of individuals motivate me to create, and they sure as hell challenge me to raise the bar every single time. I love all of you guys!

I'm also very inspired by artists such as Gregory Crewdson, Nicky Hamilton, Ole Marius Joergensen, Kate Woodman, and Erik Almas.

I've found that surrounding yourself with awesome like-minded people and curating your artistic world is a huge motivator!” 

Model: Jaime Kimbel

Original Concept & Photography: Aakaash Bali (@aakaashbphoto)

“At the moment, I have a primary side project called The Shadow District. It is a focus on nostalgic, dark, and moody nighttime images. They carry a cinematic yet life-like feel; however, they don't contain any people. This is a project I started just to clear my mind. Roaming around in the dark is a beautiful thing to do, especially when it's foggy out.

You can check out this project at: (Official Print Shop)

I also have an active portrait series in development called PORTALS, as well as a series in planning based on childhood nostalgia, shot entirely with Elinchrom lighting.”

“The ELB Dual To-Go kit is the reason why I've started more outdoor work rather than indoor set work. I absolutely LOVE the system, the ease of use, and the simple setup. I've been experimenting with creating realistic tableau-style images using an ELB head + a 68" Rotalux Octa on a boom-arm. The system is just so light and easy to carry!


In terms of my work overall, I'd like to attempt a steady increase of production value with larger and larger projects. Elinchrom's awesome technology will certainly be a driver of this!”

Model: Caitlin Davidson (@cat.a_lyst)

Original Concept & Photography: Aakaash Bali (@aakaashbphoto)

Cinematography: Baptiste Carrara (@baptistecarrara_dp)

Composer: Christian Ladigoski (@christianladigoski)

Production Assistant: Aaqil Khoja (@aaqilkhoja

When we asked Aakaash how his lighting changed through his career, he told us: “At one point, I was solely a natural-light photographer. Over time, I started adding in a soft, flattering light. I chased a high-end editorial look initially but soon began to appreciate realistic, motivated light more. Over time, I started using harder, harsher light. I also own about 100 gels, and I've probably lost each of them at least once. Oh, and haze. Haze makes everything better.”

Model: Dani Goodwin (@grlinthecurl)
Original Concept & Photography: Aakaash Bali (@aakaashbphoto)
Cinematography: Abriel Bello (@abeediting

Presently, I use (and absolutely love) an Elinchrom ELB 500 Dual-To-Go kit. I often pair it with the 68" Rotalux Octabox when space permits or with a 24" Rotalux Octabox. I plan on adding 4-6 more light heads in the future as well for larger lighting design applications. I've found that shooting on the Fujifilm GFX100 alongside Elinchrom lighting equipment delivers a noticeably more beautiful result with more subtle falloff than my previous light kit.”

Model: Isabel Flemming (@smoltog)
Original Concept & Photography: Aakaash Bali (@aakaashbphoto)
Production Assistants: Abriel Bello (@abeediting), Matt Bell (@mattbellphoto

Original Concept & Still Photography: Aakaash Bali (@aakaashbphoto)

Starring: Katie Masters (@katiemasters93)

Cinematography: Abriel Bello (@abeediting)

Production Assistant: Aaqil Khoja (@aaqilkhoja)

Post-Production Assistant: Ahish Bohd (@the_picturestore.y)


To see more of Aakaash’s work and to keep up on his future projects
Find him on Instagram at @AakaashBPhoto
or his website

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