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Elisha Knight: Lighting & Editing for Cinematic Portraits

Elisha Knight: Lighting & Editing for Cinematic Portraits

Creating moody and cinematic portraits is something photographer Elisha Knight has down to a science. Inspired by the look of classic films, you can find this type of lighting used everywhere, from ad campaigns to the covers of fashion magazines. Though it may seem intricate and daunting, achieving this look isn't as complicated as you might think!

In this video tutorial, "Lighting & Editing for Cinematic Portraits," Elisha breaks down her approach with easy-to-replicate lighting set-ups and color toning processes. With a few helpful tips and tricks to keep in mind along the way, it's sure to help you add a classic film flair to your next portrait session.

We asked Elisha to describe in her own words what ‘cinematic portraits’ means to her and a bit of her processes. She explained to us: “A cinematic portrait can look like anything! To me, it's all about telling a story through your subject while using thoughtful lighting, color, and composition. I'm drawn to images that tend to be darker and dramatic, which is often labeled as cinematic.”

“I've recently started to mix color temperatures to mimic natural light. Natural light isn't ever just a single color. If you think of window light, you have warmer tones coming from the sunlight and cooler tones from the sky and grass or concrete. It's something I am still experimenting with, but mixing color temperatures adds a nice dimension to your light.”

“I got pretty bored with the usual one-light setup I used and wanted to experiment with ways to elevate that simple setup. I just kept trying different things with the modifier, like slightly pulling off the diffusion to get a couple of different light qualities from one source. I also started using things like tissue paper, wine glasses, or a plastic bag in front of the lens to get some interesting blur or glow effects in-camera. It's been a fun way to breathe new life into my work!”

“The techniques I use in the studio can be used on-location as well. Often, I go into a shoot and try to mimic and enhance the lighting in the room I am in, whether on a backdrop or not. The same applies when outdoors in the sun. I usually block the sun off the subject using whatever light and modifier I am using as my key and make the intensity something natural.”

“Annie Leibovitz was (and still is!) a huge inspiration as I was discovering my style. Her lighting is iconic yet subtle. It's something you appreciate more as you gain experience. I love how she can capture such genuine expressions within such a stylized portrait. My personal style has developed over a long time. Patterns start to emerge as you follow your instinct more and more.”

“Color has played such a huge role in my work since the beginning. The direction I choose to take a color grade depends entirely on what is in front of the camera. Everything from the skin tone of the subject, to the wardrobe, to the makeup, to the background I choose plays a role. Over time I have developed a handful of foundational color profiles. They are presets that work as a great way to try different looks quickly, and once you find one, build from there. If anyone is interested in these foundational presets, I sell them over on my website!”

We asked Elisha for any last bits of advice for photographers out there and she replied: “For those of you who are just starting your studio lighting journey, keep it simple. Start learning how to master one light and experiment from there. Lighting should be fun so enjoy it!”

In this video Elisha uses:

  • ELC 500/500 Studio Monolight Dual Kit with Reflectors and Case

    $1,599.99More infoAdd to cart

    ELC 500/500 Studio Monolight Dual Kit with Reflectors and Case


    The Elinchrom ELC 500 Studio Monolight Dual Kit. Comprised of two modern 500 Ws compacts built to handle your next adventure reliably and consistently. Featuring TTL with Manual Lock, HSS, Smart Pro-Active Cooling, Auto-On, and direct compatibility with Elinchrom's world-renown light modifiers. Always Prepared The ELCs are ready to go the moment inspiration strikes you. With Auto-On, the unit is always in stand by mode with your previous settings saved, and the onboard TTL speeds up dialing in your next exposure. The Manual Lock function enables a quick switch from TTL to Manual without losing exposure settings for quick adjustments or to explore creative effects. Engineered to Last Every aspect of the ELC 500 has been designed and rigorously tested to deliver maximum reliability and extended lifetime. Elinchrom created the ELCs to last through your next adventure. And the one after. And many after that. Stay Cool Under Pressure With Elinchrom's Smart Pro-Active Cooling, the ELC's learn your shooting style and adapt their cooling cycles around it, never interrupting your creative flow. Plus, their cleverly engineered airflow design and low-noise speed-controlled fan can handle the heaviest of workloads. Explore More As important as a solid studio strobe is, the light modifier is where the real magic happens. The bayonet Quick-Lock system grants you direct access to Elinchrom's world-renown light modifiers. Combined with the ELC's bright, Daylight LED modeling lamp to aid your pre-visualization. The potential to evolve your lighting style is endless. Unlimited Flexibility Your equipment should never limit you. Whether you are experimenting in your living room or working in a large studio, the ELC 500 can acclimate. ELCs can be powered down to 7 Ws so that you can reach your desired depth of field or add only a hint of light. Plus, with HSS, you can freeze motion, overpower ambient light and darken backgrounds. Edit Less, Deliver Faster. Elinchrom's precise colour science and accuracy over the whole power range enables you to deliver professional and consistent results to your clients with less wasted time and money in post-production. Wireless Freedom Never miss a shot with Elinchrom's Skyport radio-frequency system compatible with 7 camera brands. You also get intuitive control of flash settings from your camera and your computer. Even non-Elinchrom units and speedlights can be integrated into the wireless setup via the Elinchrom Skyport Receiver Plus.

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  • Elinchrom Skyport Transmitter Pro for Nikon

    $249.95More infoAdd to cart

    Elinchrom Skyport Transmitter Pro for Nikon


    The Elinchrom Skyport Transmitter Pro for Nikon represents the latest evolution in Elinchrom's venerable wireless ecosystem. It combines compatibility with three generations of transceivers and flash heads with cutting edge features like Hi-Sync flash sync speeds up to 1/8000 sec two way visual feedback and TTL with Manual Lock.

    Two Way Visual Feedback Interface
    The large LCD display of the Skyport HS features two-way control via a Visual Feedback Interface that lets you see the exact power of every light in your setup right on the transmitter. The individual strobes show up automatically on the screen, and users can control each light's power level and modeling lamp settings directly from the Skyport transmitter or on the strobe itself, which instantly shows the updated power settings.

    Hi-Sync and HSS
    Go beyond the X-Sync of your camera with two different flash synchronisation technologies; Hi-Synch and HSS. Hi-Sync is optimised for power and while HSS is easier to use and more consistent. The Transmitter Pro uniquely integrates both Hi-Sync and HSS so photographers can simply access sync speeds up to 1/8000s to freeze motion, overpower the sun, darken backgrounds, or use a wider aperture for a shallow depth of field.

    Hi-Sync is only achievable with Hi-Sync enabled flash heads and the Transmitter Pro must be used in manual mode while HSS only works with TTL enabled units with the Transmitter pro in either manual or TTL mode.
    Note: both technologies may be used simultaneously when the Transmitter Pro is in manual mode. (ex. ELB 1200 with Hi-Sync + ELB 500 TTL with HSS)

    Impressive Wireless Range
    The Skyport Transmitter Pro has 20 channels and 4 groups that can be used for either Normal or Speed mode, and a wireless range of 656' outdoors and 196' indoors. Users can instantly distinguish what sync mode they are in since the backlit display glows green for normal sync mode, and red for speed sync mode.

    The Skyport Transmitter Pro is compatible with previous generations of Elinchrom flash units including the EL- Skyport Transceiver RX module for Style RX, Digital RX, and Ranger RX systems and the integrated EL-Skyport modules for the BRX, D-Lite RX, ELC Pro HD, and ELB series. The Skyport Transmitter Pro adds synchronization capability and two-way control functionality to all Elinchrom lights with EL-Skyport capability.

    User Updatable Firmware
    Designed to be a future proof, users can update the firmware of the Transmitter Pro via included mini usb cable. Current Skyport Plus HS owners can update to full Pro functionality via a free firmware update on

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  • Indirect Litemotiv Octa 190cm / 75"

    $1,420.00More infoAdd to cart

    Indirect Litemotiv Octa 190cm / 75"


    The Octa is ideal when using the reflection method of light distribution and as a result the Octa does give remarkably even illumination over the front cloth. Consequently, it can be used very close to the subject giving particularly soft results. For crisp beauty shots with higher contrast, the external diffuser can be removed.

    The Indirect Litemotiv includes the tilthead, 360° rotating system, internal & external diffusers and carrying bag, already pre-mounted.

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To see more of Elisha’s work, get more information on her presets, and to keep up on her future projects find her on Instagram at @elishaknight and her website

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