Cinematic Photo Effect: Why, When, and How To Use It

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to make your photos look like screenshots from your favorite movie, including a tutorial on how to create this effect using picsart creative tools.

What is a cinematic photo?

cinematic photo example

Cinematic photos look like they were taken on the scene of a drama movie or TV show. There is no one way to achieve this effect in your photos. The approach you choose depends on your skill level and how comfortable you are with post-processing. For experienced photographers, expensive software and a complex, convoluted editing process can be the answer. For those looking for a quick fix, picsart offers an equally compelling alternative with just a few clicks or taps.

Elements of a good cinematic photo effect

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You know a dramatic photo when you see it, but it takes a trained eye to distill what makes a cinematic looking photo. Here are some of the basics:


What separates cinematic images from others is that you can virtually To feel them. Mood is the most essential element of cinema, after all. This is how filmmakers and cinematographers capture and captivate audiences. Creating a mood requires a combination of lighting, decor, modeling, and color, all of which you will work to improve in post-production. Some things to consider are the angle you’re shooting, your color palette, and the overall vibe of the location. How do they make you feel? Is this feeling conveyed in your photos? Don’t wait to be in the editing room to find out. Trial and error is advised.

Balanced colors

Cinematic photos should be easy on the eyes. Don’t worry too much about the coloring of your photo shoot, if it’s very vibrant. You can tone it down in post, using things like presets and curve settings. There are different types of palettes that photographers use when applying a cinematic look. One is the sepia effect, which gives photos a a warmer tone and vintage archival quality. Muted colors, which give a mood of severity or seriousness, are also more cinematic. In general, keep it simple.

Increase the contrast

Perhaps the most notable characteristic of cinematic photos is their exaggerated use of contrast. Contrast refers to the difference between light and dark pixels in an image. Adjusting the contrast can make an image more vivid or can cut tones for a more subdued, dark, dramatic, or mysterious feel.

Tell a story

Just because photographs capture a single moment doesn’t mean they can’t also communicate a narrative. After all, what is a film if not a series of moving images? When telling a story through a single image, consider including contrasting or competing elements in the shot. Think about how the viewer will interpret the variety. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And that’s true.

Practical tips for achieving a cinematic photo effect

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Getting the perfect cinematic shot can take a bit of preparation, as well as trial and error, not to mention various settings. Here are some tips you can follow to help you:

Study your favorite movies

First of all, what is it about the cinematic effect that moves you enough to want to replicate it in your own photos? What is your inspiration? It’s a great place to start. Watch movies that you found captivating. What did they do well? Was it the color palette? The contrast? The decor itself? Write down anything you like about it. Observe how each shot is composed and pay attention to how the lighting sets the mood. This will help you transfer that essence to your imagery.

Take RAW photos

If you use editing software to make your photos look like stills from a movie, take RAW (raw image file) images. With RAW photos, you can make edits that would be impossible with JPEG images. Depending on your level of experience, this can give you an unprecedented level of control over the editing process. Adjusting parameters such as color balance, contrast, etc., will offer deeper and more substantial changes. Be warned though, RAW images are also large files (because they contain more information). If you’re editing in-app, it’s worth keeping in mind.

Set the mood with lighting

While the lighting in ordinary photos often comes from the natural environment, the light sources in movies are often deliberately placed to achieve specific effects. This is why it is essential that you plan your shots meticulously. The two main types of lighting you can use to shape the mood of your images are soft lighting and hard lighting. Films often use soft lighting to make scenes dreamy and heavenly. On the other hand, they apply hard lighting to give a more dramatic tone.

Top 3 Photo Types for Cinematic Effect

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1. Focused on the subject

Have you ever noticed that when watching a movie, the subject is perfectly sharp, while the background is blurred (also known as bokeh)? The background, in this context, is little more than a palette. This helps to increase the drama and direct the viewer’s attention to the narrative. And it also works in photography. To blur your background like modern film, if you’re using a DSLR, you need to reduce your aperture. On newer iPhones, there is even a setting for this. Add a vignette effect for an extra touch.

2. Angling

Changing the position of your camera can have a profound effect on how people see and interpret your photo. Angling is one of them. An eye-level shot will help viewers connect with the subject. Then you can adjust other settings, like contrast and color, to enhance the sense of drama. Alternatively, shooting from a low level can make your subject appear larger and more dominant. Shooting from above can make them look wise or more vulnerable. And shooting from a side angle can create a feeling of imbalance which can also be very effective.

3. Dilapidated structures

What could be more melodramatic than a structure or place in a state of deterioration or disrepair? This type of photography is called “ruin porn” and because of its dark and robust aesthetic, it is suitable for the big stage. An abandoned train station. A shabby old bus. An abandoned restaurant in a post-industrial mining town. These types of images are so striking. Adding a model into the mix can be even more so. This type of environment can make for some truly unforgettable shots.

Get a cinematic photo effect in seconds

As mentioned earlier, there is no one way to achieve cinematic photo effects. Edition in picsart, you can create several types of cinematic montages. Here’s how to start creating a custom cinematic photo edit:

On the Web

1. Open the Picsart web editor and click New project begin.

2. Click on the Downloads tool and select an image you want to edit.

3. In the editing panel above the canvas, click the Effects and scroll through the options on the left side.

4. Once you’ve chosen your cinematic photo effect, make any final necessary adjustments and click the Export button to download your work.

On mobile

1. Open the Picsart app and tap the purple plus symbol to get started.
2. Upload the image you want to modify.
3. Tap the Effect option at the bottom of your screen.

4. Scroll down until you find the Simple Effects option and select from a range of cinematic photo effects. Preview each until you find the perfect fit for your aesthetic.
5. Adjust the levels of the effect you want to apply and tap Apply to confirm.
6. Save to your device or publish your creation to the Picsart community.

Create at the speed of culture

Picsart is a complete ecosystem of free content, powerful tools, and creator inspiration. With one billion downloads and over 150 million monthly active creators, Picsart is the largest creative platform in the world. Picsart has collaborated with major artists and brands like BLACKPINK, Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers, Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, One Direction, Sanrio: Hello Kitty, Warner Bros. Entertainment, iHeartMedia, Condé Nast, and more. Download the app or start editing on the web today to enhance your photos and videos with thousands of quick and easy editing tools, trendy filters, fun stickers and shiny backgrounds. Unleash your creativity and go gold for premium benefits!

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