Getting the cinematic Street Photography look


What Street Photography is differs from person to person. But also the aesthetics of it might vary to. Here I converse with Jeff Krol about the cinematic street photography look.

Jeff, please tell us a bit more about yourself

I'm Jeff Krol, 40 years old, technician, married with the greatest woman in the world and she gave me 2 wonderful kids. My passion is photography.


Where in the world are you located?

I live in Hoogeveen, the Netherlands


What inspired you to become a photographer?

I searched for a new hobby actually. Found photography, got inspiration on the internet and that got me exited!

Who or what influenced your photography?

After seeing thousands of images on photosites, books, magazines I bounced against a few images on flickr. They were so called ‘cinematic' images a.k.a. movie stills and that really blew my mind! I was good at portraits but street photography had to be it…


I felt it, so I started to study all those cinematic pictures. Not the images of famous photographers back in the day, no, the images of photographers that do new things, right now!


Well, here are the photographers that inspired me the most: – Bruce Gilden (he was the trigger for streetphotography) – Stefano Santucci – James YeungMaxime Villalonga

What would be the elements needed to create that “cinematic look” your photographs have?

Mood… simple as that. I get that by shooting into direct (sun) light. I crop the image to 2.35:1 to get that real cinematic feeling, like you paused your Blu Ray player.


I see for mood, but what do you look for exactly in the streets and make you SEE a cinematic moment?

I mostly look around for interesting people, direct (sun)light and lines. Specially the lines create depth and if I shoot wide open it adds even more depth so the subject in the picture really pops out. Sometimes I close one eye (as if I wink) and look around, that makes me see the things more framed. The main thing for me is to try and see what happens within the next 5 to 10 seconds.


If I think something interesting will happen, because I see something cool with the tree items I mention before, I have to take position for a composition, adjust my camera and lens, choose a focus point and try to shoot the scene. BUt I also can jump right in front of you, take 3 pictures and disappear in the crowd.


What about the tools? What camera and “Cinematic lens” do you use for that shallow depth of field?

I started with a pentax K20 and some old 2nd hand lenses from the 70s. Now I shoot with a canon 5D MK2. I had several lenses (50mm f1.4 – 135mm f2.0L) but since a year I mainly use the amazing Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art lens. I also own a 85mm f1.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8L, but I use them rarely.


After the cinematic crop, how do you get your colors?

This question pops up in my mailbox almost every week. People ask me this so often and I can't actually give them a direct answer. Every picture gets a different treatment because every one of them are shot in different conditions. Not one picture equals the other. I adjust the colors and exposure with curves.


This in different stacked layers. I actually just play with the sliders to get a good color that matches another tone in the original shot. That's mainly the key; match the colors with your subject or environment so that everything looks smooth and balanced. A portrait will match the colors of a i.e. a jacket or hat, a snow scene will become more blue to get a cold feeling, an image with the sun bursting into the frame get a warmer tone (more reds).

Editor's notes: Open photoshop, add a new layer or go to Image>Adjustments>Curves (the later one is destructive). Click on the menu that says “RGB” and select one of the channels there and adjust to taste, example:


Are you subconsciously recording a movie? Do you find a thread amongst all of your cinematic images?

No I don't wander around like I'm in a movie. I just love to walk the streets in crowded places and take pictures of people in the streets. Feel the vibe!

I'm sure your DSLR does video, ever tried making the jump? If so, how did you like it?

No I don't do movies (yet), maybe in the future. I tried, but for video I need to expand my gear. It's really hard to focus at f1.4 😉


What would be the best tip you would offer those who want to try the cinematic style?

Buy a good premium lens with at least f2.8! Study cinematic pictures and movies (look at the depth of field, colors and exposure/light) and just go out there and shoot!

Cinematic Street Photography Ebook

If you are interested in shooting street photography like a movie director, click here to get my cinematic street photography ebook.

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10 thoughts on “Getting the cinematic Street Photography look”

  1. Pingback: Découvertes récentes | L'Approche et le Traitement documentaire

  2. I recently discovered the works of Jeff Krol on Flickr and I really loved them. I am happy I found this article where he talks (very little) about his “how to” technique. He said: “Study cinematic pictures and movies (look at the depth of field, colors and exposure/light)”. Other then observing great artists’ work, is there any bibliography that one can use to learn how to make this cinematic look? I’ve looked through the internet but this subject is not well documented. Could you maybe invite Jeff, if he would be so kind, to illustrate how he edits one of his photos, into a tutorial? That would be priceless.

    1. Well, get a fast lens like 1.4, a 50mm or 75mm lens. Shoot wide open, people, scenes, etc. Crop your images with the back letterbox. Add curves like I showed above and voila 🙂
      What movies, you will see that they are color graded…scifi tends to be blue, action tends to be warm, etc

  3. Pingback: INSPIRED EYE | The big, fat list of all things Street Photography

  4. Great images. I like the crop effect that makes it more like film. The mood in all of these is the other common element. It gives a signature view to your work. Lovely images.

  5. This image was taken in Burgundy France in July. 2014 during the Bastille Day celebrations. The children in this little medieval village were playing games. This little girl couldn’t get this little toy helicopter to fly, and she finally gives up.

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