November 30, 2016

How DP Rodrigo Prieto Uses Light and Color to Tell Stories with His Camera

There is a reason why DP Rodrigo Prieto has worked with some of the greatest directors of our time.

Once a DP that worked on commercials and low budget horror films, Rodrigo Prieto has become one of the most sought after cinematographers in the business. His work in Argo, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Brokeback Mountain, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, has shown that Prieto is a master at capturing the stylistic visions of the directors he works with. In this video, Sareesh Sudhakaran of wolfcrow explores some of the things that makes his work noteworthy.

Prieto has worked with the likes of Spike Lee, Petro Almodovar, Ang Lee, and Alejandro González Iñárritu—all fantastic directors with very different styles of filmmaking. What this indicates to us is that Prieto's approach to cinematography is one that most directors appeal to: one that serves and builds upon their own vision for a film.

That is one lesson all young cinematographers would be wise to learn—knowing how to communicate clearly with a director in order to understand what they're looking for, and having the skills and know-how to be able to produce it.

'The Wolf of Wall Street' (2013)

This doesn't mean DPs don't have a style all their own. Prieto himself favors shooting on film with smaller 35mm cameras for better use while shooting handheld. He also likes shooting with color gels and Kino Flos, and when shooting exteriors, likes the scaled down approach of using only light modifiers to light scenes.

This is just a primer on the Rodrigo Prieto's work, and hopefully you'll take some time to study it more in depth. You can check out some of our own articles on Prieto here and here.

For more, head on over to wolfcrow    

Your Comment


This is a great breakdown. Really educational, especially when talking about the lights and gels. Good stuff.

December 1, 2016 at 10:49AM

Gene Sung
DP / Director

I had the great pleasure of meeting Rodrigo Prieto about 7 years ago. He was shooting a series of TV commercials for Nationwide Insurance. I worked in the video production unit of their marketing department in those days and I was doing a BTS of how Nationwide did it's national commercials. Prieto was such a gentleman and more than will to share ideas with me when they were not shooting or taking a big break. I learned more from him in those two days than I had in some week-long lighting classes. He blew me away with his "wall of light," a rig with 6' long, 3200K Kino Flo bulbs. I'm not sure how many were in the rig, I'd say maybe 10 or 12 but it did form a huge, soft wall of light. That was the key but obviously threw light everywhere, on purpose, so that all he had to do was add a few background lights to finish out the scene. Once shot, the footage looked so "real" (as it said in the video, not like it was lit), that I could hardly believe it. Rodrigo really is a master and more than willing to pass on what he's learned to others in our business, What a class act!

December 1, 2016 at 3:01PM, Edited December 1, 3:01PM

Dave Stanton