June 19, 2015 at 5:35PM

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"The Cinematic Look" vs. "The Indie Look": Thoughts and Opinions...

Hi folks, long time reader, first-time poster here.

I was perusing the Cinematography Reels on Vimeo after reading some posts about "Getting The Cinematic Look" here, and a thought occurred to me.

I used to be an Editorial Photographer back in the 90s, and back then we rarely used a short Depth of Field. I didn't shoot models or headshots, so that probably explains that. Then, in 2010, I got back into photography and bought a Canon T2i. I noticed after awhile that everyone was getting the same camera and taking the same photos, including, at times, myself. Usually close-ups of insects with a blurred background, or, for awhile, headshots with blurred backgrounds. There are people who consider a short DoF to be "more professional looking", so the trend really took off. In fact, I would say that the goal of a lot of these cheaper cameras and cell phone cameras is to get that short DoF. I even did it myself when I had a little Pany PV-190, by getting as far back as I could from the subject and zooming in. But I also got really into shooting Architectural photos, so my Editorial roots would show since I'm shooting a very long DoF.

Anyway, I feel like I've seen about a million posts over the last few years that tout a short DoF as "THE Cinematic Look" overall. However, I'm pretty well versed in Film and Cinematography, and it came to me that this isn't really true. In fact, most movies I watch, especially Tentpoles, don't use much, if any, short DoF, maybe, just maybe, here and there. I can't even think of a single Tentpole/Blockbuster of the last few years that had a single shot like this.

Myself, I like short DoF, but more because of what I personally perceive as the "flatness" of the shot. One of my favorite Cinematographers, Lance Acord, used this effect so beautifully in Lost in Translation, as did Hoyte Van Hoytema in Her. However, I also really love the Ansel Adams vastness of Roger Deakins landscape work, where he uses a very deep DoF, often leaving the character alone and tiny in the vastness of their environment. I don't feel like you have to rack focus to show the character being "lost" in their environment, or whatever.

So isn't it interesting, given that most bigger films use a longer DoF, that so many people consider it more "Cinematic" to shoot using a short DoF?

I would say; If you want a Blockbuster look, go for Long DoF. If you want that Indie look, Short DoF is probably what you're going for. But you should always just go for what actually works, instead of having just one DoF in mind. Be flexible.

Opinions, please.

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