10+1 Films Every Photographer Should Watch
Domingo Algaba, Photographer, Barcelona
14 February 2018
As an educational community our drive is to provide you with tools to keep growing and perfecting your craft. We are inaugurating the Magazine with an article about using cinema as a source of inspiration for wedding photographers with the help of a few friends.
Drawing inspiration from other art disciplines has always been a valious element when looking for resources to help us improve our game.
Directors of photography, too often overlooked, are responsible for creating a visual narrative that reflects the message and emotions that the director and actors want to express in a film. Photography shares a lot in common with cinema, and we as such can learn about lightning, composition and storytelling by watching good cinematography and paying close attention.
We asked 10 of our favorite wedding photographers to recommend us a movie every photographer should watch. The final selection represents various styles and genres, and we can agree that all are great films definitely worth watching that can be a source of inspiration when watched carefully. So go ahead, take note, and add them to your watchlist.
Directors of photography: Ryszard Lenczewski & Lukasz Zal
Ida is a polish film by Pawel Pawlikowski shot entirely in black & white film. It tells the story of Anna, a young nun in 1960s Poland, that discovers a dark family secret from the years of the German occupation and sets her on a journey to find out her family’s tragic story, where they belonged and what they believed in.
Fer chose it for the cinematographers’ use of bold framing that creates the tension needed to tell the story.
As Ryszard Lenczewski, the main DOP, explains: “We chose black and white and the 1.33 frame (4:3) because it was evocative of Polish films of that era, the early 1960s. We designed the unusual compositions to make the audience feel uncertain, to watch in a different way.”
Director of photography: Adam Arkapaw
Justin Kurzel, a novel Australian director, pulled this stunning Shakespeare adaptation as his 3rd film. As you probably know, the film tells the classic story of the rise and fall of Macbeth to the throne. With a slow rhythm, careful cinematography and a superb use of ambient color, it’s “visually haunting” as Nicole puts it.
Adam Arkapaw, the cinematographer, known for other films like The light between the ocean, also very beautiful and worth watching, has a promising career and we’ll definitely pay attention to his next works.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013)
Director of photography: Larry Smith
Nicolas Winding Refn has a few films on his doing that could be on this list by its merits like Valhalla Rising, Drive or The Neon Demon. The three have in common with Only god forgives it’s haunting storytelling, compelling style, slow pace and stunning imagery. This was his second movie with Ryan Gosling right after the success of Drive. It tells the story of Julian, a Bangkok underworld drug-smuggler, who after his brother is murdered is set with the task of avenging his death.
Serafín loves the film because of its “composition, use of neon lights, a good storytelling and because it’s completely different to my photographic style”. He remarks that it’s wonderful to “see something different than what you do and be able to appreciate it and learn from it”.
Director of photography: Greig Fraser
There are a few films on this list shot by unexperienced directors, and Lion is a great example of how quality is not the result of a long trajectory. Australian director Garth Davis had only directed a documentary and a few episodes of two Australian TV shows before embarking on the making of Lion. He created a beautiful film that granted him 6 Oscar nominations and won 2 BAFTA awards. Not bad for a debutant.
The film tells the story of Saroo, a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers away from home. Saroo struggles to survive on the streets and eventually is sent to an orphanage where he is adopted by a loving Australian family. In his adulthood he embarks on an gripping emotional journey to find his lost family.
As Kara puts it: “Lion is captivating not only in experiencing his journey, but in the way the cinematography adds a layer of depth to the emotion and feeling it provokes.”
Director of photography: Harris Savides
David Fincher’s film tells the story of an unidentified serial killer named “Zodiac”, who in the late 1960s/early 1970s terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area, and the investigation led by the police and a cartoonist turned amateur detective who is obsessed with the case.
Fincher’s approach to Zodiac was to create a look mundane enough that audiences would accept as the truth. Interestingly, Fincher and Savides, the cinematographer, used the photographs of William Eggleston, Stephen Shore’s work from the early Seventies as inspiration for the film to try and capture the look and feel of the period.
Daniel, an avid cinema fan, chose it for it’s “impecable narrative. It’s pure visual inspiration. And I think it’s Fincher’s most underrated movie being one of the best.”
Julia & Gil
LIFE OF PI (2012)
Director of photography: Claudio Miranda
Ang Lee has made a few movies that could be on this list, such as Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, HIdden Dragon and Eat, drink, man, woman. In Life of Pi, Lee tells the epic story of Pi, a young boy who survives a boat sinking at sea and is cast away on a boat with the only other survivor: a savage Bengal tiger.
It’s an incredible film, inventive, emotional and poetic. Julia & Gil chose it for it’s “fantastic story telling and amazing images”. We can’t agree more.
Director of photography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Christopher Nolan is one of those names that would appear on this list no matter what. His style is loved by many (and despised by more). He is responsible for creating a personal storytelling style and has crafted some remarkable films like Inception, Interstellar & The Dark Knight trilogy.
Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, during a fierce battle on World War II. Lukas chose it because “it was awesome, full of interesting angles and dynamic shots from up close, plus interesting perspectives from bellow and shooting through objects a lot. It has such a beautiful documentary style”.
Director of photography: Nicola Pecorini
Terry Gilliam, le enfant terrible, member of the legendary Monty Python, has a long list of films that share his crazy visual style and his particular taste for the weird and wonderful, such as Brazil, 12 Monkeys or Fear and loathing in Las Vegas. This film from 2005 tells the story of a young girl left alone by her junkie parents on a decrepit house in the middle of nowhere, where she survives by entering a magical world in her imagination.
Cinzia recommends this movie “because before being photographers we need to be curious about the world. Because sometimes we have to change the reality through our photos and pull out our inner child. Because the most intense travel we can do is the one with our imagination. Because Terry Gilliam is a genius.” Isn’t she right?
ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)
Director of photography: Jonathan Sela
Long time stunt actor David Leitch debuted as director with John Wick, a phrenetic action film starring Keanu Reeves that caught Hollywood’s attention and granted him the director role for Marvel’s Deadpool. Atomic Blonde is his third film as director and as Daniel says, it’s a “visual wonder”. “The DOP, Jonathan Sela, worked in the first John Wick film, which already has a very beautiful color correction and a bold cinematography with a pretty cool color palette using neon tones. On Atomic Blonde his vision is refined and it’s a visual wonder.”
Dylan M Howell
THE TREE OF LIFE (2011)
Director of photography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Terrence Malick was destined to be in this list, as well as cinematographer Emmanuel Chivo Lubezki. Both have a long list of masterpieces of cinema, and have unique and remarkable storytelling and visual styles. The tree of life is a cinematic experience. An experimental epic drama that sets to tell the origin and meaning of life through the childhood memories of a middle-aged man. Not an easy task, right?
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000)
Directors of photography: Christopher Doyle & Mark Lee Ping-bin
Wonk Kar-Wai’s masterpiece tells the platonical love story of two neighbors, a woman and a man, bonded by the suspicion of their mutual spouses affair. It’s a delicate film, beautiful, sad, funny and elegant that depicts love with a heartfelt, tender approach.
The cinematography is exquisite and being a love story, suits wedding photographers perfectly, and it has a soundtrack that will keep you dancing for days.
What a great list, isn’t it? Plenty of great films to watch if you are in need for visual inspiration.
Everyone has their own favorite film, so tell us, which film would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments, we want to find out what inspires you and build a bigger and greater list with your help!
Discover our <em><strong>online video courses</strong></em>
The Wanderers Library contains exclusive educational content created by leaders in the wedding photography industry