5 New (and Old) Movies You Must Watch as a Photographer

In the colder autumn months we start to spend more time at home, especially in rainy cities like Munich or London. Sitting down with a cup of warm tea or mulled wine and enjoying a movie is one of the many things I look forward to each year.

You might expect to see something along the lines of Finding Vivian Maier in this list, but you won’t. These films are chosen based on something much more than just a famous photographer. I’ve tried to make this list unconventional as there are dozens of photography-specific film articles for you to explore. Also, I firmly believe in having a niche in photography but being a versatile person. As such, it’s a good idea to draw inspiration from as many places as possible – something that at least isn’t the small bubble of photography.

Barry Lyndon

I’m a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s work. He is a great master who can compose recordings, tell a story and evoke emotions deep in the audience. It’s almost like he’s examining human qualities to warn the audience about something. Barry Lyndon will show a photographer that all you need is the basics. In fact, all you have to do is light the shot and nail down the basics of image making. The rest takes care of itself. This is best demonstrated in how Kubrick is able to communicate every detail across the screen: weather changes, mood, texture and more, not to mention the way he zooms. I wish I could zoom in like that!

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dr Strangelove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bombshell

This is probably one of the best movies to watch if you like black and white photography. Most importantly, consider the way Stanley Kubrick uses light and composition to change the mood of the canvas. When watching this film, you should pay attention to the contrast values ​​​​and the hardness of the shadows. It’s as if Kubrick was able to create himself with light and shadow. Strangelove is constantly moving in and out of the light, which is best seen right before the final monologue he gives. Emerging from shadow to light, Strangelove corresponds to the emerging nationalism in the nation at the time.

Large Budapest hotel

Color, wide angle and crop formats. This film will be of interest to photographers for Wes Anderson’s unmistakably iconic use of color. Since the film is technically set in two periods, the 1930’s and the 1960’s, the use of color differs markedly. As you watch the film, notice how the 1930s part appears tinted pink and relatively colder compared to the 1960s part, which is predominantly orange and brown. Wide-angle direct shots provide an immersion-like feel. High and low shots are also taken with a wide-angle lens, which makes one wonder: how did they possibly get this composition? The answer is simple: crop formats. There are three in the film, each representing a specific time. Perhaps the Grand Budapest Hotel is also a lesson in wide-angle composition.

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Bladerunner 2049

If you haven’t already seen it, Blade Runner 2049 is an excellent choice for those looking to experience color theory second to none. It is often said that behind every color there is a story, just like music has a theme. A character can be assigned a specific color or light scenario. In Blade Runner 2049, these are yellow, orange, green, pink, and white. If you’re further interested in learning more about the psychology behind each shade, especially in fashion, I recommend purchasing Pantone on Fashion. But back to the movies.

From Blade Runner we can see that yellow is a color associated with knowledge, orange with caution, green with life, pink with innocence and romance, and white with truth. Not much analysis is needed as to why these colors were chosen, as each tone (bar of yellow) is already associated with its meaning. If you know why Deakins used yellow for wisdom, let us know in the comments!


A rather touching, if not heartbreaking, film about the struggles a young man goes through in an LGBTQ+ and black community. The film tries to paint a beautiful nightmare with colour, light and composition. As pleasant and beautiful as the tones of this film are, they portray a rather spooky scene. It pushes the limits of contrast, which can be a good lesson for those of you looking to add extra contrast to your images. To recreate the Miami sun, the film had to show dark shadows as well as clipping and highlights on the highlights. Much of the film was shot with almost no fill light. As photographers, we’re told to use fill light all the time, but maybe that’s not always necessary. Another interesting aspect of Moonlight is the color grade. Because of the high contrast used, the colorist didn’t have too much leeway to play around with the color correction. Nonetheless, the stills from this film can be used as good color references for your own photos.

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Final Thoughts

These are just a few of my own favourites. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a long list. When you watch a movie, I suggest you pay attention to color, clothing, angles, and many more things. After all, they’re nothing more than moving images, although getting a perfect 24fps for hours must be a lot harder than getting a good one in an hour.

I know some photographers won’t find this list particularly enticing, so if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments! I’d love to hear what movies you keep coming back to, whether it’s for their plot, aesthetic beauty, or any other reason.

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