Understanding the Cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki

What makes Emmanuel Lubezki a great cinematographer is he adapts his style to the director and movie he is working on. I go through some of his cinematography lighting and camera techniques to help you understand his unique style. Just to be clear: Emmanuel Lubezki changes his style to suit the movies he shoots. The goal of this video and article is to drum up enthusiasm and a yearning to learn more.Warning:

 I do not claim this knowledge is 100% accurate. Just think of it as an endorsement of his work. If you want accuracy, look someplace else. 

First, here’s the video illuminating the cinematography style of Emmanuel Lubezki:

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Lighting faces

His primary weapon of choice is the extremely soft, shadow-less light. He lights faces front on, most of the time short-lit. His other style is to sidelight his characters right down the middle.


He obviously used a lot of diffusion on his earlier films, but recently he tries to achieve a pristine and sharp image, without grain.

Contrast Ratio

Typically falls between 1-3 stops, and he uses the entire latitude of film, and now digital.

Lenses and camera

He prefers wide angle lenses, and is not afraid to push the boundaries. Recently he has used 12 to 14mm, even on closeups. Generally he stays between 21mm to 28mm.

This does not mean he doesn’t use telephoto lenses. He adapts depending on who the director is.

He typically used to shoot at T2.8 or T4, but recently he has started stopping down to T5.6 and higher for deeper frames. This gives his compositions a sense of presence.

I hope you’ve found this article useful. If I’ve stoked your interest in Emmanuel Lubezki’s work, please watch the movies he shot. Not only is the lighting top notch, the movies are actually good!

Please also follow his Instagram feed. With his third Oscar win in a row, his popularity is sure to hit an all-time high.

One reply on “Understanding the Cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki”

  1. Hello Sareesh ?
    I’m a college student studying film from Taiyuan, China. I think the analysis and quality of your video essays is one of the best I have ever seen, because I’m studying this major, so I can better understand that how difficult to make these videos . Thank you for these meaningful video essays you have been making. I will always support your hard work. Emmanuel Lubezki is one of my favorite photographers, and I’ve been greatly appreciated for seeing your video.But unfortunately this video has no subtitles. My English is not very good, haha, I downloaded the automatically generated English subtitles, but have many inaccurate translation so I can’t read consistently. Can you help me check these English translations? Then I can use Google to translate them into Chinese?I hope your video can let more Chinese students understand and learn.Thank you very much!Best wishes to you?
    P.S. This is the subtitle download link?http://www.yousubtitles.com/load/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fyoutu.be%2F3H8nTrToBvU&ch=1

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