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Shane’s Cinema Prep Kit Part 1

  • March 20, 2020
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Shane’s Cinema Prep Kit Part 1

I hope this finds all of you safe and staying healthy during this COVID-19 crisis. Hopefully all of you have had chance to take advantage of the Illumination Experience Workshop that is available to everyone for free for the next 3 months. When brainstorming with my Hurlbut Academy team, we thought it would be cool to do a Cinema Prep Kit for all of you to help you to beat the boredom while you are isolating. Beginning with my favorite books for inspiration, I’ll take you through the best cinematography books, apps and further lessons that we have made available for free as part of this kit!

Here’s the Facebook Live for those who missed it:

Stay safe and stay focused everyone.  



During our recent Facebook live event there were so many great questions and so many amazing things to share, I thought I would put them all in one place so you can gain access to them and can continue the conversation.  

First of all, lots of you wanted to understand how difficult it is to get into the business, what you have to do to succeed and to maintain a long successful career. Here’s a lesson to help you all on this called Resilience: Getting Started In The Industry .

People have asked me what I do to get inspiration.

Well, I go to a bookstore in Los Angeles called Hennessey + Ingalls. I can spend hours and hours just looking at various books, buying a few and soaking in tons of ideas. Below are a few favorites so you can research the photographers and grab some of their photos online for future inspiration and hopefully add some to your kit. 

Image result for Hennessey + Ingalls

SATELLITES: Photographs from the Fringes of the Former Soviet Union

Jonas Bendiksen Satellites Hurlbut Academy Photography Books Shane Hurlbut ASC


Jonas Bendiksen captures six former Soviet areas in Eastern Europe; the Caucasus, Central Asia, and far eastern Siberia. “Orbiting satellites held together by the gravity of Moscow” and through his photographs exposes the complexities of obscure regions in which he spent years traveling.


Bendiksen was born in Tønsberg, Norway, 1977. His photographs have appeared in National Geographic, Geo, Newsweek, and the Sunday Times Magazine, among others. In 2007, the Paris Review received a National Magazine Award for Bendiksen’s project The Places We Live.

SHANE – This book has some of the best color theory and color contrast that I have ever seen.  His work is exceptional and one or two of his photographs end up in almost every Look Book I have put together.  A masterclass in Color Contrast. (Don’t forget to look at the color theory part of this kit!)

This title is currently unavailable at almost every store we have explored, but you can view the thumbnails and some of the shots here and add it to your pinterest or an online kit.

Jonas Bendiksen Satellites


Dorothea Lange Photographs of a Lifetime Hurlbut Academy


Reprinted for the first time, this is the most comprehensive collection of the photographer’s work ever published. It includes portraits from her early years as a fashionable studio photographer as well as classic images that established her as the preeminent documentary artist of her time. “Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime captures–like all of her work–the extraordinary in the commonplace, with rare candor, compassion, and dignity.”


Lange was born in May 26, 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.—died October 11, 1965, San Francisco, California, She was an American documentary photographer whose portraits of displaced farmers during the Great Depression greatly influenced later documentary and journalistic photography.

SHANE – “This book is a master class on how to evoke emotion with just one shot, this echoes my Key Frame concepts.”  Key Frames are a powerful tool for designing and developing emotional power in your projects.

After the Illumination Experience, put these lessons in your queue in the Hurlbut Academy to take the Key Frame concept to another level.

  1. Blocking and Lighting A-Z
  2. Adventurers: Blocking and Composition.”

This title is available from Amazon in paperback and hardback here

Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue: Eugene Richards

Cocaine True Cocaine Blue Eugene Richards Hurlbut Academy


This is a compelling portrait of three communities blighted by drugs and isolation: East New York, North Philadelphia, and the Red Hook housing projects in Brooklyn, New York. With a chilling and informative afterword by Dr. Stephen W. Nicholas, a pediatric AIDS physician in Harlem, Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue reveals how first steps toward solutions to overcome the drug trade have actually contributed to public denial and further isolation of the trapped communities. Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue is a history of our times, a terrifying document that will educate us and promote dialogue.

SHANE – “This reference book is GOLD with large format photography.  His imagery is a master class in compositional style in lensing large format.  His style of photography makes you feel, evokes emotion and is very immersive.”


Eugene Richards was born 1944 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He is an American documentary photographer. Richards has published many volumes of photography and been a member of Magnum Photos and of VII Photo Agency.

SHANE – “This reference book is GOLD with large format photography.  His imagery is a master class in compositional style in lensing large format.  His style of photography makes you feel, evokes emotion and is very immersive.”

This title is available from Amazon in hardback here

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency – Nan Goldin

Ballad of Sexual Dependency Nan Goldin


A photobook classic, and perhaps the work for which New York photographer Nan Goldin remains best known, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends and lovers collectively described by Goldin as her “tribe.” Her work describes a late 1970s/early 1980s New York now long gone, and a world that is visceral and seething with life. As Goldin writes: “Real memory, which these pictures trigger, is an invocation of the color, smell, sound, and physical presence, the density and flavor of life.”


Nancy “Nan” Goldin was born September 12, 1953 and is an American photographer. Her work often explores LGBT bodies, moments of intimacy, the HIV crisis, and the opioid epidemic. Her most notable work is The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986), which documents the post-Stonewall gay subculture and Goldin’s family and friends.

SHANE –  “She has what I would call beautiful Raw imagery. You see and feel it through her lens. She was horribly beaten and abused in her relationships and her color, tone and raw images leaves you gasping.”

This title is available from amazon here.

Bound For Glory – America In Color 1939-1943

Bound For Glory Hurlbut Academy


I talk about this book a LOT in my lessons. Here’s a link to my article on building a color palette for your film where I use it extensively. An array of 180 full-color photographs from the Library of Congress’s Farm Security Administration collection, taken by FSA photographers from 1939 to 1943, creates a vivid portrait of America as it began to emerge from the Great Depression and prepared to fight World War II.

SHANE: “This book is amazing to use for Period Piece look inspiration.  The unique limitations of the Kodachrome film stock gives you an amazing base to build your look off of.  This was the book that literally built the look of “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

This title is available from Amazon in hardback here.

The Definitive Collection – Robert Capa

Robert Capa Definitive Collection


The only definitive collection of the work of the world’s most influential war photographer.


Robert Capa (born Endre Ernő Friedmann; October 22, 1913 – May 25, 1954) was a Hungarian-born American war photographer and photojournalist as well as the companion and professional partner of photographer Gerda Taro. He is considered by some to be the greatest combat and adventure photographer in history.

SHANE: “He was one of the best documentary photographers of our time.  His point of view is what is so powerful. He tells you the story of how war affects a country, but the way he chooses is so unique and engaging that you literally feel that you were transported back to that time and feel you are immersed in it.” 

This title is available from Amazon in hardback here.

Twilight – Photographs by Gregory Crewdson

Twilight Gregory Crewdson


Twilight is the magic hour when ordinary routines undergo strange transformations. Gregory Crewdson’s Twilight series, begun in 1998 and completed in 2002, consists of forty photographs created as elaborately staged large-scale tableaux that explore the domestic landscape and its relationship to an artificially heightened natural world. The collision between the normal and the paranormal in these narrative images produces a tension that serves to transform the topology of the suburban landscape into a place of wonder and anxiety.


Gregory Crewdson was born September 26, 1962. He is an American photographer who photographs tableaux of American homes and neighborhoods.

SHANE – “This photographer stages all of his photographs, lights, composes and spends millions to do it.  His tonalities, use of color, art direction are some of the best I have ever seen. His imagery is haunting and evokes tons of different emotions. It’s a pleasure to put it in this kit.” 

This title is available at Amazon in hardback here.


Hiromix Hurlbut visuals


This book covers a cult trend in Tokyo — the trading photographic of self-portraits. It is a new way of communicating among young Japanese women with cameras; their new nickname is “kubi kara camera zoku” (the crowd with a camera around the neck).


Hiromi Toshikawa (利川 裕美, Toshikawa Hiromi, born 1976 in Tokyo), better known as Hiromix (ヒロミックス, Hiromikkusu), is a Japanese photographer and artist.

SHANE – “She is a talented Japanese Photographer that never looks through the lens of the camera and really grabs unique moments, interesting composition and great tonalities in her colors.”

This title is available at Amazon in paperback and hardback here.

The Sound I Saw – Roy Decarava

The Sound I saw Roy Decarava


A photographic portrait of the world of jazz music. Presented as a stream of 196 images interspersed with DeCarava’s own poetry, this volume is, in its form and overall effect, a printed equivalent of jazz -composed of overlapping passages of pain, sweetness, optimism and suffering. Roy DeCarava has documented the people, both famous and anonymous, and the seemingly mundane yet intimate moments of his Harlem neighbours and neighbourhood. The result is at once a work for photography enthusiasts, an historic documentation for jazz lovers, and a profound message to African-Americans as well as Whites that artistic talent knows no boundaries of race.


Roy Rudolph DeCarava (December 9, 1919 – October 27, 2009) was an African American artist. DeCarava received early critical acclaim for his photography, initially engaging and imaging the lives of African Americans and jazz musicians in the communities where he lived and worked.

Shane – “This book has powerful and engaging B & W imagery.  Striking composition and contrast that really leaves you speechless with many photographs.  I use this book for mood, composition and contrast ratio values.”

This title is available at Amazon here.

The Americans

The Americans Robert Frank


The Americans is a photographic book by Robert Frank which was highly influential in post-war American photography. It was first published in France in 1958, and the following year in the United States. The photographs were notable for their distanced view of both high and low strata of American society.


Robert Frank (November 9, 1924 – September 9, 2019) was a Swiss photographer and documentary filmmaker, who became an American binational. His most notable work, the 1958 book titled The Americans, earned Frank comparisons to a modern-day de Tocqueville for his fresh and nuanced outsider’s view of American society.

SHANE – “This photographer has taken some of most iconic imagery ever captured during this time. Beautifully composed B & W images that spark conversation, emotion and many directors have used his imagery to better their music videos.”

This title is available at Amazon here.

A Storybook Life – Philip-Lorca diCorcia

A Storybook Life Philip-Lorca diCorcia


‘The disparate photographs assembled here were made over the course of twenty years. None of them were originally intended to be used in this book. By ordering and shaping them I tried to investigate the possibilities of narrative both within a single image and especially in relation to the other photographs. A Storybook Life is an attempt to discover the possibilities of meaning in the interaction of seemingly unrelated images in the hope that content can constantly mutate according to both the external and internal condition of the viewer, but remain meaningful because of it’s inherent, but latent content. The conscious and subconscious decisions made in editing the photographs is the real work of A Storybook Life.’ -Philip-Lorca diCorcia

SHANE – “This is an amazing continuation of his art of desaturation, compositional style and contrived situations that bring out many different emotions.”


Philip-Lorca diCorcia (born 1951) is an American photographer. Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s photographs straddle truth and fiction by combining real people and places—but not necessarily people and places that naturally go together. The theatricality of his images is carefully constructed: he arranges the objects of each scene and devises precise lighting and framing for every project. 

SHANE – “This photographer stages his photographs as well like Crewdson but does it in a less polished way.  His color tones are amazing, his use of desaturation is so good, where he chooses to desaturate is his powerful strength.  This book is a masterclass in creative uses of desaturation.”

This title is available at Amazon here.

Tulsa – Larry Clark

Tulsa Larry clark


Tulsa is a collection of black-and-white photographs by Larry Clark of the life of young people in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Its publication in 1971 “caused a sensation within the photographic community”, leading to a new interest in autobiographical work.


Lawrence Donald Clark (born January 19, 1943) is an American film director, photographer, writer and film producer who is best known for his controversial teen film Kids (1995) and his photography book Tulsa. His work focuses primarily on youth who casually engage in illegal drug use.

SHANE – “This is such a striking book of B & W imagery that is very on par with Cocaine.  It takes an epidemic that is happening in our country of Heroin abuse and truly moves the chains 9 levels.  You feel the desperation, the loneliness and this empty feeling that really grips you by the shoulders.”

This book is available on Amazon here.

Personal Exposures by Elliott Erwitt

Personal Exposure Elliott Erwitt


Seeing what few others see, and capturing it for all of us, is the essence of Personal Exposures. For this volume Elliott painstakingly culled the work of a lifetime, rediscovering prints he had not seen in years and creating a unified whole that reflects a consistent, mature vision of photography and humanity. Here are men, women, and children in off-guard moments; old people; little girls hamming it up; and even various dogs, who have their own preoccupations. The pictures reflect a lifetime of humorous, ironic observation and sensitivity to the human condition. 248 duotone photographs.


Elliott Erwitt (born Elio Romano Erwitt, 26 July 1928) is an American advertising and documentary photographer known for his black and white candid photos of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings. He has been a Member of Magnum Photos since 1954.

SHANE – “This photographer in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s changed the way we view life in America.  He is the Edward Hopper of photography. His iconic imagery stamps the image in your mind for eternity.  This is something that I strive to do in all my cinematic images I create..”

This book is available on Amazon here.

Highway: America’s Endless Dream – Jeff Brouws

Highway An American Dream


The growth of highways in the U.S. during the early 20th century marked the beginning of an unprecedented American mobility. The democratic, open nature of the road redefined the American way of life and forever changed the way the average American perceives this country. This collection of original full-color photos and historical essays examines the landscape and roadside culture of America’s great highways. 137 photos, 100 in color.


Jeff Brouws, born in San Francisco in 1955, is a self-taught artist. Pursuing photography since age 13, where he roamed the railroad and industrial corridors of the South Bay Peninsula, Brouws has compiled a visual survey of America’s evolving rural, urban and suburban cultural landscapes. Using single photographs as subtle narratives and compiling typologies to index the nation’s character, he revels in the “readymades” found in many of these environments.

SHANE – “If Satellites has color contrast down, then this book has the subtlety of color contrast in a choke hold.  This book is a director’s masterpiece of Treatment Building imagery that continues to hold its own in this day in age.  Desaturation and saturation push the limits and his tones are so perfect. This book is an essential part of this kit!”

This is available from Amazon here.

Next up for our Cinematography Prep Kit – my favorite books on cinematography. Click the icon below!

Or to move around and look at some of the other areas to develop as a filmmaker, take a look at some of the below links. Click the Icons to navigate this Cinema Prep Kit.

Many people have questions on lighting.  I feel that many young DP’s starting out do not understand bounce light.  Mastering this concept is your first step in becoming a DP with lighting. I feel that many times it is because you cannot understand how to control and coral the light, but this is your next step to becoming a DP, seeing that amazing quality of light, then now I have to give it the control that a hard light would have by shaping it.

Once we are in the lighting mood, lets talk about different ways to use bounce light in a BOOK LIGHT:  What’s a book light you ask? Well get in there and find out.

Here’s a fantastic article on Color Contrast and Theory. I thought I would share a movie that I did that is all about color theory and really is one of my best works in regards to attaching color tonalities with characters and in their environments. 

One of the things you can practice right in the comfort of your self quarantined experience is learn how to tie Knots.  “Shane, why would I need knots?” Well, do it for yourself, if not for me. They will change your life. I have outlined my favorite 3 so you can find a string and go to town.  One of the first things that shows off that you are a newbie or never graced a set before is if you cannot tie a knot that is used widely in the film business. At a PA (production assistant) Level you are asked to pick up gear, secure charts, rope off areas, etc.  These knots are the building blocks and you can use them for every aspect of your adult life.

I get asked by many, “Shane, what is your DIY version of this?”  DIY is a powerful option for young filmmakers starting out. I have a whole module in the Backlight: Where, Why and When in the Illumination Experience: Workshop that will blow your mind on how to use clamp lights, bare bulbs and stuff you can purchase at Home Depot to take your skills to the next level. 

Here’s the best lighting schematic and blocking software. This software is simple to use and I want to set you all up for success so I am sharing with all of you my icons that I have created which took me a long time to compile when you click the link below.  Enjoy!

Many of you asked me what my favorite films were.  I want to turn this into not my favorite, but ones that left a mark with me and shaped me as a cinematographer.  Here you go and enjoy your watching experience:

Musicbed is one of the leading online music licensing platform for creators and filmmakers with hundreds of premium quality songs that are available on the platform from chart-topping, nation-touring artists and composers from all over the world. Click below for my go-to songs from the site right now:

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