Featured | Piotr Ryczko

Cinematic imagery isn't only reserved for the big screen - it's started to be used more and more in Photography as an aesthetic style to tell a story. The dark, moody feel to the color grading and contrasts helps to quickly plunge the viewer into the emotion of an image.

However in the case of Piotr Ryczko, he uses the cinematic style in Photography not only to tell a story through his images, but to conceptualise and communicate the vision for how his video work will be. Some of his moody Photography works is used as an indicator to his Director Of Photography, and his audience what they can expect from his films.

We caught up with Piotr to find out how he started in Photography, a little about his edited process, and his methods of shooting Cinematic Photography



 Piotr Ryczko Photography

Photography by Piotr Ryczko


What's your full name and where are you from/currently based?

My name is Piotr Ryczko and although I am currently based in Poland, I’ve grown up in Oslo, Norway.


When and How did you get in to Photography?

My interest in Photography started about 20 years ago when I was working professionally in 3D and animation. Back then I loved doing street photography and documentary work. I was fortunate enough to gain the trust of the Drug addicts community. They let me be a part of their lives for close to a year, and let me document their lives quite intimately. From this I created a photo series named Fallen Angels. Their lives were all tragic in so many ways, yet I remember all of them very fondly. However broken they were inside, they had such an openness and heart inside them.


Photography by Piotr Ryczko

From 'Fallen Angels' - Photography by Piotr Ryczko


Can you describe your style of Photography to us?

My current style is Portraiture, Fine-Art photography and what one would term Cinematic imagery. For me that means, photography done as a way to experiment with the look and feel of cinema.


Where do you draw your inspiration for your images?

Athough I’ve always been highly appreciative of the masters of photography andf the tradition, lately Ive gone to Instagram for inspiration. I really like the stuff done by Steven Otte, Cvatik, Ashley Callaghan, Marta Bevacqua and so many other contemperary fine-art image creators. Especially their stark of contrasts of the beatiful (or ghastly) human body thrown into the devestated, and often the horror-like. Those contrasts are what is amazing about their work.
I also deeply respect Ewa Cwikla’s artistic works which blend the old masters of painting and the more modern sensibility of posing the model. Her color palettes are also something to behold. Hats off to her.


Photography by Piotr Ryczko

Photography by Piotr Ryczko


What Photography allows me to do, is to experiment and communicate these ideas to the DP, and the people involved in any of the projects I do.


Can you talk about how your images link with your video work?

My approach is two-fold.
I think Photography, with its accessibility and low costs to produce, is one of the most amazing mediums for a filmmaker/visual artist to experiment with different looks, mis-en-scene, moods and light.
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to belittle Photography in any way. Just the oppposite. I deeply respect it as a medium in itself. And I try to do as much of it, even if it is not connected with my film projects.
Since I am a film director, and not a DP, I will always leave the job to the people who do cinematography for a living. But what Photography allows me to do, is to experiment and communicate these ideas to the DP, and the people involved in any of the projects I do. To let them see and feel the tone, the emotions, and the movie. Having this as a tool is indispensible. Trying it out different visual looks and moods, well before the movie starts shooting, is crucial and rewarding.
Another key aspect of the indie filmmaking is to be able to generate lots of high quality content, promotional material, well ahead of the production.  In the times of social media, it goes without saying that this is a crucial part for the movie to be able to reach an audience.


Photography by Piotr Ryczko

Photography by Piotr Ryczko


"Having a darker, and moody palette, complimentary tones, well-adjusted grain, for me, these are the hallmarks of the cinematic image."


Do you have any tips for creating cinematic images?

Going beyond the obvious, like the right equipment, and some basic skills, there are quite a lot of things worth mentioning
I believe in contrasts, and not only image contrasts. What I mean by this is to contrast wildly different sensibilities.  A strong plus and a strong minus, existing within one work.
For example the beauty of the human body, of the face and any other form of beauty, clashed with something much more grim. Some ghastly form, sombre place, sick emotion, twisted model pose or anything else that’s ugly, misaligned or devastated.
Also, to arrive at something beyond the ordinary, I believe in twisting existing ideas. Take Ewa Cwikla’s work, where she copies a lot of the old masters, but at the same time, she finds new ways into the familiar subject matter. A fresh face, a twisted and warped emotion. Something fresh and new.
I am not a big fan of the classical model poses which paint a flattering and often fake picture of beauty. What’s much more interesting are the more extreme, misaligned, misformed, almost broken poses which the human body can align itself into. That’s both extremely expressive, and often telling of something deeper inside all of us. Some psychological, often repressed, state. Now, that’s engaging imagery!
There are so many other factors playing into what makes an image cinematic. A striking location, and how light illuminates this place is just one more example. For a series called Sombre Tunes, me and the model Kaja have searched out some exceptional abandoned places in Poland. Here the location is an actor itself.
But none of this matters if you can’t edit the image properly. Having a darker, and moody palette, complimentary tones, well-adjusted grain, for me, these are the hallmarks of the cinematic image.


Photography by Piotr Ryczko

Photography by Piotr Ryczko


What gear do you use?

For my personal work, I use Sony A7r2, Zhyiun Gimbal, a small set of modern Sony prime lenses. And a set of vintage Canon FD prime lenses for that old school look.  When we get into the more cinematic work, we use a Red Scarlet, which a DoP friend of mine owns.


"I believe that very high quality equipment is essential in order to generate fine-tuned and noble looking images"


Photography by Pitor Ryczko

Photography by Piotr Ryczko


Whats your favourite piece of equipment?

I love the extreme dynamic range of my Sony A7r2, and its low light capabilites. I worked a lot with Red cameras when they came out 10 years ago, and since that time, a lot has changed. But the Sony A7r2’s ability to deliver crisp 100Mbit 4K video, and 120fps in such a small package, while still being a 42Mpix stills camera, well, that’s just nothing short of amazing. I am obsessive about quality, especially dynamic range. And some people may call into question my focus on gear itself, but I believe that very high quality equipment is essential in order to generate fine-tuned and noble looking images. But like Jean-Luc Goddard said: “There is no point in having sharp images when you've fuzzy ideas”


Photography by Piotr Ryczko

Photography by Piotr Ryczko


Tell us about your editing process.

Mostly I use Lightroom to home in on a look, and selection of images. A lot of the times I start with the Cine Collection and try out what works. Then I tweak these presets further to get  a nice balance of light and shadows. I also work a lot with the local brush tools for exposure to darken or lighten the image in certain parts. By leading the eye to the most important parts, I reconstruct the image from the ground up, and create something which is punchy and moody.
The best images end up in Photoshop for different techniques. I am less and  less a fan of High Frequency Seperation which often makes the human skin seem plastic and perfect. Rather I prefer real skin textures, and lots of rough grain which “destroys” image, and gives it a more realistic/grinding look.


What's been your biggest achievement in Photography and Video?

Ive been lucky enough to have some acheivements, especially in filmmaking, where my films have gathered quite a few awards. Having a few of my photos publicised in Vouge Italy was also an honour.


Photography by Piotr Ryczko

Stills Concept for 'Panacea' - Photography by Piotr Ryczko


Are there any type projects you would like to start and explore?

I am working with a small team on our indie sci-fi drama feature length film named “PANACEA”.  We’ve already done quite a bit of experimental work with the look and film of the film itself. Check out the stills we made for the movie here.
Other stuff is the ongoing Sombre Tunes project where we will keep searching for new places, and also make more moving images which will accompany the stills.


PANACEA - Indie Sci-Fi Movie (1st teaser) from Piotr Ryczko on Vimeo.


"For me the best images are the ones which tell a story"


Do you have any tips for Photographers who are looking for a cinematic style of Photography?

I think the most important thing is to have a clear idea of what you want to tell with the image. For me the best images are the ones which tell a story, the images which have some psychological secret which draws me in, engages my senses. Makes me curious what’s going on. That’s a huge deal.
When it comes to the edit of the image, I would definitely recommend to start with professional and well made presets for Lightroom like The Preset Factory. Use it as a springboard and work with it, change it according to your images, and learn what works in that preset and what doesn’t. The Cine Collection was an obvious choice for me, especially since it mimics so well the more cinematic work we see on the big screen.


Do you have a favourite image that you have taken? (If so, can you include it!)

That’s a real tough one. But maybe it would be the Piano image from the Sombre Tunes project. I love the expression which Kaja managed to communicate through her pose.


Piotr's Favvourite Image - Photography by Pitor Ryczko

Favourite Image by Piotr Ryczko



Discover more of Piotr's Work: