You want to know about lighting? Cinematic lighting? Multi-Award-winning Image Source photographer Frank Herholdt knows. He saw lighting genius at first hand by a movie legend

‘Cinematic’ is an overused adjective in photography, but there’s no avoiding it in the work of South African-born, London-based, Frank Herholdt. Anyone with a love of cinematography will find their buttons pushed by his photos. It turns out that Herholdt learned to push those buttons from two of the best psychological-button-pushers in image-making.

There was his stint after arriving in Johannesburg working with legendary music and fashion photographer Art Kane. Then Herholdt got a gig shooting the actors on the set of Heaven’s Gate, a box-office disaster and financial nightmare, but still a creative and artistic wonder. The film’s lavish visual beauty is partly down to its Hungarian-born cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who  among other things worked on Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, Spielberg’s Close Encounters of The Third Kind and Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter. After his gig taking photographs of the actors, Herholdt spent 10 days observing the great cinematographer maxing out his talent for manipulating light and colour on an epic scale, and a new photographer emerged out of the cinematic light.

It’s no surprise that Herholdt’s advertising clients include Visa, Samsung and Kraft, and his work has appeared in magazines from the industry focussed PDN to the creatively extravagant 125 Magazine. Also it’s no surprise that Herholdt chose to visualise a watch as his significant object. Herholdt’s imagery has a great sense of narrative, capturing in-between moments, whether dramatic close encounters…

Frank Herholdt,
Frank Herholdt,


…or incidental domestic moments, with an unconventional viewpoint.

Frank Herholdt
Frank Herholdt


It takes a fan of a certain kind of imagery to understand how it works, the buttons it pushes and the thrills it inspires.  There’s no riding off into the sunset in the world of Frank Herholdt.

Frank Herholdt, The Truck


1. A shot of a single object that expresses a powerful memory/event

The watch has been with me for 34 years, I bought it in Switzerland when I was there on a job. I really wanted to have a Rolex, like all the models and stylists and magazine editors had that I was trying to hang out with. However I could not afford one so I bought this Tudor which is made by Rolex but about 40 percent of the cost. I am really attached to it, it features in many portraits of me ( as illustrated ).

Taken in the Eagle pub, Clerkenwell, London


painting portrait
Painting by Fanny Rush, 2001


Frank Herholdt, Watch
Frank Herholdt, Watch


2. An image of three books that have inspired you?

Frank Herholdt Books


The book Catcher in Rye I read when I was about 18 or so. It had a profound affect on me and made me feel better, that I was not the only miserable depressed teenager disillusioned with the adult world.

Absolute Beginners by Colin Macinnes I read in my 20s and helped me fantasise about living in London which I longed to do, anywhere but Johannesburg in the 70s.

The Guy Bourdin speaks for itself.

3. Favourite photo you have taken?

Frank Herholdt for Brooks Saddles
Frank Herholdt for Brooks Saddles

4. Favourite artist/photographer/image-maker?

Guy Bourdin / Bill Brandt / Vermeer/ Balthus




5. What was your route to becoming a professional photographer?

I worked for nothing in the afternoons after Art School classes for a photographer in Johannesburg where I grew up. Finally got a full time job. Tried to go solo after he quit to become a film maker (not too successful!) Managed to move to London with great difficulty, worked as an assistant, got lucky and worked for Art Kane. Worked on one particular assignment doing portraits of movie stars on the set of Heaven’s Gate.


Hung around for 10 days watching Vilmos Zsigmond light. Started to shoot own work using movie lighting techniques. Career took off!


Frank Herholdt, Evening
Frank Herholdt, Evening

6. You won the Best in Book in the Creative Review Annual last year, with images from a series called Mother. What ideas were driving that shoot?

My wife Helena, was taking pictures of me and our boys in an around a hot springs resort near Cape Town. She took a break to play with the boys who were bored with being photographed. I came upon them and saw this shot, perfect light, everything. I picked up her old Canon 5D and started shooting, cursing and swearing because the focus is so crap on that model and I hated using it. I managed the shot in about 5 frames before the boys took off.

Frank Herholdt, The Baths
Frank Herholdt, The Baths

7. Your work has a high-fashion sensibility, atmospheric storytelling heightened through colour and lighting, location and scenery. How long does it take to plan and set up a shoot?

Most of my “story telling” atmospheric shots take up to 2 weeks to prepare, location search, casting, special equipment sourcing and crew are all of equal importance some shots take even longer.

Frank Herholdt, Sex and Disappointment
Frank Herholdt, Sex and Disappointment

8. How much post-production do you factor into your work?

I strive in an old fashioned way to get the shot right in camera. But post-production has helped a lot, with certain things, like shooting a background on a different exposure and dropping it over the shot one. So yes I do think of ‘post’ when I am shooting, but not to cure crap photography.

Frank Herholdt, Castaway
Frank Herholdt, Castaway


9. You can deliver an image in a variety of styles and with a range of subject matter from highly-produced, to family – how challenging is it to master different approaches?

I have always used medium format cameras like Hasselblads and Rolieflex 7007 for my advertising work, for years 35mm was generally unacceptable. However I always owned Nikons and shot loads of personal stuff on them. What really inspired me was the release of the Nikon D3X this camera with its revolutionary follow focus and impeccable quality even in low light inspired me to shoot more spontaneous and moving pictures which I have been practicing at very hard.

Frank Herholdt, Completely London Magazine
Frank Herholdt, Completely London Magazine

10. One Ambition?

For some genuine fame and recognition!


To see Frank Herholdt’s website click here

To see his work for Image Source click here,


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