Blog header

Photo Tutorial — Game of Thrones Portraits Season 3

Published by Diana Tula · April 3rd 2013

Learn how to create a Game of Thrones inspired character portraits in our first installment of a new photography tutorial series co-produced by 500px and We hope this series inspires you to try something new and enhance your own work, while saving you money on both rentals and your 500px portfolio.

BorrowLenses invites you to receive 10% off any BorrowLenses rental with coupon code: 500px. As an added bonus when you place an order using code "500px" you'll also get a gift redeemable towards 500px upgraded accounts. This discount is good for any rental duration and is not stackable. rental orders ship to U.S. addresses only and accept U.S. credit cards.


Hi! My name is Alex Huff, I am a studio portrait photographer in San Francisco by night, a product photographer and copy writer at BorrowLenses by day, and 500px enthusiast at heart. In this post I will share with you the tips and tricks behind creating your own version of Game of Thrones portrait poster for Season 3. The lighting is an easy 1-light setup, the costume work is minimal due to the tight crop of the portrait, and the post-production work is low. These character shots make for a really fun weekend portrait project. Just gather your friends, setup and explore your dark side.

The Game of Thrones character posters for Season 3 are simple yet powerful. As fans of the show, my friends and I wanted to recreate the images using ourselves as models. The results were a success and everyone had a lot of fun sitting for these portraits. If you haven’t seen the original posters check them out. Here’s how we created our spin-off...


  • Photoflex OctoDome Extra Small Kit with “Eggcrate” Soft Grid.
    Substitutions: 17” Beauty Dish with grid or any smaller light modifier with grid.

  • C-Stand with Boom Arm

  • Nikon SB-910 Flash

  • DSLR camera. I used a Nikon D800

  • Portrait lens.
    I used a Nikon 85mm f/1.8G. Substitutions: Any portrait lens ranging from 50mm-200mm.

  • Rigid Collodion Scarring Liquid (get one at your local costume shop, drama and theater shops are best).
    If you need help with makeup find a makeup artists in your area who would like to collaborate with you on this project.

  • Various neck-focused props (armor, fabrics, jewelry, etc).
    I suggest to DIY, search thrift shops, dollar stores, and ask your girlfriend or grandma for jewelry, scarves, brooches, faux fur, leather belts etc.

  • Post processing software.
    Any editing program that allows masking or spot-controlled temperature control. I used Lightroom and Nik Software Color Efex Pro. You can use any filters, actions, or presets that you have available.

Step 1: Lighting and Camera Settings

Before firing any lights make sure your ambient is registering as completely black in your test shot. I like to start with a black scene in the way a painter begins with a blank canvas. This is typically achieved for me at ISO 100, between 160th of a second - 250th of a second.

My flash was set to manual at full power and placed inside a small octobox that is above and pointed downward on my subject. I chose a light modifier that is on the smaller side with a grid to minimize the amount of light spill and to keep light focused just on the face of the model. I started shooting at f/8 and adjusted my aperture up or down from there as needed. I did not touch my other settings.

One light is placed above and pointed downward on my model. For this shoot I used a Nikon SB-910 flash inside a Photoflex OctoDome Extra Small Kit with “Eggcrate” Soft Grid.

Step 2: Mood and Model Direction

My models were against a black backdrop, seated in a chair where they could lean back comfortably. If your model is uncomfortable or tense you can always see that in final photos. Once seated, I applied their neck/shoulder props (faux furs, studded straps, jewelry, etc.) and their makeup and optional scarring liquid.

Given the context of Game of Thrones, I asked my models to think of someone they dislike or who has betrayed them. Sometimes I’d ask them to fantasize about enacting their ultimate revenge. People will occasionally have a giggle fit — fire a shot just as they recover from it. It is often their best look (my guess for this is that there’s a special kind of watering of the eyes leftover from laughing).

Darla playing the part from the shoulders up.

James receiving a “scar” from Rigid Collodion.

Topher receiving character direction while I adjust the light.

Step 3: Editing

The RAW file in Lightroom with no edits.

1. Adobe Lightroom and Nik Software are the editing programs I use. I use Lightroom mainly for broad edits, such as exposure or clarity adjustments, or for blemishes. I use Nik Software to be creative. I enhanced the clarity in Lightroom. This increased the visibility of blemishes and also gave depth to the scar. If I was editing a woman with a more “princess-like” look, I would skip this part and spot heal any blemishes instead.

Increased clarity helped me easily create a grungy look.

2. Going right into Nik Color Efex Pro as a plugin from Lightroom, I used the Glamour Glow filter. If the portrait was of a “knight-like” character I would follow up with the Contrast Only filter. If the portrait was of a “princess-like” character, I would use Glamour Glow and then Dynamic Skin Softener instead of Contrast Only. If you dont have NIK, lighten the skin for “princess-like” characters creating a spotless and glowing face, and use contrast and define scars & blemishes for "knights".

The image after getting the Glamour Glow and Contrast Only filters from the Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro plugin for Lightroom.

3. Adding all of those filters darkened the eyes considerably. You can use Control Points in Nik to prevent a filter from affecting certain areas of your picture, like eyes. If eyes get too dark just brighten the eyes with increased exposure or dodging, be careful to work within the eye area only.

Sometimes eyes get over-edited but added intensity worked for these images.

4. Using my Adjustment Brush, I select the area of the face I want to be blue. There are several ways to add a blue hue to a portrait but for mine I just increase the temperature of the White Balance considerably for that area. If you find that it is not blue enough for your taste, make a second pass using a high temperature and the Adjustment Brush. If your blue looks too blue, push the Tint slider into the greener end of the spectrum to make your blue look a little more turquoise or teal.

I used the Adjustment Brush and increased my temperature in key spots to create my partially-blue face.

5. If you look at the real Game of Thrones character portraits, the blue isn’t perfect. It is mottled a bit with what appears to be a tinge of yellow/brown. Using my Adjustment Brush again, I go over some of my blue with a warmer/lower White Balance to add some color-based texture to that side of the face.

I went over the blue areas with a slightly warmer color to create the illusion of texture.

6. This is optional, but sometimes I went back in and bumped the eye on the blue side of the face a bit more and increase its exposure. The blue sometimes makes that eye look a little too dark for my taste. Lastly, I increased the grain on the image by just a little bit. I find this gives the overall image a slightly older, more “painterly” look.

This is pretty much what I did for all of my character portraits for this project, with the exception of a little extra skin TLC for the “princess-style” shots. To see all of my Thrones-style portraits, plus other work, to add me to friends or just say “Hi” visit my 500px page.

Final results. After a couple of hair and make-up changes, I was able to achieve two characters out of one person. I used almost the same editing process and the same lighting for both of these portraits.

Thanks to Alex Huff and to BorrowLenses for sharing this tutorial and thank you for reading! Whether you are the show’s fanatic or a photo buff looking to enhance your skills we hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you’re looking for more how-tos check out previously featured "Glow in the Dark" article, revealing the secret behind glowing mason jars.

Have fun creating your own cast of characters using some of these tips. Let us know if you already tried Game of Thrones-themed photos, share links in the comments below or send in your results to Who do you want to see sitting on the Iron Throne?

UPDATE: Hey! We've been reading your comments and selected some of our favourite Game of Thrones character photos. Some fo them serious and some just fun. Enjoy!



Login or sign up to comment on this post.

Awesome Account
Rodrigo Capuski  5 months ago
And i did a portrait inspired by the posters of season four:
Awesome Account
Rodrigo Capuski  5 months ago
Here's my try:
andy 126 (inactive)  7 months ago
Love to see new and such an interesting tutorial on your blog! Please, keep them coming!
Любовь Крымова  about 1 year ago
Спасибо!Для меня это очень полезный урок!Очень понравилось!
Duy Pham  about 1 year ago
amazing !!!
sgraves (inactive)  about 1 year ago
Oh hey! That's awesome- thanks for featuring 2 of my images from my Winter is Coming set! :D /day made
Awesome Account
Enrique Jorreto  about 1 year ago
Jejeje... Had a great fun with this tutorial in a recent photoshoot, thanks for sharing it Alex! :D
Char Murray  over 1 year ago
Mathieu Korkos  over 1 year ago
Had a try :
And lots of fun too :)
Awesome Account
Alexandria Huff  over 1 year ago
Oh, my! Just checked back on this post and saw all of the wonderful examples of people's take on the process. Love them (the cat one cracks me up)!
George Pavlov  over 1 year ago
Thanks for the tutorial, here is my attempt. No Color Efex though, just LR adjustments.

Massimo Carnelos  over 1 year ago
excellent tutorial!!
yadong feng  over 1 year ago
good !
Kien Duong  over 1 year ago
Loved the tutorial, here is my attempt!

Plus Account
Kai *  over 1 year ago
Wonderful tut. Thanks for sharing. Here is my try to do so:


Md.Sultan Mahmud  over 1 year ago
Tutorial are very good.
Anil Kumar  over 1 year ago
Thanks for the lovely tutorial!!
Plus Account
Fred R. Lagarde  over 1 year ago
Good job, nice !
Diego Galarraga Sugoniaev  over 1 year ago
Here's mine =D

Mohammed A. Al Saggaf  over 1 year ago
thank you so much , it's useful for me
awesome tutorial
Plus Account
Jon Inge Nordnes  over 1 year ago
Fun post :) Here is my version
Plus Account
Marivick D  over 1 year ago
Brilliant tutorial! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to see Jon Snow on the Iron Throne :)
Andre Recnik  over 1 year ago
Great tutorial. For a challenge, I did it without resorting to Lightroom to add colour, using colour gels and multiple lights instead. I still did a lot of edits, but wanted to do the colour effect with lighting:
Anna Gorin  about 1 year ago
I did the same thing! It messed with the catchlights but was more of a challenge than toning it blue in LR/ACR.
Kamil Kurylonek  over 1 year ago
Thats what I was thinking, too. Use small blue gelled flash on a side and you can get colour effect instantly. :)
Nicely done btw :)
Awesome Account
Jordan Butters  over 1 year ago
Great tutorial. I did this myself in anticipation of the new season without even seeing this tutorial. I chose to use Photoshop, but the end effect is much the same!

Attempt 1, my wife is very tolerant of me! -

Attempt 2 - self portait -

Awesome Account
Stanislav Šebek  over 1 year ago
Hi to everyone!

Love to see new and such an interesting tutorial on your blog! Please, keep them coming!

love 500px,


Chris Smith  over 1 year ago
This is an awesome tutorial. I loved their promo posters this year.thank you for sharing!

Oh and let's be honest, the Iron Throne belongs to Robb Stark.

Manuel Perez  over 1 year ago
Great post! Lots of helpful information to help us recreate the Game of Thrones look to our photos! Thanks and I look forward to more of your posts!

Our thoughts on photography, web development, and life. Join us for updates, interviews, reviews, and stories.

Subscribe to RSS

Popular Photos

BorrowLenses. Get 10% off your next order with the 500px gift code