Following on from my previous post 10 Reasons why good lighting can be more important than the camera itself I would like to focus on the point that in video and film production, as in any business, time is money. 9 out of 10 productions you'll work on will probably have some sort of budgetary restriction meaning that you will only have a set time to do the work in and/or limited resources to work with. This is a harsh reality that anyone entering this industry must come to terms with but depending on the type of project you're working on, the amount of time you will be given to light can vary greatly. I would always push for as much time to light as I can get (unless I'm filming at an event for example) because as we know, good lighting can vastly improve the production values of a shoot. However, you have to be prepared to get less time than you'd like, in which case it would be useful to know as many simple lighting solutions as possible.
When I say 'simple' I am referring to lighting setups or adjustments that involve minimal equipment, quick setup/break down time and a degree of portability. The following examples show small modifications I made on shoots when time was short, in both interior and exterior locations:
1. Softening harsh sunlight on location
On this music video shoot with Substantial Films we filmed entirely on location and would often be faced with bright, harsh sunlight that wasn't always flattering on our actress. In this shot we held up a large diffuser (part of a 5 in 1 reflector) that softened the sunlight hitting the left side of our actresses face which eliminated a hot spot and helped our exposure. This quick fix still allowed her to jump out from the shady background.
2. Flooding a room with bounced light
In this example with 325 Productions UK we were faced with an unfamiliar location, a gloomy winter's day and interior lights that were not giving out too much light, yet the scene we were filming was supposed to be a positive family setting. The solution was quite simple - we turned off the interior lights, closed the blinds and bounced a redhead off the ceiling back onto our three subjects. A small flag (the black side of our reflector) was placed between the redhead and the edge of frame so that only bounced (soft) light would reach them, avoiding any spill and minimizing any strong shadows. The strength of a redhead (800W) light in a medium sized kitchen meant that we didn't need any other light source, although we kept the counter lights on for aesthetics.
3. Adding (or utilizing an existing) back light to make your subject more 3 dimensional.
Back lighting stops your images from looking flat and creates a sense of depth. Whether you use a battery powered light or the power of the sun, a back light can give your image that extra sparkle. Your viewers may not always notice it but it can really add a touch of professionalism to your shot. Take a look at these examples of back lighting on various United Magic Studios shoots.
Finding the right place for your back light relies on a bit of trial and error and experimentation with whatever tools you have at hand. One way of concentrating a hard light into a thin 'stripe' is to use a flag (either the black side of a reflector or a piece of foam core) to cut the light just enough so it doesn't illuminate the whole side of the body.
4. Using a soft box for quick fill light.
Soft boxes are great for providing quick and flattering soft light which is especially useful in corporate videos and green screen work. However in this example with Substantial Films I used a soft box to fill in the shadows in a scene when using hard lights to back light my subjects. It helped me to make the shadow from the key light less harsh whilst still giving the impression of a bright sun shining in through the kitchen window. It also stopped any unwanted shadow landing on the wall behind her.
A single soft boxed light can in theory be used as your only source if you're on a very tight schedule although the overall output will be limited on most affordable fixtures.
5. Bouncing a hard back light back on the subject.
My little sister sometimes helps me out when I need to practice my lighting but it doesn't take long before she gets bored and fidgety so I have to work fast! In this example I managed to capture a nice portrait using just one light and a reflector. I placed a spotted 800W redhead behind her at an angle and diffused it slightly before placing a reflector opposite on the right side of camera. The resulting bounced light meant that the right side of her face was filled in but there was still some shadow wrapping around so the resulting contrast was nice. Now this may be a portrait but the technique (along with many other photography tricks) can be applied to the moving image too. The difficulty here on wider shots would be that your back light would need to be pretty powerful in order for the bounce to have a big effect and avoid massive under exposure on most of the face.
Of course there are many other lighting solutions that may be just as quick, but these are just to get you started. Whether you're shooting interiors or exteriors, you can probably see now how a little bit of lighting knowledge can make the world of difference.
Did you notice in the above examples that 4 out of the 5 techniques had an item in common? This would be the 5 in 1 reflector. It really is an essential accessory and can be inexpensive. In fact, in my next post (through my new techie blog at Fly Creative) I explain why I think you should take a reflector everywhere you go.
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