How the subject you are filming is lit can make or break a video. Obviously you want your audience to see what you are filming, but how it is lit can determine how your audience reacts emotionally to the subject you are filming. Different lighting techniques vary on different projects, and here is a quick guide to those techniques.
Attaching A Light To Your Camera
When filming on the go, a good thing to have attached to the top of your camera is a small LED light. This comes in handy for lighting subjects close to camera. Things to look out for is making sure the subject is lit evenly. If that subject is a person, light them well, but make sure you don’t blind them.
The Three Point Lighting Setup
When setting up lights as a set piece, a good place to start is a “three point lighting system”. (This involves three separate lights.) This starts with a key light and is the main lighting source. This is placed next to and level with the camera, lighting the subject in front of camera. In interior locations with windows, this will be an extension to emphasize sunlight coming through a window lighting the subject from the front.
This light on it’s own will generate a “hard” lighting effect. One side of the subject is lighter, the other side much darker. This creates an expression of mystery and darkness. Great for drama and horror, but if this is not the intended expression, a fill light is needed. This light goes on the other side, level with the camera facing the subject and fills in the shadows created by the key light. Now your subject is evenly lit, a “soft” lighting effect. We can go softer, and create a romantic look. This is done with a back light. This light is placed high and behind the subject, creating a halo effect around the subject. This is the complete three point lighting system.
Light Intensity & Coloured Gels
Some lights can emit intense light or an unwanted colour temperature, so it’s important to balance everything out. For intense light, diffusion paper can be used to reduce the intensity of the light. You can also use coloured gel sheets to change the colour temperature of the light. This can be useful when correcting the balance of your light, or creating aesthetic effects.
Blocking & Bouncing
At times you will also need to block or bounce light on a subject. Another great and cheap trick I picked up from filmmaker Owen Benson is to get a big piece of white polystyrene board, and paint one side completely black. The black side can be used to block any unwanted light on a subject. The white side can be used to reflect light. Instances where light may need to be reflected is when you are filming outside in intense sunlight from above and you need to fill in the shadows by placing the white reflective board below the subject.
Please check out Owen Benson’s website below.
Filming Day For Night
If you are shooting inside with windows during the day, and want it to look like night, simply closing the curtain will not do. It will look exactly like it is, daylight with the curtains drawn closed. A brilliant, cheap trick I picked up from filmmakers on a feature film set is to wet the windows, and completely cover it with tin foil (shiny side out) and then shut the curtains. No light comes through the curtains, thus making it look like night.
Things to remember when lighting:
- Attach a light to the camera for on the go shooting.
- Use three point lighting for camera setups.
- Adjust the lights intensity using diffusing materials.
- Use coloured gels to create different lighting effects.
- Block unwanted lighting.
- Bounce light to enhance your lighting setup.
- Completely block sunlight from windows when shooting day for night.
You are now ready to light your subject. Make it look good!