all of the lights
Sometimes when you look at a picture that blows your mind, it takes a bit to figure out what captures your attention. Is it the subjects? The emotion?
No matter what it is, there's no question the lighting is a large factor of what makes it so appealing. It's the glue that pulls it all together.
In a perfect world where every element can be controlled, your lighting is always on point and follows the rules taught by video craft teachers everywhere. But what if it isn’t a perfect environment? What if you don’t have the time or equipment to make it just right?
For me personally, 95% of the video shoots that I go on, (it’s a made-up number but probably right), are never perfect scenarios and rarely do I have the time available to tweak and work situations to make the perfect picture. I am constantly using my environment to spot and fill my subjects. If you are going to light a scene with what is taught in school, it is using the 3-point light equation: One spot or key light, one fill light, and one back light.
But that only comes together in a very controlled environment.
What if you didn’t have this ability to control every element of light? How do you use the natural lighting sources to fill your scene?
Most of the time I try to create a bit of contrast while trying to get the subject to stand out from their background. That means I will usually run off two lights and one window, using the window as my main key light, then use one of my bi-color Genaray to fill in some of the shadow, and another light for a backfill to get the person to stand out from the background.
Convenience is also something to consider when it comes to making the best with what you have. Big film productions have whole crews setting up light after light after light until the lighting is just right with huge Arri lights and massive scrims and booms and bounce cards. We don’t have those luxuries or time. Having a good, ready-for-anything kit will advance any production. A good lighting system is one that I linked above with Genaray. Get a few of those lights, but also look into Lumecube--Their little lights have exploded in popularity since the pandemic began. They are small, on the cheap side, and have USB charging. Plus, they can been put anywhere and offer nice lighting for the price. Even if used for just a little bit of accent lighting.
Painting with light is the true skill of a video artist. Capturing little light photons onto a sensor to evoke emotion. It all starts with filling your frame with contrast and light, highlights and low lights, whites and blacks. Using the light that is available and the light that can be added. Paint your scene using the rules and also breaking them enough to evoke emotion.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
― Pablo Picasso