A Few Basics of Lighting

Generally, you will want to keep the strongest lights behind your camera. Use reflectors to redirect light and diminish harsh shadows.Holding Reflector Silk, or other translucent cloth, can soften and diffuse strong light sources. Try bouncing strong light off walls or ceilings. Continually experiment and practice, and you will eventually begin to 'feel' good vs bad lighting.

Natural vs Artificial

It is generally easiest to rely entirely on natural or artificial lighting, because when the two mix, the colors of the lights clash (the same can be said about mixing fluorescent and halogen lighting). Mixing is possible, but to avoid clashing, you must balance the temperature of the lights. For details, see color temperature (below).

Using Natural Lighting

Shooting in full noon-day sun is not recommended as it casts harsh shadows on a person's face. You're better off shooting in full shade and optionally bouncing extra light into the scene with reflectors. Similarly, shooting in partial shade with intense sunlight will create a very high contrast scene. Shooting out of the shade can be great in the morning or evening, just remember that your lighting will be in flux and eventually too dark or too light. Overcast days are great for getting even lighting.

Color Temperature and White Balancing

Different types of light cast different color temperatures. Our eyes do a great job automatically balancing these colors; however, video cameras are not so clever... (Click to expand)

Three Point Lighting

This is the classic formula for lighting a scene, and has been used for many years in both film and photography. Three point lighting generally consists of a key light, a fill light and a back light.

We present this as a suggestion, but not as a rule -- it is important to be flexible, and trust your eyes. Furthermore, don't feel limited to using only three lights (try one, two or five).

Key Light

Key LightThis light is pointed directly at the subject, and sets the stage for the rest of the lighting. However, it generally casts noticeable shadows, and may need to be balanced out by the other lights.

Fill Light

Key and Fill LightsThis light is generally used to illuminate the background, and wash away any overly harsh shadows that the key light produces. It is generally diffuse and can be very bright. Both fill and back light are often provided by reflectors.

Back Light

Key Fill and Back LightsThis adds definition to your subject, by shining from the back. Depending on the intensity of this light, the effect can be subtle or dramatic.

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