Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lighting Tip #4 - Knowledge is King

Having the best, most complete light kit in the world gets you nothing in this game. It is all about knowing how to control and shape the light, no matter what tools you have to work with. A good DP will get a better look with a couple of $10 utility lights, white foamcore and black foil than an amateur will with $50,000 worth of lights. Sure, it does make life easier when you have everything you need and the exact light you want for every job, but knowledge is the thing that you really need in every situation. In the interview shot shown above, I came to the shoot thinking I was only capturing a short stage performance. I had no light kit, and only a few sheets of diffusion in the truck. So when they mentioned interviews, I quickly went searching. Before long, I had found a lamp with a soft white shade (similar to the one seen in the shot), a coat rack, and a clip-on work light.

I positioned the subject in the room where she was sitting under (and slightly in front of) an overhead can light that provided a little rim light on the top of her head. The lamp with the white "softbox" (lampshade) went behind her left shoulder in order to even out the can light and to add a touch more backlight. It also served to provide fill light on the left side of her face. Finally, the clip light went atop the coat rack in front of and slightly to the right of her. A sheet or two of diffusion smoothed the look of the light wonderfully. The wall of the room, with it's paint-spatter look, worked great as a background, and we found a 25-watt bulb to replace the 40-watt bulbs in the lamp seen onscreen. With no professional lighting, we got a very nice look that the clients raved about once they saw it (though I am sure they were quite nervous about it up to that point, what with the coat-rack and all). Note that the overlay graphic, not the lighting, is creating the white hot spots you see in the right corners.