Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lighting Tip #9 - Know Your Camera

While good lighting practices generally apply to every situation, it is important to know the capabilities and limitations of the camera and format you are shooting on. The amount of latitude in a camera can make a difference in the way you light. For example, when using a camera with 10 stops of dynamic range, you will be forced to light the scene much more evenly than if you had 14 stops. With a higher latitude camera, you can get away with including both well-lit and very shadowy areas in the same scene--and it may actually create a better result in some cases.

Another thing that is important to know is how your camera handles highlights. Some cameras have a nice-looking roll-off into a blown-out window while others may have the same window looking like a home video. If your camera falls under the latter category, then you will have to bring up the overall lighting of the interior, gel the window with a neutral density filter. or simply find a way to keep the window out of the shot. Be aware that each camera handles differently the highlights in different colors as well. Some may blow out reds before any other color, so you will need to take that into account when lighting the scene.

The overall light level of a scene can be affected by the camera as well. For example, if you have a camera with a higher ISO rating, then you are able to work with much less light and get the same results. While one camera may require an evening scene to have a 5k light as a key and a bunch of lights bringing up the background, another camera may capture the same scene with a small KinoFlo as the key and existing light for the background. In the picture above, we shot a scene of two boys in a fishing boat at close to nine o'clock at night. It was supposed to be a daytime scene, and because we were shooting with a camera rated at 800 ISO (Sony PMW-F3), we were able to get the look of daylight with just existing light and a single Litepanel LED light. On most cameras, this would have looked far too grainy to be of use.