Introduction: 3 Steps for Better Film Lighting

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Lately, through experimenting with different light setups when filming, I've come across several small tips and tricks that can make a drastic difference in film quality.

So today I'd like to share with you my top 3 film lighting tips that are simple to execute yet produces remarkable results.

Step 1: Watch the Video!

Check out this quick video for some real footage examples of the steps below!

Click here to watch on YouTube

Step 2: Three-point Lighting

Using three-point lighting gives the subject more depth over a single light source.

Here is an example of a simple three-point lighting setup I put together with desk lamps and CFL light bulbs (as pictured):

  • A key light - about 3 feet away, uses a 26 watt, 1600 lumen CFL daylight bulb.
  • A fill light - about 2 feet away, uses a 16 watt, 800 lumen CFL reveal bulb.
  • And lastly, a back light - about 2 feet away, uses a 16 watt, 800 lumen CFL daylight bulb.

Step 3: Lamp Shades

Using a lamp shade can keep the subject lit without lighting the background.

Pictured are two examples of homemade lamp shades, and they're nothing but Bristol board with aluminum foil duct taped to it. One is in the shape of a cylinder and the other with a slight cone taper. They wrap around the key light lamp using Velcro.

Comparing the differences between the image with no lamp shade and the image with a cone shade, we can see that the background light is darkened without darkening the subject. This leaves more headroom for the fill light and the back light to light the scene without over-brightening the background.

Step 4: White Balance

Regardless of which light configuration is used, the white balance setting should always be configured.

Especially with CFL daylight light bulbs, cameras will film it's natural yellow tint without proper white balance configuration.

Before recording, locate the custom white balance setting in the camera menu, then follow the directions and sample something purely white, like a stack of paper.

Let the camera adjust accordingly to make the piece of paper white.

Step 5: Conclusion

There is no single setup that works in every environment you film in. These are only a few tips to help shape the picture you're looking for in your final product.

Happy filming!