How many DSLRs does it take to change a light bulb? None apparently, because the ability for these new cameras to capture HD video in low light is so amazing so you don’t need to light anything anymore. Right?
No, No, No, No!
I was talking to someone recently and telling them about the gain on one of our new digital video cameras and how high you could push it without too much grain and they said 'great, that will save having to light'. This got me thinking. Are we not in the business to make the best looking pictures we can that are artistically designed to best tell the 'story' whether that be fiction, documentary or corporate?
Lighting in film always served two purposes; to be able to see the subject AND to 'paint it in the best possible light'. Just because our new cameras are fantastic doesn't mean that you don’t have to light a scene to be able to see it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t light to make it look better and more professional.
So let's go back to basics and have a beginners guide to three-point lighting. It’s simple and it works and it’s worth thinking about if you want to give your video some quality.
Three point lighting is the start, and it's easy. The main light is the 'key' light. In day-to-day informal shooting this would be the sun or if you're indoors, the main overhead light. On a controlled set the key light is your brightest light source, either emulating from the natural world (sun/moon or room light) or basically just any good strong source of light falling at around a 45 degree angle on your subject.
The second in our three lights is the fill light. This basically 'fills in' any unwanted shadows created by the key light. So this is positioned at an angle on the other side of the subjects face to remove nose/neck shadow etc and to brighten the eye on that side.
Finally, the 'back-light'. This is not, as is often mistakenly assumed, to light the background – though backlight can be created from an illuminated backdrop. This is to light the subject from behind, from 'the back'. Why? To separate the subject from the background. A light positioned high up, shooting down on a person from behind will give a line of light along the shoulders and a slight halo around the head to make your subject - your point of focus - stick out.
So where’s the skill in just sticking three lights up? The main thing to think about is how these lights contrast in brightness and intensity. It might be that your movie requires harsh shadows so you don’t want a fill light, but this should still be a conscious decision to not have a fill light so you are still using a 3-point lighting technique. Playing around with these three lights enables you to paint with light and create much, much better footage.
From this point you can go on. You can think about 'practicals' - prop lights in shot that also add to lighting the scene - and background lighting which not only helps you to see what’s in the background but also adds colour, depth and shape to your shot. And there’s much, much more. Just look at the lighting department credits on a feature film for an idea of how many people are involved in getting it right for the 'big screen'.
When you've sorted out the basics, THEN you can think about colour grading and correction. We are artists creating beautiful pictures and the whole point of our skills is that their effect should be appreciated without being noticed. Let’s not forget that lighting, along with sound, is the most important aspect of filmmaking. It allows us to paint in this most modern medium, and keeps us in control, however sophisticated the technology.
Evan Pugh is Creative Director of Butchers Hook Video Production. His credits include directing on multiple series of Big Brother & I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here as well as many corporate productions. His fondest memories are from camera operating on The Lord of the Rings, Return of the King.
May 5, 2015
The Long Journey of 'The Long Night': Tim Matsui's work to document underage sex trafficking in the US
May 14, 2015
Jun 3, 2015
May 22, 2015
By combining his skills as a time-lapse filmmaker and an engineer, Julian Tryba created this out-of-this-world creative 'layer-lapse' of New York City that alternates between night and day in time with the music.
Canon Japan's new lineup of novelty camera-themed gifts was just revealed online, including a lens mug and lens thermos, two retro camera-themed USB drives, and a picnic mat.
The Profoto A1 most certainly isn’t for everyone [...] But for those who are used to using the Profoto systems, and want something that pairs seamlessly with the strobes you already have, there is no better companion.
Fujifilm has asked a US district court to clear it of any wrongdoing, after allegedly being threatened with trademark litigation by Polaroid.
While a couple of our reviewers are out testing the Sony a7R III in Arizona, back in Seattle we slapped the camera in front of our studio scene to get a close look at its image quality. See how it stacks up against the competition.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017, and the #8 ranking belongs to the Nikon D7500.
B+W has announced a new aluminum filter holder that offers three slots so users can use multiple filters at the same time. The holder goes with the 2mm thick 100mm square filters it launched earlier this year.
8K video is coming a lot faster than you think, and Blackmagic is ready for it. Meet the DeckLink 8K Pro, a new high performance PCI-E capture and playback card built to handle 'real time high resolution 8K workflows.'
"Glass is everywhere in photography. From Eugène Atget’s reflective vitrines to Lee Friedlander’s sly self-portraiture, photographers have long been in thrall to the visual complications glass can inject into a composition."
Former Apple Aperture lead developer Nik Bhatt has designed an iOS app called RAW Power that lets you edit raw photos from your professional camera using your phone and tablet.... color us intrigued.
Advertising photographer Blair Bunting got his hands on the new Microsoft Surface Book 2, and it blew him away. Bye bye MacBook Pro...
The OnePlus 5T retains many of the 5's features and specs, but comes with an edge-to-edge display and a dual-camera that is optimized for low light.
Sony's recently announced IMX461 backside illuminated medium format sensor will bring 100MP resolution and almost 2x the speed to the next-gen Fuji GFX and Hasselblad X1D.
With the ‘Rent a Hasselblad’ camera equipment renting program, the camera makers is aiming to give enthusiast and professional photographers easier access to its medium-format photography products.
They say seeing is believing, and that's exactly what happened when one DPR staffer took the Google Pixel 2 out for an afternoon shooting under challenging conditions.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. At the #9 spot we have the Fujifilm GFX 50S, a medium-format camera that took CP+ 2017 by storm.
Instagram is testing a new feature that lets you follow hashtags in addition to people, making it possible to keep track of your favorite #landscapes or #portraits without leaving your home feed.
Despite the gigantic volume of second hand film bodies in existence, it seems there is still a demand for new 35mm SLRs with a retro feel. The latest is a remake of the Ihagee Elbaflex from the 1960s, but with a Nikon F mount.
The Polaroid Insta-Share Moto Mod straps an instant printer directly to your Moto Z smartphone, so you can print your photos as soon as you've captured them.
The Mitakon Speedmaster 135mm F1.4 lens is being relaunched in 7 different mounts, including: Sony A, Sony E, Canon EF, Nikon F, Fujifilm G, Pentax K, and Leica L. Got an extra three grand lying around?
In January, Kodak announced it would bring back the beloved slide film Ektachrome. The timeline has been pushed back a bit, but Kodak says you can expect to purchase Ektachrome again in 2018.
Instagram popularity is threatening some of the most beautiful landscapes in the US, as hordes of 'nature lovers' trample over the same spots over and over again in search of the same exact shot.
You’d have to be pretty brave to immerse your $50K RED cinema camera underwater. But if you've got the guts, Gates just released a new housing you can be pretty sure won't wreck your unbelievably expensive toy.
Adobe has released a 'Lightroom Downloader' app for Windows 10 and macOS High Sierra that allows you to download all of your images from the Adobe Cloud, all at once.
After releasing a popular 4K action cam and an affordable mirrorless M43 camera, Chinese camera maker YI is diving into yet another market: 360° VR. Meet the YI 360 VR: a powerful little two-lens camera that can shoot and stream in 4K.
The DJI Spark has received a lot of attention thanks to its diminutive size, but how does it stack up? In our review, we take a look at what it's like to fly this pint-sized drone, as well as what's in it for photographers.
Between now and the end of the year we'll be counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. Coming in at #10 is a fast wide prime and part of the highly-acclaimed Sigma Art series.
DxOMark has awarded the Pentax 645Z 101 points, making it the second-highest scoring medium format camera it's tested (or the highest scoring from 2015 to now, based on the originally published results).
A small explosion that sounded like a gunshot caused a panic and 24 flight cancellations at Orlando International Airport last Friday. As it turns out, it was a camera battery that exploded inside a traveler's bag.
At last, a premium superzoom bridge camera with phase detect autofocus. Is this the best all-in-one camera ever made? Read on.