Let there be light in your video

No, really. Are you producing a video about funny things girls do or about to get murdered? There’s no warning music so I can’t really tell…

Anyway, lighting is an important part of making videos and here are a few tips to get you started!

Filming outdoors

You just can’t ever beat natural light.

It’s just so…

Natural Light video and cheap beer

Golden…

Refreshing…

Accessible…

and…inexpensive!

Keep it real with sunshine outdoors as much as you can.

Oh, avoid direct sunlight if your subject has eyes, though…no one likes a squinter.

Fry not sure if meme

I mean, unless they’re a ginger, of course. /cough

AND, handy tip, it’s even BETTER for your video when the sky is overcast.  This provides natural diffusion so you don’t have to worry about super harsh light and shadows and squinting! But if it’s just an incredibly glorious, sunny day and you can’t resist picking up that camera, just put some sunglasses on your subjects.

Fry in Sunglasses

Seems legit.

Filming indoors

Try to find a window to get that natural glow!

If it’s super sunny while you’re indoors, you can make your own “cloudiness” with some DIY diffusion – try throwing a white sheet up over a your window!

But what if you want to film at night?

Inside?

Under a rock in a dungeon 20,000 leagues under the sea??!!?!

Okay, now is where things get real. Indoor lights can do pretty gross things to video as they cast their spectrum colors on your subjects in weird ways. Incandescent lights, like your traditional lightbulb, make things very orangey-red and fluorescent lights like office lights and CFL lightbulbs can make things seem blue.

If you’re shooting indoors, first and foremost, just try your best to make sure the kinds of lights you are using are the same. If you are at home and your overhead lights are incandescent, use incandescent light to fill. If you’re at an office and the overhead lights are fluorescent, use a CFL bulb in a lamp or similar to fill.

What’s a “fill?” Oh, yeah. About that. Okay, when working indoors using a technique called “3-point lighting” will save you a lot of grief. You basically just take 3 lights from the same spectrum and arrange them around your subject in a way that lights them from their left & right in front and then a light in back separates from their background and eliminates any shadows like this:

3-point lighting

It’s a simple concept but it DOES take a while to set up each time so make sure to accomodate for that if you’re building a makeshift little set inside!

For 102-level video production techniques, white balancing is also most helpful in these situations. The colors cast by these kind of lights can basically be neutralized by custom setting your camera – though smartphones are still not capable of this as far as I’m aware – to calibrate to “true white.” You can read more about light temperature and white balancing on Locker Gnome!

Now…what about if you’e on the go and want to shoot video outside in the dark?

Well first, bring a really big gun, because that’s when the zombies come out. So…watch out for that.

But next, either get a friend to use a flashlight app on their phone to light your subject or choose an app that has video flash. “Flash” for video on your phone is a light that is continually on that makes it way easier to negotiate your shot than Ye Olde snap flash in still photography! Beware the grain though, video shot on simple equipment in low light will have crappier image quality than a well-lit situation.

And finally, here are just a few things to avoid when lighting your basic videos:

  • Very angular lights that cast shadows…unless you’re trying to make it look like an interrogation. Then that’s okay, whatever it takes to get the perp to talk!
  • Watch out for backlighting…unless you want to protect the identity of the speaker. Make sure you auto-tune their voice too for total obscurity.

Kind of like this:

Do the best you can until you know better. Maya AngelouReally though, the most important thing you can do is make sure you have some light. ANY. Light. We used to make due with crappy office lighting and a good white balance all the time. With Young & Free the stakes weren’t super high to have mind-numbingly professional productions on my weekly videos and depending on what you’re doing you can get away with that. But we certainly want to try to do better.

MY next step is to not be so afraid of my light kit. 3-point lighting with a kit can take a while to set up right and since I was usually flying by my ass when I filming & working with my kindly co-worker volunteers I tended to put it aside.

But no longer, my friends. Now that I’m so corporate and stuff, this is the big time…

So now that you’re all hyper-aware of light and seeing shadows and colors all around you, what are you going to shoot next? Leave a comment or get at me on Facebook and Twitter!

For those about to [REC.], we salute you!