Lets face it, lights are fucking awesome. While I may endlessly rave about the cameras I "need," I should be raving about all of these lights. During a recent interview I conducted, I realized just how important lighting is to create a quality image. Therefore, today we will do just that; take a good hard look at lighting.
Lighting, isn't that expensive?
But it doesn't need to be. The first lights I purchased cost me roughly $20 a piece. You've likely heard it from every other film blog on the internet, can lights from the hardware store are a great starting point for any new cinematographer. While you won't see any cool features like dimming or a Fresnel lens, you can take the first step in your lighting journey; placement of lights and light modifiers. Again, you may not be using fancy CTO filters and soft boxes, but you can easily purchase diffusion paper, or even use some DIY solutions to diffuse your light, which I recommend.
This leads me to what some basic controls with light you can achieve. Diffusion simply makes the light softer, and generally more attractive. These are often used on faces and in portraiture to make the skin appear smooth, while not cutting down the amount of light reaching the subject too much. Light placement also carries a lot of obvious changes in addition to some more subtle ones. It is a common mistake of new filmmakers to place lights further than they need to be from the subject of their shot. Even some experienced photographers may not realize the effect distance has on their image, which is rather understandable. The biggest effect of a light placed far from the subject is a harsh shadow pattern. This has an effect on a subject's shadow on the background, in addition to subtle shadows on the subject, such as a nose or small bumps on the skin. While there are many situations in which you may want a harsh, moody shadow (i.e. film noir, expressionism, and horror), you may want to consider moving your lights closer to your subject.
The last major overlook I see in new cinematographers is the size of the light itself. Unfortunately this isn't something you can change with a can light, it is something to consider when you begin to look at your first light kit. Simply put, a larger source of light creates a more wrapped feeling in your light, making your shadows softer and more subtle on the face of your subject. This can be achieved a few ways, such as a soft box, a large panel such as an LED, or a fill card bouncing toward your subject.
Lights are expensive as hell, and using them takes years of practice. This shouldn't discourage you, as the sooner you begin, the sooner you can take a real grasp on the craft. The good news, is the challenging nature of cinematography makes it even more rewarding. On a personal note, the craft of an image into something you find aesthetically pleasing is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. I am far from mastering my craft, and hardly an authority on the matter. However I feel the knowledge I have picked up in my lifelong studio experience, (yes, I have lived near cameras and lights my entire life) gives me the ability to pass my knowledge onto anyone willing to listen. I try not to get sentimental, especially not in my blogs, but I am thankful for being able to find my craft and being able to share it with all of you.
Now that all of that bullshit is out of the way, that's it for this week. Have fun with your dad Morgan next week, and for the love of god stop eating spaghetti! s t o p i t p l e a s e