Traveling Light
Posted Sep 8, 2004

Good lighting is absolutely essential to shooting good video. If you're like me, however, much of the time, you shoot your video without separate lights, using the sun or available indoor lighting as best you can.

Fortunately, the lack of lighting equipment doesn't prevent you from producing great results. Even though it might sound paradoxical (if not downright Zen), you must know how to work with lighting equipment to understand how to do without, since this allows you to optimize results by positioning your subjects or the available light for maximum effect.

So, I'll start there, examining the two most common lighting combinations used on location and in studios today. Then I'll discuss some lighting fundamentals to help arrive at a definition of "good lighting."

After all, you can't hit a target unless you know what it is.

Once we have a target, I'll discuss the tools available to help produce good lighting. One lovely characteristic of all video cameras is an absolutely egalitarian view of lighting. Cameras don't care whether you spent thousands of dollars on your lighting equipment, or mid-two figures, so long as the light is adequate and appropriately positioned. Accordingly, for those with $100 or so to spend, I'll describe how to buy highly effective lighting equipment at a fraction of the price of professional gear.

With all this as background, I'll describe how to apply what we've learned to common shooting situations you'll likely encounter in the field.

Three-Point Lighting
Three-point lighting has its roots in lighting as art rather than lighting as a necessary evil for the camera to do its work. The basic theory is this: Video is a two-dimensional medium served on a flat screen. Flat lighting, which lights each scene region equally, is visually uninteresting and serves only to emphasize video's two-dimensional nature.

To get around this, lighting should create "depth" within the video image and contrast between the foreground subject and the background. The basic tool for accomplishing both goals is three-point lighting, as shown in Figure 1.

As the name suggests, three-point lighting uses three lights. The key light is the primary light, and its job is to expose the shape of the subject, which it does by shining down on the subject from an angle and producing shadows, which is also often called modeling.

As shown in Figure 1, you position the key light approximately 45 degrees from the camera, pointing directly at the subject. The light should be above the subject, and shining down at an angle of about 45 degrees. A key light must be a "hard light" that produces shadows, but not so harsh that it creates excessive contrast between the lighted and the shadowed regions. More on hard and soft lights and lighting contrasts in the "Hard vs. Soft Lighting" section.

Positioning the key light is more art than science. In the key light image on the left of Figure 2, note the clearly visible shadow cast by the nose, which is also called the "nose caret." As a rule of thumb, the nose caret should never touch the lip (light too high) or protrude into the cheek area (light too far to the side).

Position the key light slightly higher to produce shadows that hide a double or triple chin, but make sure the eyes remain clearly visible. This is a problem for me (that's yours truly in the image) because my bushy eyebrows can block the light, making my eyes difficult to discern.

As you can see on the left in Figure 2, the key light did its job, producing a shadow that adds depth to the face. However, the contrast is a bit too strong between the lighted area on the right side of my face and the shadows on the left. To moderate this, we'll add a fill light to "fill" the shadows.

Where the effect of the key light is obvious, the fill light is subtler, softly reducing the shadows produced by the key light rather than announcing the presence of another light. To accomplish this, the intensity of the fill light must be less than the key light, an effect you can produce by using a softer light, a less powerful bulb, or by placing the light further from the subject.

As shown in Figure 1, the fill light should be placed at approximately the same angle as the key light, but on the other side of the camera. Placing the fill light at a different height from the key light will produce an asymmetry that enhances the desired modeling effect.

Compare the key light image in Figure 2 with the key and fill light image. You'll notice that the fill light did its job, softening the dark shadows produced by the key light and revealing some of the detail on the left side of my face.

The back light is placed behind and shines down upon the subject. Rather than provide true lighting for the scene, the back light should produce a subtle halo on the top and back of the subject that provides contrast to and visually separates the subject from the background, which enhances the three-dimensional appearance of the scene.

Ideally, you should place the back light directly opposite the camera, and it should have the same intensity as the key light. If it's impossible to place the light directly behind the subject, place it on the side and shine the light down on the subject, or place a light on each side, with both lights shining down onto the back of the subject. Be careful when positioning the light that it does not shine down on the camera lens, which can produce lens flares and even burn out pixels in the LCD viewfinder or panel.

If you look at the key, fill, and back light image in Figure 2, you'll notice that my hair and shoulders are lighted, providing contrast with the background. Though many television producers eschew three-point lighting for flat lighting, virtually all employ back lights to create this contrast.

So that's three-point lighting. So, what are the takeaways?

First, shadows are acceptable, if not desired. This is critical, because you can drive yourself crazy, especially out in the field, if you try to get rid of all facial shadows. Rather, it's important to place the lighting and the subject so that the shadows enhance, rather than disrupt the image.

Second, uneven lighting is acceptable, if not desired. Again, don't drive yourself nuts trying to get even lighting on each subject's face. Rather, it's critical to limit the contrast between the brightest and darkest regions in the video.

Third, back lights are essential to separate the subject from the background, especially (in my experience) with indoor shots.

Flat Lighting
Open any book or article on lighting and you'll see a chapter or section on three-point lighting, usually identifying this technique as optimal, if not the be-all/end-all of professional lighting. However, there's one dark secret about three-point lighting that few sources reveal: most television programs don't use it.

The reasons are plentiful. Three-point lighting usually requires high-powered incandescent lamps that consume copious quantities of electricity, produce massive heat, and are tough on the subject's eyes. Three-point lighting is very difficult to accomplish when you have multiple subjects on screen simultaneously, especially if they're moving around.

In addition, high-resolution, large-screen television sets make depth more easily apparent, lessening the importance of three-point lighting. Finally, some producers obviously prefer to eliminate (or minimize) the nose carets and other shadows that three-point lighting produces.

So, while you may see three-point lighting in use in dramatic interviews on 60 Minutes, you typically won't on broadcasts from ESPN, CNN, the Golf Channel, CNBC, MSNBC, or on most local news productions. All these programs use flat lighting, which minimizes shadows but retains the back lighting.

Producing flat lighting is very simple, as shown in Figure 3. Rather than having key and fill lights with different intensities, you use two key lights with identical intensity. In addition, rather than using hard lights, you use soft lights that produce fewer shadows.

This produces the image shown on the left in Figure 4, which has even lighting throughout the face and the characteristic shadow beneath the chin. On the right, I placed a bounce card (see "The Lighting Toolset" sidebar) on my lap to reflect the light back up to my face, noticeably reducing the chin shadow. Some producers use a fourth light, directly behind the camera, to accomplish this, but doing so places the light directly in the subject's eyes, which is tough going even for professionals.

What are the takeaways here? Primarily, that flat lighting (no or minimal shadows) is certainly acceptable, which is critical because it may be your only alternative in certain indoor shoots. While some may find this contradictory to what we learned from examining three-point lighting, I consider it supplementary.

Specifically, while a documentary filmmaker may criticize your video if you use flat lighting, few, if any, non-professional viewers would even notice, any more than they notice the use of flat lighting on the evening news or The Tonight Show. So when you're making do in the field, if flat lighting is all that's available, or the best option for providing good, consistent coverage, go with it. If you can implement three-point lighting effectively, go with that.

Lighting Fundamentals
Now let's take a quick look at some lighting fundamentals which will help round out our definition of good lighting.

The mechanics of three-point lighting are fairly simple. However, unless you know what kind of lights to set up and why, your results will be sub-optimal, if not downright disappointing.

One way to avoid disappointing results is to understand that just because your eyes can perceive details in a shot doesn't mean that your camera can. Video is definitely not a What You See is What You Get affair. This reality causes problems primarily in high-contrast scenes, like when you're shooting a subject with extremely bright lights in the background, whether produced by the sun or a spotlight.

When you're looking at the scene with your eyes, you can see detail at both extremes, because your eyes have a contrast range of around 1000:1. This compares to a contrast range of about 250:1 for the best video cameras, approximately 64:1 for cameras in the Sony VX2100 or Canon XL1 class, and as low as 30:1 in consumer camcorders.

Consequently, while your eyes will be able to perceive detail at both the darkest and lightest extremes, your video camera won't. This is why the left side of my face lost detail in the key light-only image in Figure 2. The contrast range between the darkest and lightest regions was simply too dramatic.

If too much lighting contrast exists in your scene, you have no good choices. If your exposure favors the dark area, the more lighted areas become washed out blobs with no detail. If you adjust exposure to favor the lighter areas, darker regions turn completely black, and show no detail. Use an average exposure and you'll lose both extremes.

Interestingly, the "spotlight" or "backlight" control found on most camcorders doesn't really fix the problem. Rather, it simply tells the camera to ignore the bright background, and choose the best exposure for the face.

While this restores some facial detail, you lose detail in the background, usually causing it to look slightly washed out. Spotlight and backlight controls are a great solution when you can't manage the lighting, but when you can, it's better to reduce the contrast range to acquire good detail and color throughout the scene.

Alarm bells should start to ring when there are stark differences between the lightest and darkest regions in your video frame, or when your subjects wear clothing with extreme ranges of contrast, like a dark blue or black suit and a white shirt, or when your subjects are people of color wearing very light clothing or standing against a very light background. Once again, your camera can't preserve detail at both extremes, forcing you into damage control mode.

When it's practical, bring a television to help better judge scene lighting. It's very difficult to detect a loss of detail on your camcorder's 2.5" LCD, and most camcorder LCDs tend to produce brighter results than will actually appear on a television or computer screen. This makes relying on your camcorder's LCD panel a scary proposition.

Color Temperature
One important factor to keep in mind when choosing and placing lighting equipment, especially when you're working with multiple lights and types of lights on the same shot, is that all lighting devices have a different color temperature. To explore this issue, let's start with two scenarios:

Scenario 1: You're shooting indoors, using sunlight streaming in from a window as your key light and a lamp in the room as a fill light.

Scenario 2: You're shooting indoors, lighting the scene primarily with fluorescent lights in the office ceiling, using an incandescent lamp to reduce facial shadows.

These situations sound pretty benign, but unless you take some corrective action, Scenario 1 is hopeless; your subject's face will either be overly blue or overly orange. Same result in Scenario 2 (unless you're very lucky), except that the face will either be overly green or orange.

That's because, simply stated, white is not "white" under all types of light. As shown in Figure 5, different lights produce slightly different coloring on the Kelvin scale, named after the Scottish mathematician and physicist Lord Kelvin. The bottom of the scale, between 2000-3000K, occupied by candles, incandescent (normal light bulbs), and tungsten (shop lights and many pro lighting fixtures) is slightly orange, which is generally considered "warm tones." At the other end of the spectrum is the bluish color produced by the blue sky, which is generally considered "cool tones." In between is the noon sun and cool white fluorescent light bulbs.

Even though our eyes see "white" irrespective of the color of the light, this is a case where our brain overrules our eyes and tricks them into conflating several different shades. We see white paper, or posterboard, or other objects that we know are white, and our brain tells us the object is white. Unfortunately, video cameras aren't that smart: you have to tell them what is white by setting the camera's white balance. Most video cameras have at least two white balance settings, one for outdoors, which assumes that the prevailing light is slightly bluish, and one for indoors, which assumes that the light is slightly orange in tint. In both instances, the camera corrects for the prevailing tint and makes white objects white.

In addition, most prosumer and all professional cameras have a manual white balance control, which obviously adds great flexibility when you're shooting somewhere in between daylight and incandescent light—say, under cool white fluorescent bulbs. However, if you have two light sources with conflicting color temperatures, white balance doesn't help, and the colors on some part of your image will be distorted.

Now back to our scenarios. In the first scenario, you're mixing sunlight (5600K) and an incandescent lamp (3000K). If the white balance is set to indoors, the portion of the face lighted by the sun through the window will be blue. If it's set to outdoors, the portion of the face lighted by the indoor lamp will be slightly orange.

The second scenario is a bit more interesting. First, recognize that today's fluorescent bulbs are quite capable of producing the complete color spectrum, so the mere fact that you're using fluorescent doesn't doom your subjects to a sickly green coloring. Second, while you can buy cool white fluorescents that produce light in the 4000K range, you can also buy warmer lights that output close to the 2700-3000K produced by incandescent bulbs.

If the output of your incandescent and fluorescent bulbs matches, you'll eliminate the color balance conflict, and picture quality should be good. Note that while color temperature values are seldom listed on a bulb's packaging, stores like Lowe's will provide this information at the point of sale, and it's generally available on the manufacturer's Web site.

How can understanding color temperature differences help you on a shoot? Whenever using different sources to light a scene, be sure that the sources produce a consistent color temperature. Otherwise, your white balance will be incorrect for one or more sources, which means distorted colors.

When choosing portable lighting gear, be sure to purchase bulbs that output similar color temperatures. If you're mixing incandescent with fluorescent bulbs, note that while there are fluorescent bulbs that match the color temperature of incandescent lighting, the reverse isn't true. If you have to mix, your only option is to buy fluorescents that match your incandescent lights.

The Color Rendering Index
In addition to the color temperature of common lighting types, Figure 5 also shows the Color Rendering Index (CRI) of these lights. CRI is a measure of how accurately the light portrays color, with 100 being ideal. Lights in the 60-65 range can make people and objects appear washed out, while lights in the 80-100 range bring out the colors.

For some examples, see General Electric's comparison shots at www.gelighting.com/na/institute/quality.html). If you browse around the Web site, you'll find it a generally solid resource for additional information on lighting temperature and CRI. Scan the lighting racks at Lowe's or at Web sites like www.bulbs.com and you'll see that lights with higher CRIs cost a bit more, but in my experience, they're worth it.

Hard vs. Soft Lighting
Hard light is light transmitted from the source in sharp parallel rays that produce hard edges and dark, clearly defined shadows. Typically, hard light sources produce high quantities of light from a very compact space, accompanied by lots of heat that's a problem in many environments.

The sun is a classic hard light as are unfrosted incandescent light bulbs and spotlights. In Figure 6, I used a hard light to produce the shot on the left. In addition to producing a slight shine on my forehead, the hard lighting produces a very significant contrast between the bright, right side of my face, and the left side, which is in dark shadows. This is the same effect we saw in the key light-only image in Figure 2. Absent the fill light to minimize the shadows, some detail would have been lost in the darker regions of the frame.

Soft light is shown on the right in Figure 6. As you can see, soft light produces even lighting across my face and over the background with minimal shadows. This makes soft light ideal for flat lighting, and for lighting backgrounds for chromakeying.

You can produce soft light (at least) three ways. First, you can use lights that are naturally softer, like fluorescent lights. Second, you can "bounce" a hard light off of a light surface, like a bounce card, which removes the hard edge, but typically requires either another person or a dedicated stand to hold the card.

Finally, you can install a diffuser (shown in Figure 7) over a hard light source, as shown on the left in Figure 6. (For more on bounce cards and diffusion kits, see sidebar, "The Lighting Toolset.") Note that diffusers are pieces of cloth or other material that disperse the harsh light from a tungsten or incandescent source, converting hard light to soft light. In this instance, I used a cloth sheet from the Rosco Diffusion Kit that cost about $35 at Wolf Camera. Applied over one lamp of the $35 tungsten shop light I bought at Lowe's, this produced a nice even lighting that can't be beat in terms of bang for the buck.

Note that many television stations like CNN are moving to fluorescent lights, which produce soft light and run much cooler than incandescent lights. The downside is that you need many more bulbs to create the same light as hard light sources like the tungsten halogen lighting they replaced. This makes fluorescent a great option for permanent studios, but much less attractive for portable lighting and on-location shooting. If you need to move your lights around, as most event videographers do, consider a hard light source like tungsten or incandescent converted to soft light via a bounce card or diffuser.

Finally, while soft light is very flattering in many people shots, the flat lighting can obscure detail in product shots or when shooting other objects. If you plan to shoot both objects and people, you probably need both hard and soft light sources.

So, when planning your lighting, remember that soft lights are generally better for lighting faces and backgrounds than hard lights. Typically, hard lights are much more compact than soft lights, making them easier to carry and use. Since you can easily convert hard to soft light with diffusers or bounce cards, they make great additions to your lighting kit.

Professional vs. Homegrown Lighting
If you compared the bulb from the shop lamp in Figure 7 to the bulb in a professional lighting kit—say, the Lowel Tota-Light—you would find minimal differences, though the Tota-Light, sans stand, lists at about $170 retail. This means that to replace my $35 shop lamp with Lowel equipment would require an investment of $300 plus, and I'd still need to find stands. Or, you could spend $1,000+ and get a four-light Lowel system with all the accessories.

On its face, this may sound excessive. But the Lowel system will all fit into a convenient carrying case that simplifies shooting on the go. The Lowel gear has "barn doors" and other implements that simplify directing the light. The Lowel gear will have convenient clamps and knobs for attaching umbrella reflectors and hoods, and rather than using paper clips and other ad hoc connectors to attach your diffusion materials to the lamp, you'll use a convenient stand. This all translates to convenience, time savings, and equipment durability.

The truth is, I salivate over these types of lighting rigs, and, if videography were my main line of work, I'd definitely buy one for both functional and professional reasons. My clients might look askance if I showed up for shoots with a grab bag of shop lights. However, for the type of intermittent shooting that I do, I can get by with much cheaper equipment. Though my homegrown kit won't look as impressive to my customers as the branded gear, generally they care more about the video quality itself, and if I'm careful, the customer won't know (or care) whether I used Lowel gear, or a shop lamp from Lowe's.

Two other pieces of lighting gear I couldn't live without are shown in Figure 8. On the left is the Rosco Diffusion Kit that easily converts my halogen worklamps to soft lights (around $35). On the right is a work lamp with its own steel clamp, which has proved marvelous for connecting to doors, lights, shelves, windows, cabinets, and pretty much everything else I've tried attaching it to. These lights cost under $10 each at Lowe's and can accept both incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, providing great flexibility when attempting to match office lighting.

Sidebar 1
The Lighting Toolset

Let's examine the tools at our disposal that can help produce good lighting.

Incandescent Bulbs: This is the common household light bulb that screws into most lamps and light fixtures. Incandescent bulbs are also called tungsten bulbs because they use a tungsten filament that glows when heated with electricity. Compared to fluorescent lights, incandescent bulbs run very hot, which contributes to their short life (750-1000 hours). Some incandescent bulbs use heavy-duty filaments or different gases in the bulb that can increase longevity by up to four times.

Incandescent bulbs give off a hard, yellowish light that is typically referred to as warm and has a CRI of 95, which is very high. Overall, these bulbs are convenient because they're available in most offices and homes, but be sure to white balance your camera accordingly.

Halogen Bulbs: These bulbs are also called quartz-halogen or tungsten-halogen bulbs. Basically, these bulbs use a tungsten filament like standard incandescent bulbs, but halogen gas in the bulb helps preserve the filament, and promote bulb longevity. These bulbs burn at over 480 degrees Fahrenheit, which is too hot for a standard glass bulb, necessitating either a quartz bulb (hence, the name quartz-halogen) or special heat-resistant glass bulb. These bulbs burn so hot that manufacturers recommend installing them with gloves since skin oil on the bulb can cause premature failure. The intense heat also makes halogen bulbs a bit more of a fire hazard than incandescents, so be careful when deploying them around curtains, tablecloths, or similar materials. Halogen bulbs are generally more powerful than standard incandescents, which max out at about 100 watts, and can be as powerful as 1000 watts (120 volts) or 1600 watts (240 volts). The ability to produce this power from a relatively small fixture makes halogen extremely efficient when lots of light is required, though you'll need a special fixture like the shop light shown in Figure 7 to use higher-powered halogen bulbs. Halogen bulbs produce a hard light that is whiter and purer than incandescent bulbs, but share the same high CRI.

Fluorescent Bulbs: Fluorescent bulbs run an electric current through a tube filled with argon and mercury gas, which produces ultraviolet radiation, activating a phosphorous coating in the bulb to produce light. Fluorescents run more coolly than incandescent or halogen and last much longer. You can purchase fluorescent bulbs with a variety of color temperatures, from "daylight" bulbs that mimic the color temperature of the sun, to 3000K bulbs that are close to incandescents, with CRI varying significantly from bulb to bulb. Compact fluorescent bulbs fit into a standard lamp fixture, simplifying their use in both office and home. All fluorescents output a soft light that is great for flat lighting, or serving as a fill light, but probably not sufficiently focused for key lights.

Camera-Mounted Lights: Most camera-mounted lights tend to be halogen bulbs. They produce a hard light that is hard on the subject's eyes and frequently produces a deer-in-the-headlights look. When the subject is facing the camera, camera-mounted lights produce very flat lighting with no back light, which can be very unattractive. These lights are invaluable when shooting at night or at parties and receptions, but are best used only when no other alternative exists.

Bounce Cards (Reflector Boards): "Bounce card" is the generic name for any reflective surface that can reflect light from a direct light source, typically to serve as a fill light as shown in Figure 9. As discussed earlier, bounce cards are also very effective for bouncing light up from a lap or table to fill facial shadows. For casual use, a simple whiteboard from an arts and crafts store, or any hard white object for that matter, will work just fine. For heavy use, especially on the road, consider purchasing a professional reflector that you can fold up for easy storage and generally cost under $100. Professional reflectors typically have different colors on each side like white for sunlight and gold for sunset. Photoflex is a very popular manufacturer of reflector boards, which you can check out at www.photoflex.com.

Diffusion Kits: Diffusion kits are packets of cloth and other materials that change the character of the light produced by your light fixture. Some variations are artistic, but the ones I find most valuable are those that convert hard light to soft light by diffusing the beam from the source light. The Rosco kit I use has proved very durable, easy to attach to my homegrown lighting kit, and heat-resistant even when used on 500-watt halogen bulbs. Essentially, the kit enables every light in my collection to provide both hard and soft light, making the $35 or so I spent well worth the money. Some authors report using fabric softener sheets to diffuse their light beams, but only after several drying cycles to eliminate the smell. As with all diffusion materials, they can't be placed directly on the bulb, especially with higher-powered halogen lights, because they can catch fire. Read more about diffusion materials and the Rosco kit at www.rosco.com/main.html.

Gels (Filters): Gels are plastic film sheets placed in front of a light to change its characteristics. For example, if you were using late-afternoon light streaming in from a window as a key light and needed a fill light to match its color, you would place a blue gel over an incandescent bulb to make it match the sun. Conversely, if you needed sunlight streaming into a room to match halogen lighting in the scene, you would place a straw or orange gel over the window. Similarly, if bright light streaming in from a window produced too much backlighting, you could apply a neutral density gel to reduce the light's intensity without changing the color a neutral density gel. To be honest, I've not worked that much with gels, primarily because rolls of gel suitable for use with windows are expensive, and the the brittle gel sheets are tough to attach to my ad hoc lighting gear. For indoor shooting, it's easier for me to just match the color of my fluorescent and halogen bulbs. Rosco also sells gels and has an excellent downloadable guide called the Rosco Guide to Color Filters accessible from the Technotes section of their Web site (www.rosco.com/main.html). If you need these capabilities, I recommend this as a start.

Zebra Pattern: This is a camcorder feature, rather than a true accessory, but is a great tool for shooting inside and out. As you can see in Figure 10, the camcorder shows a zebra pattern on certain parts of the image. On my VX2000, I can set this at either 70 IRE, which shows whether the video is appropriately exposed for Caucasian skin tones, or 100 IRE, which is pure white, or too "hot" for NTSC viewing. In Figure 10, I've got the zebra pattern set to 100 IRE, which means the video will be way overexposed, which is what we see on the left of Figure 11. Just for the record, IRE stands for Institute of Radio Engineers, who originally defined these video signal values.

Sidebar 2
Using Lenses for Lighting Effects

Not all supplementary light and lighting manipulation is achieved using off-camera devices. You can also use lenses or filters attached to the camera (or in some cases, embedded in the camera ) to help control lighting. For example, Neutral Density filters (also called ND filters or gray filters) reduce the amount of light entering the camera, but don't change the color temperature. My Sony VX2000 has a two-level ND filter built into the camera, and it blinks to tell me when I need to engage the filter and at what level.

In some shooting scenarios, the effect of the internal filter is quite profound, as shown in Figure 11. On the left, is the VX2000 shooting with the ND filter disabled, and, as you can see, the video is so bright it's unusable. The middle figure shows the ND filter set to 1, while the figure on the right shows the ND Filter set to 2. While I would have to fill in shadows using a bounce card, the beneficial effect is obvious.

Note that the results produced by ND filters will vary depending upon the shooting mode that you're in. For example, in Figure 10, I'm in aperture priority mode (where I set the aperture), which prevents the camera from adjusting the aperture to minimize the impact of the brightness. This maximizes the effect of the filter, which was what I was intending to show.

In fully automatic shooting modes, the filter allowed the camera to shoot much clearer images by eliminating what the Sony manual calls "diffraction off the small aperture" (Figure 12). Note that this result surprised the folks at Sony, so your camera may not work the same way. Whatever your filter/camera combination, the bottom line is that you should experiment with the ND filter in all shooting modes before deploying it on a real shoot. [For more on ND filters, check out EventDV's August Gear & Now, pp. 56-57.]

Sidebar 3
User Scenarios

Now that we know the basics and the tools (see sidebars, "The Lighting Toolset" and "Using Lenses for Lighting Effects"), let's review some common user scenarios, starting with the two posed earlier in the "Color Temperature" section. To save you a trip back, I'll repeat them here.

Scenario 1
You're shooting indoors, using sunlight streaming in from a window as your key light and a lamp in the room as a fill light. • Shut the curtains and go with completely indoor lighting.
• Shut the indoor lighting and use a bounce card to reflect the sunlight from the window as a fill light (see Figure 9). Framing has to be tight to use this alternative because the card has to be close to the subject; and you'll also need either a stand or an assistant to hold the bounce card.
• Use a fluorescent light with a daylight fluorescent bulb to match the color temperature of the sunlight.
• Use straw or orange gel on the windows to convert the incoming sunlight to incandescent levels.

Scenario 2
You're shooting indoors, lighting the scene primarily with fluorescent lights in the office ceiling, using an incandescent lamp to reduce facial shadows.
• Use 3000K fluorescent lights in the office ceiling.
• Use a compact fluorescent bulb in the lamp to match the color temperature of the ceiling fluorescents.
• Gel the incandescent lamp to match the color temperature of the ceiling fluorescents.

Scenario 3
Your subject is wearing glasses.
• Ask the subject to remove the glasses.
• Use soft key and fill lights and position them to the side of the subject (see Figure 13).

Scenario 4
Your subject wants to be shot against a window during daylight.
• Shoot in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is weakest.
• Gel the window to reduce the incoming light.

Scenario 5
You have to interview your subject outside on a sunny day.
• Consider acquiring a neutral density filter for sunny shoots. The classic setup is shown in Figure 9. At times, however, the bounce card may not provide sufficient fill light to soften the contrast between the brightest and darkest areas.
• Try shooting with the sun behind the subject (Figure 14, left). Don't do this if the sun will be in the shot, which can damage the camera. Either use a camera with lens hood to shield the lens from the sun, or hold a book or other object over the lens to keep the sunlight from reaching it. Either way, clean your camera lens before the shoot, because the sun will highlight specs of dust on your lens. If the image of subject is too dark, try engaging the camera's backlight or spotlight mechanism to brighten the image.
• Try shooting with the sun directly behind the camera (Figure 14, on the right). This is hardest on your subjects, because the sun is in their eyes, and depending upon the time of day, shadows can be severe. When the sun is low, however, shadows are minimal and the sun at lower strength, making this position very workable.
• Find a shady area and see if the light is sufficient.

Scenario 6
You have to shoot a subject in an office lighted by fluorescent lights.
• I've used the setup shown in Figure 15 to good effect, though the lighting is flat. Position the subject slightly in front of one light, which then serves as the back light, with the other light serving as the sole key light.
• If shadowing is a problem, point a small fluorescent desk lamp up at the subject's face or use a bounce card.

Companies Mentioned in this Article
Canon Inc., www.canon.com
Lowel-Light Manufacturing Inc., www.lowel.com
Photoflex Products Inc., www.photoflex.com
Rosco Laboratories, www.rosco.com
Sony Electronics Inc., www.sonystyle.com
Tiffen, www.tiffen.com