Tip #1121: 5 Hacks for Film & Video Lighting

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1121: 5 Hacks for Film & Video Lighting

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

In an ideal world, we’d have time and money. In the real-world, we have these hacks.

(Image courtesy of MotionArray.com.)

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This article first appeared in MotionArray.com. This is a summary.

Shooting a film or video without thinking about lighting is a recipe for disaster. Cameras don’t pick up light the same way our eyes do, so even if a scene looks to have plenty of light, the camera may not see it that way. Luckily, there are some hacks that can help you get a better shot on a budget or in a pinch. Here are 5 lighting hacks for film and video that you can try when you need a few tricks to get the job done.

  • Start With Bulbs. When shooting indoors, one of the very simplest things you can do to help your video lighting is to change the lightbulbs around you. Maybe you are shooting in a house with standard incandescent bulbs. A normal 60-watt incandescent puts out about 800 lumens of light. On the other hand, a compact fluorescent bulb in the 32-35 watt range will put out 2600 lumens, more than 3 times the amount of light. You can also get 2600 lumens out of a 25-28 watt LED light bulb. So, by simply grabbing some higher light-emitting bulbs, you can immediately make a positive impact on lighting for your film or video.
  • Bulking Up. For a very little extra cost, you can pick up a socket adaptor that will turn one regular light socket into 4. Remember that these bulb tips will not give you specific pointed light, but will enhance the overall ambient light on set. And that is the basis for a good lighting setup in most cases.
  • Reflectors. So, you have plenty of light now, but you don’t have it going in the direction you want. In a typical studio setting, you might break out a set of reflectors. Essentially any large solid surface in black or white will give you some level of reflection or shadow, but foam core board is a great solution. It’s fairly sturdy with a large surface area. It generally comes in black and white, with the white having a somewhat shiny white surface, and it’s cheap and easy to find.
  • Cheap Lamps. Getting ambient light from brighter bulbs is great, but sometimes you really need more strong directed light. After all, this is what a light kit is for. Setting up things like key, fill, and backlights won’t work with an overhead socket and bulb. But if you don’t have access or money for a lighting kit, there are lots of helpful options at the hardware store. For starters, these little clamp lamps can be very handy.
  • Diffusers. Of course, your fancy light kit will have various types of diffusers and maybe gels to work with. But we don’t have time for that. We are light-hackers. Guess what else makes a great diffuser? A bed sheet. A bed sheet will produce a similar effect to a softbox diffuser, and you probably have plenty of them laying around.

In a perfect world. we’d always have the extra lighting setup that we wanted, and all of the time and budget to make everything look perfect. But in the real world, with tight budgets, lack of access, and limited time, we have to make do with what we can get. And the reality is, there are a lot of good and cheap substitutes that will bring your lighting to a much higher level.


The article, linked above, has more tips and video illustrating these concepts.

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