Getting the lighting right is one of the most important elements of videography as it can impact on the overall quality, the mood, the clarity, and a viewer’s perception of the scene.
Good lighting also impacts on the amount of editing that is needed, so the better the lighting, the less editing is needed once videoing is complete. Having the right lighting equipment is important, but it is also important that the lighting is set up correctly. Here is an overview of how to set up your lighting correctly.
What Lighting Equipment Do You Need?
The most commonly used lighting technique is the three-point lighting system. Therefore, this is the lighting method that you need to learn to set up first. However, depending on the type of subject you are videoing, you may need additional equipment.
For the three-point lighting system, you need three lights; the key light, the fill light, and the backlight. Each of these lights plays a different role in lighting. The way that these lights interact with each other and with the subject depends on their position and angle, and this is the most important part of setting up your lighting kit for video.
Positioning the Key Light
The key light is the one that you should set up first as this is the one that provides the main illumination for the subject. In most cases, it is positioned to the right of the camera and set at an angle of between 15-degrees and 45-degrees. However, this is not always the case and you should experiment with the position to achieve the best illumination of the subject as possible. You may need to return to this light after setting up the fill light to get the best lighting possible from the two lights.
Setting Up the Fill Light
A fill light’s role is to eliminate shadows. When the key light shines on the subject, it will leave dark shadows behind the subject, and these are a distraction when watching a video. The fill light is less powerful than the key light. You should position this light at the opposite side of the camera to the key light and to a similar angle.
Not only does the fill light eliminate the shadows caused by the subject, but it also eliminates shadows on the subject. The key light is shined at an angle that illuminates one side of the subject better. However, this means that shadows are caused on the other side of the subject. For example, the area around a person’s nose or their eye sockets may have shadows. By positioning the fill light at the same angle as the key light, you should eliminate these. You may need to make several adjustments to perfect the relationship between the key and fill lights.
Using a Backlight
The purpose of the backlight is to give contrasting light behind the subject which makes the subject clearer in the images. This is the light that you will set up last as you need to perfect the positions of the key and fill lights first before you can consider the role the backlight plays in the scene.
You need to position the backlight as close to directly behind the subject as you possibly can. When choosing the position, you need t think about what your camera can see as you do not want the light in the shot. For this reason, backlights that you can hang above the area behind the subject or ones that can attach to a stand or a rig are a good option.
Although a central position is the standard option for the backlight, it is not always the best option. Sometimes, you may need to angle the light slightly or move it off-center. Again, this is something that can take a little experimentation.
Considering Natural Light
It is important to remember that natural light plays a role in the lighting for videos, and this is something that you should prepare for before you start videoing. It is especially important if you are shooting outdoors. However, when filming indoors, natural light can come from windows and doors, so you should check out the location in advance to see how the natural light may impact on the scene.
In some cases, natural light is used to replace the backlight as the natural light can provide enough contrast behind the subject. This is something that you may need to experiment with to decide id the natural light or the backlight works better. If natural light is best, then there is no need to use the backlight at all.
Natural light can also impact on the angles and positions of the lights that you are using. If you always set your lights in the standard three-point lighting system positions, then you may need to consider changing these positions to allow for the impact that natural light has on the subject and scene.
Although the three lights used for the three-point lighting system will give you the basic lighting that you need in most circumstances, different types of filming may require additional equipment. Sometimes a subtler backlight is achieved by using a reflective surface instead of the backlight. This will simply reflect the light from the key light.
Another common piece of equipment that is used filters. The relationship between the key light and the fill light is vital, and it is essential that the key light is always the brightest light. If the fill light looks too bright, then many videographers and filmmakers use filters to get just the right amount of light from the fill light to complement the key light.
Setting Up a Lighting Kit- The Bottom Line
Getting the lighting just right can make a significant difference to the quality of a video. Setting up a basic three-point lighting system is relatively easy. However, it is important to experiment with the positions and the angels of the three lights to make sure the relationship between the three lights is achieving the best results. You should also consider the impact of natural light, and you may need to use additional equipment for the best results.