gray shim

Field Lighting Tips

(Krause - Revised 2/2/03)

Nothing impacts the look of a video more than lighting. The most beautifully framed shot will be useless unless it’s properly lit.

  • When ever possible, give yourself plenty of time to set your lights. Do a site survey in advance to find a good space to shoot in. Try to get access to the room an hour before you need to shoot or bring in your talent. That way you can set up in advance and be ready to go at the required time.
  • Avoid mixing outdoor and indoor color temperatures. If necessary be prepared to block out light coming in through the windows with dark cloth. Blue gels can be used on tungsten lights to match outdoor color temps.
  • Don’t position your subject in front of light walls. Separate your subject from the background. This way you can light each element separately. Larger spaces give plenty of room to position lighting instruments and are easier to light than small spaces.
  • Think about how you will light your subject. Soft light or hard? Broad or narrow? A colored gel as the back or hair light can be a nice touch, especially if it works with the background light, hair color and clothing. If you need to light a large space you can bounce the light off of a wall or reflector to create diffused light.
  • Know how to control your lighting instruments. If your light is too bright you can add neutral density gels, scrims or position the light further away from the subject. Use barn doors and flags to control unwanted spill.
  • Pointing undiffused light directly at your talent will usually be too harsh and cause hard shadows that will be difficult to soften. Similarly, on a clear day, the sun will act as a key light, creating hard shadows. Using soft light indoors usually provides more pleasing results. It’s easier to shoot outside on overcast days when the lighting is diffused.
  • Consider power requirements of your lighting equipment. (Amps = Watts divided by volts) Overload-ing a circuit can trip breakers and blow fuses.
  • Don’t bump or move lighting instruments when they are hot. The bulbs are expensive and when heated, the filaments are susceptible to damage.

Before shooting:

  • Check that you’ve selected the proper filter. Then set your lighting instruments.
  • White balance after your lights are set and turned on.
  • Before you start to shoot, critically observe the framing and lighting through a good monitor. Don’t forget to check your viewfinder or monitor with color bars to make sure it’s calibrated. Give yourself time to make adjustments.


Back to Jim Krause's Home Page