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Lighting 101: How To Do Three-Point Lighting for Video

Lighting 101 How to Light a Promotional Video

Appropriately shouted before “camera” and “action,” studio lights are the core piece that will make or break a promotional video shoot!

Since most of studio equipment isn't part of the camera, failure is knocking at the lens cap. Lighting is the most important element of a photo or video project aside from your subject, according to Kodak, and the sun doesn't always cover it. Here are the beginner how-tors from proper white balancing to a three-point lighting setup, here are the basics that must top your checklist:

1. Know Your Camera and Lens' Strengths

Canon 5D Mark II Video Camera

The first rule is knowing the features of your camera. Though you will use independent light fixtures before shooting, stock photo galleries like iStock offer great examples and advice on how best to use on-board configurations like proper exposure, which let you manipulate how much light your lens should actually let in; and Aperture, which helps you match a shutter speed to any motion in your subject. Of note, all every type of lighting hinges on a proper white balance.

2. White Balance for Indoor or Outdoor Scenes

Video Production Studio

White balance refers to matching the camera's idea of what ‘white' to the type of lighting being used. Unless your environment allows a large amount of ambient daylight, tungsten lighting (indoor light) is an essential for all indoor shoots. Canon discusses lights' varying “color temperature,” typically measured in Kelvin, and the easiest way to think of it photographically is the higher the temperature, the bluer the appearance. With tungsten's moderate 3500K relative to that of daylight, a simple white balance will allow your subject to reflect a more natural color temperature of an otherwise warm-lit room.

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3. The Basic Lighting Setup

No matter what type of light you use, most shoots will require three-point lighting, and it's just what it sounds like – three lights strategically placed to reveal the dimensions of your subject that are often hidden in a plain photo or video.

Interview Video Production

The Standard 3-Point Lighting Setup

Lighting 101 How to Light a Promotional Video

  1. The first is the main light, or “key” light, placed to one side, and facing the talent. This light is often behind the interviewer off camera in video shoots containing dialogue, mitigating nose shadows and rendering a more flattering angle of the subject when s/he looks in that direction.
  2. The next is a smaller fill light, opposite and symmetrical to the key. With just the key light, you might notice the other side of the talent is dark or too modeled; this smaller light “fills in” the otherwise dim areas of the scene, creating the right amount of depth with a smaller amount of light. If needed, both this light and the main light can be softened with inflammable boxes and fabrics fashioned against the bulb. Make sure they're inflammable, or lighting won't be your most pressing problem…
  3. The back light is the final point of the setup. Sometimes called a “rim” light, this third lamp hovers behind the subject, allowing him/her to pop from the background and appear less glued to whatever they're in front of.

Finished Lighting Setup: Promotional Video Lighting

A Fresnel is a more subjective asset for a ‘sharp' photo or video shoot. Fresnels are focusable glass lenses that, depending on your project, enable you to concentrate the intensity of your light, allowing you to “spot” it more locally or “flood” it more evenly across the shooting environment. Generally used for the former purpose in lighthouses and searchlights, detailed by Britannica, a Fresnel is nonetheless just as valuable to an emerging cameraman as tungsten, white balance procedures and your average three-point arrangement.

And, action!

Related: Top 10 Must-Have Video DSLR Accessories

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