Part One: some simple lighting tips…

Hey its studio day at my school…I just got a new Lowel light kit for myself and I’m spending the day at my school’s TV studio so my students can catch up with their assignments. A great opportunity to make a lighting demonstration video.

To state the obvious: you can’t see without light. Videojournalists have to know how to work with light and how to make light work for them. Light can be broken down into two distinct types, as far as VJs are concerned: natural light (you work with and enhance what’s already there) and staged/studio lighting, where you’re totally in control.

The clip below is actually a PowerPoint I use at workshops. Pretty basic – at the simplest level, just look at where light is coming from and move until it looks good. Second level is to enhance with either a flash or reflector.

What is critical is just being aware of light. Too often folks look at a scene and not at the details. If a person has bags under their eyes or if they’re squinting, often a few steps one way or another will change the light enough so that it’s more even and the shadows aren’t distracting. Or you may want to emphasize shadows…and moving to change background or how the light hits the front/back of the subject will help you.

One trick I use when setting up for an interview – I don’t tell the subject what i’m up to. Most news interviews are fairly casual. You walk up, get permission, and start shooting. I don’t want my subject self concious and nervous, so the last thing I want to do is tell them, hey this light makes you look like a hag…can you move. I make small-talk or discuss what we’ll be questioning them about and kind of move around them until the light looks good – then I set up. They may think I’m squirrelly or hyper – who cares. I’ve got my ideal lighting now. And it doesn’t take much. I remember when I was a rookie (less than a year in the field) and every time I shot an outdoor presser (press conference) or did an interview with other media alongside, one cameraman’s stuff always outshone us all. Mahlon Picht of KOVR (I was at KXTV at the time) said he always took an extra minute to check out light and position himself exactly where the light looked best. A lesson I never forgot.

By the way, two of the slides in this PowerPoint have video and they aren’t playing properly. The first is the reflector – I made it out of a piece of cardboard and aluminum foil. Crumple up the foil and then glue to cardboard – it scatters light nicely. Remember, in video you need constant light, not just a flash. The second slide is the “hand trick.” I’ll try to post it separately later, but just stand with one of your hands at arms-length away, palm pointed towards you. Observe how the light hits the palm of your hand. Now turn slowly in a circle and see how the light changes. There are two points you should see pretty nice light (unless the sun is directly overhead) – when it is near fully lit and when it is backlit.

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