Film School 101: Lighting Setup

4 minutes

Thomas Kim
Film School 101

Some of us live in beautiful places with big windows that provide fantastic natural lighting. Some of us live in places that don't get so much Vitamin D. In any case, controlling lighting will be the best method to light up your beautiful face before filming.

If you have a big window that gets plenty of sunlight, that's a huge plus. The sun will be your light. However, direct sunlight is actually not the best way to go about lighting your face or body evenly. Why? Because the sun creates strange, unexpected, and harsh shadows in places you might not want. The sun can also throw off the exposure of your camera and make things unexpectedly dark or bright.

The best lighting to work with, whether you're inside or outside, is diffused lighting.

Say it with me . . . DIFFUSED LIGHTING.

If you have a bright window, to create diffused lighting simply use a thin white sheet to break up the sunlight coming in. What this will do is distribute the rays of sun evenly within the room. This goes without saying, but you want to film facing your window and not the other way around. This will ensure that the lighting is diffused and supportive of your filming.

If you're filming outside and it's sunny, make sure to find a place that's shaded. Enough light from outside will still brighten up your face and provide the diffused lighting that we're looking for. Plus, nobody likes squinting the entire time when they're being photographed or recorded on film.

If you don't have access to a lot of natural lighting, fear not. There are still ways to professionally light your space at  relatively low cost.

Rule # 1: do NOT use your room's overhead lighting. This will always create weird shadows underneath your eyes, making you look like a horror movie character or like you haven't slept in several days. Please avoid at all costs, unless this look is what you're going for.

Rule # 2: place lighting at eye level, if possible. The light source should be pointing at your face. Also, no matter what lighting source you use, it should be diffused. To recap, this means that your direct light should be filtered by something thin, like a white sheet, tracing paper, or parchment paper. This will remove unhelpful shadows and set you up for film success.

I live in a rain cloud, what about artificial lighting?  Excellent question. If you don't have reliable access to natural light, you can get good results with artificial lights. Here are a few budget-friendly lighting options to look into if that's your case.

Neewer Dimmable 5600K USB LED Video Light 2-Pack with Adjustable Tripod Stand and Color Filters for Tabletop/Low-Angle Shooting, Zoom/Video Conference Lighting/Game Streaming/YouTube Video Photography