7 Tips for Lighting a Scene

Lighting is one of the important tools the director uses to tell the story. When lighting is made correctly, you can use it to say a lot about your characters, the film’s theme and atmosphere, the emotional mood of the scene, and more. You can also control the colors of the set and create depth to the picture. When working on lighting for a scene, there is no time for experiments. You have to know what you want and go after it. In this article, I’m going to give you some basic tips for lighting setup in a scene. 

  1. Study classical art – Watch some important paintings. You will be amazed at how they use light to tell a story in one frame.
  2. Start with color balance –When you are aiming for realistic lighting, you should balance the colors first. Most cameras have a Color balance or White balance button. They usually will have at least two standards: One daylight (5500k) and one for indoor light (3200k).
  3. Adjusting the monitor – When you start planning your lighting in the location, you should make sure your monitor is adjusted. You have to make sure you see all the colors in the palette. It is very important because you are going to see how things will look with that monitor, and you want to have a true picture.
  4. know all the scene details – Before starting the work on the scene, you need to have details about the scene. You do need to know stuff like what time of day is the scene happening. Where is it happening? How many actors are in the scene? How big is the frame and where the camera is going to stand? You also should watch a rehearsal; you need to see where everyone is standing and walking.
  5. Use a light meter – For professional cinematography (film or video), you will need a proper light meter. The light meter will help you to measure the amount of light in the shot. Today there are many cameras with a light meter built in them, but they are known to not be accurate many times. A hand-held light meter will give you much more details than the one in the camera will. It doesn’t cost much (it shouldn’t be more than 300$), and your picture will have better pictures. I’m probably going to post about how to use a hand-held light meter, but I’m sure the guy in the store will explain it also (let me know if you want me to write about it soon)
  6. Look for interesting elements you can use – stuff like candlelight, lamp, window and etc.
  7. Start by turning off all the lights – Turn off all the lights in the location until you have complete darkness. Then we simply light one lamp at a time and see how it helps us.

On the next cinematography course lesson, I’m going to write about the basic light positioning for lighting a scene. For now, I advise you to exercise by shooting under different lightings- natural or indoor. Try to shoot in as many locations as you can and try to learn why each picture turned out the way it did. If it’s possible, try even different weather conditions.