Lighting: The Good and the Not So Good

My plan for this blog is to have it be kind of like a journal of some stories and my experiences as an independent filmmaker/freelance videographer. It’s definitely not easy going indie, especially for someone without a tonne of experience, so I’m hoping to share some information, tips, and stories with you. If these posts entertain you, great. If you learn something, that’s a total bonus.

Lighting is key for photography. It can also be very tricky. I’ve learned the hard way that shooting in kitchens can be especially tough, because sometimes there are multiple types of lights in there, and it can throw off your camera.

With that in mind, for my most recent shoot, I contact Prime Pro Media to discuss some options on how to solve this issue. They rented me a couple case lights, which were ~5400 to 5600K…roughly natural light. This way, with the interior lights turned off in the kitchen, and the case lights going, there wouldn’t be much interference. Here’s a screenshot from that shoot:


This guy was awesome for many reasons, one of which was because he was an air force pilot for 32 years. I’d love the opportunity to interview him about some of the experiences he’s had. And I really do think he could talk forever about it.

I love the way the lighting turned out for this shoot. The background isn’t much to look at, I’ll admit, but the kitchen was really small, so options a-plenty there were not.

Here’s a quick diagram of how I set up the lights for this shoot. Please excuse my horrible drawing, I did it quick ‘n dirty. Also, the scaling isn’t exact either, but I think you’ll get the picture.


I placed him in the spot where I could get the most depth possible. I know it looks like there’s enough room to put him where the camera is, but again, scaling is not my forte. I knew that the background wasn’t super interesting, so I wanted to back-light him to see if I could get him to, kind of, pop off the background. By placing one of the lights just outside the kitchen in the dining room and directly behind him, I was able to get decent back-lighting, and I think I achieved the desired effect. Also, by having the main light on a bit of an angle relative to him, it created a darker area on the far side of his face, which I was looking for.

I consider this shoot a win.

I’ll leave you with one other example. This one wasn’t a total success, but it wasn’t a disaster either. I think it was somewhere in the middle.

This was a shoot for the Winnipeg Rifles where I was interviewing a few of the players for a feature. I knew what I wanted out of this shoot: I wanted it to be a bit a dark, I wanted hard lines on their faces, and I wanted hard lighting. I wanted the lighting to reflect the guys and the sport they play. There’s nothing soft about football.

I set up the shot at night after a team practice. The location was the bleachers of the practice facility. I had a kit of four lights, and near pitch black around me. First I’ll show you my awesome diagram, and then the results.


Now, light 1 is beneath the bleachers. Its sole purpose is the illuminate a bit of the background. Camera 1 is the medium shot, while camera 2 is the tight shot.

The problem right off the bat with this one is that most of the lights are to the side and behind the subject. If I could go back and re-shoot these interviews, I’d move light 3 to just behind and a bit to the left of where I’m standing as interviewer. But, live and learn.

Here’s how it turned out.



As you can see, these shots needed a light coming from directly ahead of the subjects. I wanted to create a hard line across their faces, which I did, but I think in this case, the line was just a little bit too hard.

I’m pretty confident that it boils down to having one light out of place. But besides that, I still like the idea of doing interviews at night. I think it adds a creepy vibe.

Going forward, I’m confident that I can set up and direct a perfectly lit nighttime interview shoot.