"Lighting is to film, what music is to opera."
Hey everyone, welcome back to the blog. Today we’ll be looking at Fundamental One Light Setups for Filmmaking & Video – the first part of a series that will cover the fundamentals behind light for film, youtube and other video productions.
Recently on Instagram and Twitter, I’ve been having a lot of requests for how to shoot better video or more cinematic video and since I can’t do as much one-on-one training at the moment because of Mr. Covid19, I thought I’d make this a beginner friendly opener to the series to give you a few easy lighting setups for your next video shoot, short film or social media content.
Before we start, make sure to show some support by commenting down below what you are wanting to do, or by checking out the video above for a practical demonstration.
Right, let’s begin.
So, if you own a camera, you can shoot amazing looking video – by understanding how to use light to create depth in the image.
To be honest, good quality film is mainly about your lighting and the audio capture.
We’ll go over several Fundamental one light setups that you can do on a budget – whether that’s using a cheap LED light – in the video I used a Godox SL60W as an example, but with a bit of creativity you could do the same with an even cheaper light such as a work light and a bit of unbleached muslin from an arts and craft store (I’ll link a couple of basic, budget-friendly setups you go do).
Another thing I’ll mention before covering the setups is that today we are primarily looking at the KEY LIGHT – the primary light used to expose your talent.
Setup One - Flat Lighting
- This setup here is called flat lighting. The light here is directly in front of me, just behind the camera.
- It’s not an angle at all, it is completely parallel to my position here.
- This tends to be a boring and uninteresting lighting setup as it doesn’t create a lot of depth in the image.
- However, if you do want to use this setup, I recommend using a bit of diffusion to soften the light as much as possible to make the cast shadows a bit easier on the eyes.
- Also, do remember, that this lighting setup may be difficult for the talent you are shooting as the light is directly shooting into their eyes – so definitely consider diffusing it.
Setup Two - Butterfly Lighting
- This one here is called butterfly lighting – because it tends to create a butterfly like shadow just underneath the nose.
- This is created the same way as flat lighting.
- It is right in front of us and has been raised up in the air with the light pointed down towards us at a 45 degree angle.
- This makes the video a bit more dramatic in my opinion – not as dramatic as others, but is an easy setup especially if you don’t have a lot of space to work in.
- Again, you can enhance this look with a softbox to make this even softer and smooth out the skin of your talent – this would make it great for glamour type shots or even beauty work.
Setup Three - Loop Lighting
- This next setup is called loop lighting. It’s a staple used for Portrait Lighting, making it great for lighting people talking to camera or actors for over the shoulder shots. Even corporate videos, interview setups, music videos etc.. would be great also!
- This one is identified by creating a nose shadow that ‘loops’ down at an angle onto your talent’s cheek.
- Again, this is fairly close to flat lighting, in the sense that the face is mostly illuminated still, but it does have extra depth.
- It terms of setup, it is very similar to the loop lighting setup – being raised above and pointed down towards us at a 45 degree angle, but we have moved the light over to one side by about 25-45ish degrees – it all depends on how much of a shadow you want to cast.
- Similarly, diffusion will help to smooth out the shadow and the skin tones – pretty much, if you aren’t after a super strong light effect (which we’ll talk about in a future video), softboxes, diffusion, unbleached muslin etc.. will give whatever light your using a nicer, softer look – making it look more natural.
Setup Four - Rembrandt Lighting
- Right, now one of my favourites, as they start to get a bit more dramatic now, is Rembrandt lighting.
- This is a staple in Portrait Lighting and cinematography because it is capable of producing imaging which are natural to the eye – they don’t look crafted or created in any way, and you can do them with the minimum of equipment.
- This one is very similar in setup to loop lighting, but the light has been moved a bit further in an arc movement around the talent.
- It is at a 45-60 degree angle from us now, raised up above us and pointed down at a roughly 45 degree angle.
- This helps to create a very dramatic look because we are starting to introduce a lot of depth into the image now.
- As you can see, there is more shadow cast on the opposite side now, giving more shape to my face. As well as getting that classic Rembrandt look – of the triangular highlight just under my eye on the opposite side of my face.
- However, if you want to make this less dramatic or light more of the face, you can use a second light – but since this is a tutorial primarily focused on using a one light budget setup – you can use white foamcore, a reflector or just anything white really to help you fill in the shadow side of the face.
- This is called bounce and is literally just bouncing the light from the key to the opposite side of the face.
- Feel free to use Rembrandt lighting for pretty much anything that needs a more dramatic look – short films, narrative film or interview, music videos… the list goes on and on because it is so versatile.
Setup Five - Split Lighting
- This one is a technique which creates a lot of drama – and helps create a sense of intensity for the emotion you are trying to evoke in your image.
- As you can see, it’s called split lighting because half of the talent’s face is lit, while the other half is left dark.
- This even lighting can help to create evocative imagery by focusing on a contrast between shadow and light.
- We’ll actually talk about this in a future video – but you always have to think, as a cinematographer, what the emotion of the scene is and what you are trying to convey with the lighting.
- For this setup, the light is still raised and pointed down at a 45 degree angle from us, but now it is at a 90 degree angle away from us to the side, helping to cast this dramatic shadow on the other side of the face.
- This is a very popular setup for narrative work, edgy, sporty or more dramatic videos such as sports and training films, and other content which requires a darker more dramatic look.
- Again, you can use a reflector or piece of white material to lift the shadows on the dark side of the face OR, if you have one, another light.
Setup Six - Top Down lighting
- This one is the top–down lighting setup.
- This one is pretty much the opposite of when you grew up as kids and at Halloween time you shone a light up at your face to scare your siblings… No – just me?
- This one is raised right above the talent and pointed directly down – making is similar in a sense to the butterfly setup, but casting more extreme shadows.
- This one is also dramatic and creates depth in the image – but this one is not really flattering for glamour portraiture or those type of shoots, but more so for trying to convert a certain mood or intensity in a scene.
- You’ll see this as a popular setup throughout the film industry for action and thriller movies, as well as scenes involving interrogation or even music videos to make the character larger than life – as this one isn’t really natural looking.
- This a super-stylized and dramatic look – I recommend trying this one out, but you may need a C-Stand or other type of support, as it is quite difficult to achieve with a normal light stand.
"Experiment with your lighting to see how it affects the mood of the shot."
- Just remember, whichever lighting setup you choose to use, you always have to consider the emotion and the story you are trying to tell.
- Shooting an interview where they are talking about their experience in the war or a major conflict, going for one of the more moodier type setups will definitely enhance the story there.
- Shooting a video for a beauty cosmetics brand – you probably want less drama and a cleaner, smother look – that will improve and connect with the brand.
- We’ll talk more about how lighting affects how you tell stories in a future post, but I hope these basic one light setups get you started.
BONUS BUDGET SETUPS
Like I promised, here are a few things you could consider to get yourself up and running to start doing shots like the one below, or even talking head shots for youtube, your zoom calls or more.
Godox SL60W (better quality)
YongNuo 300 (more budget friendly)
Neewer Light Stand (comes in a pack of two)
Diffusal (makes the light softer)
Bounce (bounce light or to add shadow)
Gaff Tape (the holy grail of film-making)
Please don’t forget to drop a comment below and if you’re interested in film-making and storytelling – check out my writing tips playlist if you want to get some advice on how to tell better stories and connect with an audience, whether that’s for a brand or for a narrative film.
And please check out the video for a practical demonstration and if you thought it was helpful feel free to drop a comment on the video to let me know what you think.
If you want more examples of these types of setups or what you can achieve with them also, feel free to google the different names of these setups and look at example images and create your own look books to give you a bit of a catalogue to refer to.
Hope this one was good – I’ll see you in the next post.