A critical, but often overlooked, issue for aspiring videographers is lighting. Proper illumination is one of the most important aspects of any visual production, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. Add some lighting techniques to your repertoire with these easy tips.

First, a quick lesson on lighting. The standard studio light setup is known as three-point lighting. The three types of lights are the key light, the fill light, and the backlight. The key light is the main light, which illuminates your subject’s face from slightly off center. The fill light is a second, weaker light that “fills” in the shadows on the other side of the subject’s face. The backlight is positioned behind and slightly above the subject, out of frame, and gives a sense of depth by essentially outlining the subject with soft light.

Now, a three-point lighting setup is great, but not necessary at every shoot. The author, who spends a copious amount of time in the field shooting video packages for a certain HC Media newsmagazine program, rarely uses a three-point lighting setup in the field due to time, space, and manpower limitations. For field shoots, consider using a camera-top light, bounce card, or portable stand light. 

The camera-mounted light is a simple, but essential go-to. This LED light panel mounts right into the camera’s hot shoe and runs on a rechargeable battery. The light’s brightness can be dialed up or down as necessary, and optional yellow and white diffusers snap right onto the light to soften and/or change the color temperature. This camera-top light is convenient for the run-and-gun videographer. As the light is secured to the top of the camera, the shot is instantly lit wherever you point your lens. It is a great option for those who just want to quickly illuminate a subject for an interview or close-up shot. 

Another easy and inexpensive lighting tool is a bounce card. A bounce card is simply a large white card used to bounce light from a primary light source onto your subject, creating a soft, natural-looking reflected light. Bounce cards are especially useful when shooting outdoors. Face a bounce card towards your subject to bounce sunlight back onto the subject, mitigating harsh shadows. Create different lighting effects by changing the angle or placement of your bounce card(s). Bounce cards can be as simple as a piece of white poster board, or you can purchase inexpensive bounce cards in colors such as gold or silver for alternative looks. A bounce card can also be substituted for a fill light in a pinch. 

Finally, a portable stand light works in all situations when you need a bit more light, such as for an indoor shoot. HC Media has three standLED lights with adjustable brightness and color temperatures. These run on either A/C power or batteries and the stand height is adjustable, so they are flexible and invaluable for many location shoots. These new LED lights also come with a plastic diffuser and can be dimmed, so they do not require a soft box, unlike the old ARRI incandescent stand lights. They are also useful for run-and-gun shoots, although more cumbersome than the camera-mounted light.

One last word on natural lighting – for an outdoor shoot, lighting can be more of an issue than you may think. While diffused or hazy sunlight is one of the best light sources in existence, a midday outdoor shoot in full sunlight will create harsh shadows on your subject’s face. For minimal shadowing, choose to shoot on a cloudy day or later in the day when the sun is low in the sky. If a midday shoot is necessary, a bounce card may be all you need, or you might choose to use a camera-top or stand light to eliminate shadows. 

Wondering where can you get access to these lighting options? HC Media has a camera-top light, bounce cards and portable stand lights available for members to borrow. So the next time you check out equipment here at HC Media, try one of these simple options and up your lighting game! – Lindsay Paris