Basic Lighting for ENG

Basic Lighting for ENG

Bad lighting is never acceptable no matter how rushed you are. No matter how good an

editor you are, trying to save a poorly lit interview in editing is just a recipe for disaster. It

can be done but you won’t be fooling anyone. Three-point lighting is always the preferred

way of lighting a subject but let’s face it not every ENG crew has the time or the manpower

to set that up. When the Mayor tells you that you have 1 minute for your interview because

he has to go into a meeting you can’t say OK but wait 5 minutes while I set up these lights.

What can you do?


1. Camera light. Keep a battery on it and ready to go at a moment’s notice. While it

doesn’t tend to throw a lot of light it will at least get rid of some of the darkness in and

around their eyes. Sometimes it is all you need if you use it in combination with opening of

the iris.


2. Don’t shoot on Automatic anything. The auto iris function reads the light level for the

entire screen. So if there is something really bright the camera will iris down to make that

the highest point at 100 percent. Sometimes it is OK to overexpose the background in

order for the guest to be properly exposed. To do this simply open the manual iris by a

stop or two. The background becomes over exposed but the camera clips it off at 110

percent so now it becomes an artistic choice. What happens if you spin the guest around so

there is a dark background behind them? You can then open the iris without overexposing

the background.


3. Let the sun shine in…. If you are near a window or door where there is lots of daylight

spilling into the picture…USE IT. Let me be clear I am not advocating shooting a silhouette

in front of a window. If you put that window to your side or behind you then you can use

the daylight as a light source. Make sure you white balance the camera for outdoor light

even though you are indoors because the main light source is the sun. Now if you turn on

the camera light and set it to Daylight this will fill in some of the shadows and make for a

better-lit shot.


4. Know your numbers…. If you have a 6500 degree white balance indoors someone is

going to look pretty blue when you get back to the station unless you shot on an outdoor

filter. Light is measured in degrees Kelvin going from 3200 for indoor light to 5600 for

outdoor light. In between are fluorescent lights that range from 3700 to 4900. So what

does all this mean? You need to match up the proper filter with the proper light source.

Indoor or clear filters should have a white balance temperature between 2000 and 4000

degrees. Outdoor filters (with or without Neutral Density) should be between 5000 and

7500 degrees.


Back to the example, why is the subject so blue? The camera white

balanced at 6500 degrees that should immediately tell you that there is an awful lot of

daylight present. But you were indoors shouldn’t you use an indoor filter? The short

answer is no you should use a filter equivalent to the light source. This is a case where

having a color viewfinder is an advantage. What does it look like? If it is blue in the field it

will be blue back home. In rare instances the camera will compensate and the flesh tones

will be fine but the background is off color. Changing to the correct filter will solve that



5. Know your number part 2… It stands to reason that as day turns into night that the

color balance should drop as the sun goes down. For the most part that is true. When it is

dark outside you want to use an indoor or “clear” filter. That in combination with a light

either camera mounted or on a stand should give you a 3200 degree white balance. The

exception to this is that some streetlights are very strange color temperatures and do weird

things to the white balance. Check your color viewfinder to make sure it looks correct.

Dusk and Dawn make the temperature go in the opposite direction. So as day turns into

night the color temperature actually goes up. It is not uncommon that in the one hour

before the sun sets to go from 5600 degrees to 9000 degrees. And then 10 minutes later it

is 3900 degrees. Bottom line between those hours constantly white balance.


6. If the sun isn’t where you want it …MOVE IT. Not really…since you can’t actually

move the sun how about reflecting its light to where you want it. Take a folding Flexfill

reflector and adjust it so the reflected light lights your subject. The EDC offers Gold and

Silver Flexfills as options when you take out a camera. The Gold side tends to throw a

warmer light while the silver side is a little harsher. Reflected light can really balance out

the shadows from an outdoor stand up. You can also use a large piece of poster board or

anything else that is reflective. Avoid overly shiny material such as chrome or other types

of metal. Reflectors can also be used to bounce light from a camera or stand light. You

have to be careful that you don’t have them too close to each other so you don’t burn the

reflector. Simply turn the light away from your subject and then reflect the light onto the

guest. A white ceiling also accomplishes this task.

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