My friend Kurt lives in Brooklyn near where I live and writes an excellent blog on doing travel photography in New York City. He recently wrote an article on how to create the best light for portraits.
Lighting for photography is directly applicable to filmmaking because most of the concepts are the same.
Work With Shade
There are two types of lighting fill: positive and negative. Positive fill is what we usually think of when we think about lighting. Positive fill is adding light to the scene.
Negative fill is the often under appreciated sibling of positive fill and focuses on taking light out of a scene. You can use shade to give your images more depth and drama by shaping the shadows around your subject.
Use Practical Light To Your Advantage
Using shade is all about working with what you have. Like Kurt says, sometimes you just have to “embrace the circumstances and make something interesting” with what you have on set.
When cinematographers are working with a location, they’ll often start by turning all the lights off and then back on again to see what they have to work with. Doing this can sometimes help you decide that you don’t need any extra lighting on the scene.
No Money To Run Lights? Reflect It!
Reflectors are one the most versatile and useful pieces of filmmaking equipment that you can buy. Pick up a cheap 5-in-1 reflector to get a lot of bang for your buck. These cheap reflectors come with several types of reflective materials, a diffusion panel, and can double as a black or white background in a pinch.
When using a reflector, you can harness the largest light available anywhere—the sun. The only downside to using reflectors is you can be out of luck if your sunlight is weak or nonexistent.
To see Kurt’s original article and more tips on lighting, click here.