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Joe Riggs

Experimenting with light

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Experimenting with 2 open faced 500w lights, and a lower wattage one from Home Depot. What are some elements of the lighting you like? What needs improvement? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

 

 

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I like your rim light and overall lighting in the first frame, but it doesn't really carry over well, IMHO in the wider shot nor the candle.

The candle shot could use some cleaning up of the shadow near the eye on frame right, perhaps a bit of a down angle on the rim light. And on #2 i'd like to have the guitar lit up a bit more, a glint off of it perhaps, rim the whole head maybe, and perhaps loose the cookie on the BG and give me some interesting slashes of hot white light over the colors.

 

Also, to the candle, it does nothing for illumination and you're not even really cheating it much, normally with a shot like that (having candle in frame) you'd be using it as your motivated source.

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I like your rim light and overall lighting in the first frame, but it doesn't really carry over well, IMHO in the wider shot nor the candle.

The candle shot could use some cleaning up of the shadow near the eye on frame right, perhaps a bit of a down angle on the rim light. And on #2 i'd like to have the guitar lit up a bit more, a glint off of it perhaps, rim the whole head maybe, and perhaps loose the cookie on the BG and give me some interesting slashes of hot white light over the colors.

 

Also, to the candle, it does nothing for illumination and you're not even really cheating it much, normally with a shot like that (having candle in frame) you'd be using it as your motivated source.

 

Thanks Adrian, does "cleaning up" mean positioning the light to take away more of the shadow? As far as the candle, I thought it added interest to the frame, would you suggest moving it to the right of the frame so it appears to be motivated?

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That could work for the candle, but it kinda just clutters it in that close of a shot; ya know, it becomes a shot of a man and a candle as opposed to a shot of a man near a candle. The other issue is the "quality" of the candle light v the look on his face. That's something that takes some work to nail down, even I have had issues with candle-light looks before.

And yep, cleaning up would mean diffusing/moving the light to help make the shadow not so harsh.

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Whichever source is his key would have benefited from a large frame to expand the size of the source and cover not just his face, but his hands and guitar as well. It seems a bit spotty in the wide shot. The candle light doesn't necessarily HAVE to become a source, but perhaps something warm for fill would have sold the romanticism and practicality of the prop.

 

Some candles in the background would have been nice too, along with that warm/reddish light splashing on the wall.

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The problem with these kinds of questions of: "is this lighting good"? Is that I think its so subjective and arbitrary because the lighting should be dependent on the content of the story/script/desired tone. Lighting and camera/cinematography can't exist in a vacuum. That is to say that good lighting and good camera work can only exist in relation to a story of some kind (silent or otherwise). It's the same question as "Is this correctly exposed?" when looking at a person in front of a big window. You can blow out the window and expose for the person, you can expose for the light outside and throw the person in silouette.

 

Now technically speaking, what you've done is okay. But without any understanding of what's supposed to be happening in the scene, or the desired tone, it makes it just an empty technical success. There's a problem I think in trying to reduce cinematography, or any art form to "right" and "wrong". What's good lighting in one situation is wrong in another. That's why the whole 3 point lighting technique is complete BS, and merely a way of understanding the different purposes and ways in which you can manipulate light. Which in itself is important, but as a practical way of working limiting.

 

This isn't to say that you can't analyze lighting out of context of anything, but without any reference point, what's the purpose? A guy is playing guitar. It's low key, relatively high contrast, neutral colors. Technically sound, but emotionally empty because there's no real context.

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Jason, I understand where your coming from, unfortunately, it was just an experiment with no real context, at best I was just trying to create an interesting look. However, reading ways others might approach it or augment the lighting is fascinating, and I see how certain suggestions would make a significant benefit.

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Also you can take it as a still photograph which in and of itself still has context and can/should have connotations etc.

 

I guess it just comes down to personal opinion, but the language of photography and cinematography I think are very different. If photography and cinematography are different languages, and convey meaning and context in different (though similar) ways, then you can't apply the same rules of context and connotations to a still frame from a movie that you can to a photograph, even though they're both "still" images. If you showed any 1 image from nearly any movie, take LOTR for example, that one image doesn't (and isn't expected) to convey enough information for the viewer to understand the entire story. In contrast, a photograph is expected to convey much more information in a 1 single image than film. The power of film is based in juxtaposition and sequences and camera movement (or lack thereof), whereas photography's power comes from the density and organization of information contained in the frame. The processes are completely different, even though they're both visual mediums that record "reality".

 

That said, I do appreciate exercises like these, I just think its important to realize at the same time that without context the suggestions that are offered just become arbitrary thoughts based on subjective artistic taste-particularly because its a still frame from a film-medium and not indigenously photographic.

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Personally, I disagree. A photograph or a film frame can contain plenty of information to tell a story, but with both you don't get the whole story, as you do with a film. And I think as a viewer you have to approach what you're given as you're given it. For example, approaching a still frame or photo, I feel we are intended to approach it as a still, get an idea of it and see how it makes us feel. It makes little difference whether it's a still image from a 400ft roll or stock or a still image for a 36 exposure roll. It's presented as a still and we take it as a still. Or, if presented as a film (La Jetee for example) we approach it as a film. Just my own 2 cents.

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