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Sawyer Thurston

Believable Backgrounds / Ambient Lighting

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Hello all. I wanted to reach out to hear about your techniques for lighting backgrounds beyond the talent. So much of what I’ve learned is about creating the right lighting on the talent, but where I struggle is lighting the background. It either comes across as too artificial or too distracting or too forced. Did anyone else struggle with this? Any resources online help? There is unlimited on lighting people and I’m understanding adding depth to the shot via people, but adding depth in the background is much harder it seems.

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I don't think this is something you can learn from a forum post or even a book.  You're going to need to learn by doing, experimentation, and trusting your eyes.  If you need to practice by getting 3 old lights and shoot on an iPhone, that's what you need to do. 🙂

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I would recommend trying to not light the background.

use practicals or natural light and just light your talent. that is a good way to learn and honestly in many situations especially on smaller shoots how a lot of people work.

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You can add streaks against the wall, like through a window (or to fake a window). Or lamps if it feels appropriate. And if it's to dark, then you could raise the exposure with a bounce into the ceiling or off a wall for a side push. Alternatively you could rake a light across everything. So many options. Some folks have used a fresnel to highlight a certain area such as a painting.

Hope that helps.

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