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Per Frits

lighting a white room

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How would you go about and light this room for a moody feel?

There is no budget and no crew.
I have a couple of small lights 1x300w + 3x60w LED and a LED panel, a hazer and a big roll of ND. I also have 2x Yeelight RGB bulbs.

So what do I need more?

I look forward to hear your ideas ūüôā
Thanks a lot





I love the look of this:


Edited by Per Frits

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It's a combo of the angles you chose for those location photos and what the outside light is doing in them.   Keep in mind that when you pointed at the kitchen, it's front lit because of the floor to ceiling window in the living room.  So you will want to close those blinds in the living room when you're pointing in the direction of the kitchen to avoid the window light front lighting and washing out  the kitchen when you shoot from that angle.

Same thing when you point to the living room.  The kitchen window isn't frontal, but the overall bounce from it is.  And it's quite a lot of fill.  So be prepared to knock that down with commando or big 4x4's.

The reference image that you love is mostly side lit without much fill at all. That's the key. You're playing with contrast ratios here.  In your case, because of the white walls.  Much if it may involve using commando cloth or duvatine to make those walls and the ceiling black (when it's not in frame)  


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Find a better location?

Otherwise I think you have to embrace the starkness.  At best, you can shoot towards the patio doors and silhouette the room.  Or shoot at twilight and silhouette most of the people. Or light it for hard moonlight but you'd need a few strong lamps on high stands.

Try and shoot in side-light or silhouette in back-light, flag off the light from off-camera windows and use blacks near faces for negative fill.

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David is spot on with it not being an ideal location (but I think you already knew that, hence your post).  Your shoot may be done by now, so I'm just adding this post for historical purposes (people looking back trying to solve this question for themselves).

In an ideal world you would use the available light coming from the windows and use the LEDs as accents, eye lights, etc.  Being careful to make it not feel too un-natural for the location.  Try to avoid over lighting.

In rooms like this, your biggest enemy is the bounce.  Just kills your contrast ratios.  So if you can't afford to rent a poop ton of black duvetyne, then go out and find as much black material as you can.  Hey, even if it's black garbage bags, it's better than nothing.  Keep in mind that garbage bags are shiny, so they only kinda work as neg fill.   But honestly, neg fill is pretty cheap to rent.  Get a few 12x12 black solids and lots of paper tape.  Like at least a few rolls.  (You can hang blacks from stands, but you said you don't have much resources, so paper tape* it is...  *ps. don't use gaff tape unless you want to repaint the location's walls after)

Next you'll have to limit your blocking.  The camera can't just willy-nilly spin around everywhere.  You're going to black out any walls that the camera can't see.  The more you pan & tilt, the more limited you will be with your blacks.  If you have blacks left over, put them on the floor too, unless you want the skip bounce look.

One step that needs to physically go before the blacking out is deciding on your frame.  Unless your LEDs are super powerful (skypanels, etc), you likely can't compete with the light coming through the window.  In an ideal world that window light would be north facing.  Thus you have less of a risk of the sun coming through.  If it's not north facing, then you'll have to contend with whatever the sky decides to do.  Things can get messy really fast that way.   Looks like you get some light beams in the living room, less in the kitchen.  So know the arc of the sun and chose your frames wisely.  You're asking yourself two questions:  1. Does this look good?  2. Will the sun arc screw with my lighting for the balance of my scene (will it change rapidly - time of year, time of day, clouds/no clouds)?

Whether the windows are playing in the shot or not...

Whether you chose to have your subjects side lit, back lit, or 3/4 lit from the windows, always try to:

- Walk in the blacks as close to the edge of the frame as possible.  Don't even be afraid to black the ceilings and floors if time allows - and use your judgement, common sense, etc.  If it looks too much, it's too much.  The right bounce in the right place can still be great.   Make it feel natural.

- Try to avoid flat lighting (where the window light is right behind you)

- Bring in those LEDs to accent things - maybe even creating a little vignette on the bg to bring your eye to the subject.

Things you can do with your camera:  It's a trope, but shoot as wide open as you and your 1AC are comfortable doing.   Shallow DOF can help scenes where you didn't have the best lighting and production design resources.

Camera movement can make things seem more cinematic than they would if it was a still scene.  Dolly shots are nice if you can get a Dana dolly somewhere.  Or (shudder) a gimbal if you're shooting with a DSLR.

Haze can help or hinder.  It can give you texture, but also reduce your contrast - which is the one thing you're trying to solve for.  So test it out.  If it's not helping, then don't use it.

A good resource is http://wanderingdp.com/.  He does lots of commercial work where they all kinda look like they shoot in sparse homes motivated by window light.  He's a big fan of blacking the F out of a room.  He also uses big HMIs, but not always.  So look into the blog posts and related podcasts.  He talks about how he does everything.

Good Luck!

- Dale Sood

Associate Member CSC, Toronto ON


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