Good lighting can make all the difference in the outcome of a photo shoot or video shoot. Creating the environment you want can be achieved with a small budget: you just have to control the basics.
This schema represents the set that I normally use to shoot basic portraits or shoot YouTube videos. You can see thatthere are 4 lights: main light, fill light, back light or backlight and support light.
Each one has a different function, depending on its intensity, location, and temperature. We are going to review them in a simple front camera shooting situation, so you can see how they behave. How you combine them later is up to you. Here we go:
Table of Contents
- 1. Main light (Key light)
- 2. Fill light
- 3. Back Light
- 4. Support light (Practical light)
- Summary and tips!
1. Main light (Key light)
The first of our lights has its name on it. It is generally the most important. Its purpose is to highlight the shape and dimension of the subject you are going to photograph. In my schema, the main light is located like this:
The main light is located diagonally to our character, at a distance of approximately one meter. The diagonal allows the lighting to generate, with the shadows that are created, volumes in the person or object. If we placed it where the camera is, for example, it would illuminate both parts of the subject equally and we would obtain a much flatter image.
This is why the larger the source of this light, the better the result.
I recommend you soften the intensity of this light as much as you can , given that a light too strong will create shadows that are too intense. Now, if that is what you are looking for, then the intensity is welcome!
A trick to know the angle that the light should have with respect to the subject, is that of the illuminated cheekbone. Confused? Nothing happens, I’ll explain it to you with an image:
If you find yourself looking straight into the camera, with light diagonally like shows you the scheme above, your face should have only one side fully illuminated. The other side, although less illuminated, should have a point of light. Did you already guessed? Right, the cheekbone is the one that should be lit up! You can easily identify it because you will see a kind of triangle of light.
This technique is known as “Rembrandt’s triangle”, since it is one of the ways that the Baroque master used to illuminate his portraits, as you can see here:
This balance of light and shadow is the ideal arrangement for simple portraits, interviews and very basic photos. . As we already know, controlling the basics gives you footing for everything else. Although this light is enough to illuminate your scene, and it’s actually the one I use for many of my videos, we still have three more lights to review.
2. Fill light
This light aims to soften shadows without removing them entirely. That is, it takes a bit of drama out of a lighting that has only main light. In the schema, the fill light is located here:
At an opposite diagonal angle, the fill light should be three times the distance from the main light. That is to say, if the main one is one meter away, the fill one should be about three meters away , approximately.
Think thatthis light will illuminate the background of your image, taking center stage from the main light , so that it will help you create an environment where all the elements that compose it will be a little more in evidence than if you use only the main light.
Such an arrangement is not the one I usually use, because I like the look more cinematic than the previous example, but I leave you an image so you can see the difference:
For this light too I recommend a softened intensity so that, like the main light, it generates more subtle shadows. How can you soften the intensity of the light? I’ll tell you later. Before we are going to review the two lights that we have left.
3. Back Light
This light has an effect that seems magical. Serves to separate the subject from the background with a subtle edge of light . With it, you highlight the silhouette of the person or object you are photographing and make its figure sharper. In the schema it looks like this:
For the arrangement that I propose as an example, the rear light is on the same side as the main light, in direct contrast to the fill light, which is why it is also known as backlighting . The distance of that light will depend on the intensity you want to give to the silhouette.
The idea of using this light is to build a plane of more contrast and volume to enrich the environment of your photo. Backlight sharpens the contours and sharpens the image.
Not very clear? In this image it sure does:
Before showing you the last light, I want you to see the arrangement of these three in my set, because in addition to being the most basic ones (yes, let it be clear that they are the basic ones), they have something in common: their temperature. The lamps that I used to show you these three lights are cold temperature, that is, all three illuminate with white light .
I leave you two images so that you can see it more clearly and the key information of each of them:
The fourth light that I want you to know is going to give it the last touch of atmosphere, one more factor of contrast.
4. Support light (Practical light)
The last but not the least, gives a little more depth to the image and, in the arrangement that we have been reviewing, a temperature contrast since it is the only source of warm light . The scheme would be complete like this:
This light will not change the lighting already arranged with the other lamps, nor will it affect how the subject you are photographing looks like. Its function is almost scenographic, since it helps you build the environment of the image .
In this case it is especially useful due to the contrast of temperatures that I mentioned before. The support light can also go out in the plane without any problem , since you can use any lamp that you have at home or on the set, and play with it for the staging.
How do our four lights look in the picture? Well, like this:
Summary and tips!
Lighting is a fundamental part of image construction, and although doing it professionally requires a lot of knowledge and references, Controlling these 4 simplest lights will add to your toolbox for take photos incredible. Remember that starting from the basics is essential.
At this point you will surely be thinking: “How useful all this information! You have to make a post about accessible lamps for those of us who are starting with a small budget “ .
Did I read your mind? Well, you will not have to go to any other post, since I am going to give you the latest tips with the info you need to buy your first lights and get the most out of them.
So what lights do I recommend? Literally the ones you can buy. The ones I used for these images are brand “Tapa Amarilla” or something like that … Lie! It’s just an example so you can see that the brand you buy doesn’t matter that way. In this linkyou can see them, in case you want to have the same ones as me, which are quite well priced 🙂
These lights are super versatile, but since cheap is sometimes expensive, you have to put your creativity to work. As I mentioned above they are cold and this cannot be regulated since they have only one bulb. The solution? Here the supporting light comes to the rescue.
On the other hand, they have a unique on / off switch, which prevents you from regulating the intensity . Although they have a softbox , there is little you can achieve.
The solution? Create layers of endogenous light diffusers. You can make them with a white flannel, a shower curtain or, as I did, with the fabric that is used to protect plants from the direct rays of the sun (I told you, creativity in action). With a roll of this fabric, which is available in hardware stores and garden stores, you can cut out several pieces that you will adjust with clothespins to the softbox that comes with the lights, like this:
Use as many layers as necessary to make the light softer and the lighting more subtle, especially if you don’t have enough space to move the lamp away from the subject you are photographing or recording.
On my YouTube channel you will find this tutorial, and many others full of tips to take more and better photos.
I hope that all this information is useful to materialize the images that you have in your head. Remember that the most important thing is to do, do, do!