Practicals: Lighting On Set

A studio light
Zack Gross

Lighting can be a daunting subject once you come to realize a film or video’s look is almost entirely based on how it’s lit. And knowing what type of light would be good for a particular situation is difficult to judge, even for an experienced DP, unless you have access to the location and know your setup before the shoot. So, while practice does make (occasionally) perfect, I definitely recommend opening up a lighting textbook or internet browser in the beginning and familiarizing yourself with the different types of lights used in film and video.

Just knowing how various kinds of lights work can go a long way to informing your lighting decisions. All lights have advantages and disadvantages, so understanding what those are and coordinating those with your production is one of the first ways you can be in control. I’m talking real basics, even before we get to your three point lighting setup. Will you have power at location or will you have to supply it yourself? Are we inside or outside?

The advantage from starting at the bottom like this is it makes many of the decisions for you. If you know you’re outside in the day for example, then the Sun can become a factor. One which you can take advantage of (with silks, bounce, etc.) or guard against (flags, neutral density, etc.). From here, you can fine tune your setup with the lights and tools you’ve prepared. In this episode of Practicals, we’ll go over the common lights used on sets, along with describing how they work, and their pros and cons.