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Lighting Tips: Top 8 Basic Lighting Tips

written by: twhatley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

Correct lighting can be the difference between getting that great shot and ruining the entire film because of mediocre lighting. In this article, we will learn the top 8 basic lighting tips that most filmmakers live by.

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    Tip #1—Give yourself adequate time to set up. To make sure that the lighting equipment is correctly in place before filming, arrive at the site early. This way, valuable time isn’t wasted waiting around to get the lights set up. Plus, if you only have a set amount of time available for the shot, you don’t want to be rushing at the last minute to set it up; mistakes are easily made this way.

    Tip #2—Plan the shot before showing up. You should know what you want to accomplish and what lighting technique you want to use to accomplish it. Effective filming isn’t a hit-and-miss type of thing. It requires skill, technique and professionalism. To be professional means adopting proper planning procedures.

    Tip #3—Make sure that you always have a backup. You never can tell what will happen at a film site. It is important to have a plan “B". You never know, your initial plan may not be the best way to invent the wheel; so invent it several ways and be ready to change your initial plan at the filming location.

    Tip #4—Control the environment. Keep the background clean. You don’t want any unwarranted shadows messing up your perfect lighting plan.

    Tip #5—Mix up your technique. Try to step out of the box and use two or three known lighting techniques together to get a unique effect. You never know, you may invent a new revolutionary lighting technique that will win you an Oscar one day and change the filming industry.

    Tip #6—Make sure that you always have backup equipment present. Equipment isn’t always reliable. As much as I wish that everything would work how I want them to and when I need them to work, this isn’t always the case. The fact of the matter is, you can’t rely on the predictability of technology and machinery. Carry backup equipment every time and you won’t be sorry.

    Tip #7—Take provisions to ensure the comfort of the cast. Harsh lighting may be needed depending on your vision. But, if the actor or subject in the shot isn’t entirely happy with it, their discomfort will translate on film. Do whatever you need to do to carry out your vision with the lighting that you need while effectively pleasing the subject.

    Tip #8—Make sure that you effectively explain storyboard and lighting plans to the cast. This goes with making the subject comfortable. Before throwing them into an uncomfortable lighting situation, make them aware first. In filming, everything must work together to make that perfect shot. This includes the cast, the environment and the lighting being in perfect sync.