Viewfinder: Reflections

Here at Videomaker headquarters, we watch many videos made by you, our readership. Each year, unquestionably, the videos that you send us have shown ever-increasing production values. I attribute this to your constantly improving skills and the availability of higher quality video-production tools. One area that seems to be lacking is lighting. Manipulating light is an entertainment-industry art form. Many people base their entire careers upon this craft alone. But just a few simple lighting tools and techniques can greatly improve the quality of your videos. While some tools are complex and costly, lighting tools are often simple and inexpensive.

Take lighting reflectors, for instance. They are inexpensive and so easy to use. The return on investment is very high because they can have a dramatic effect on your image quality. Reflectors bounce light, providing a soft fill to help eliminate dark shadows in bright conditions, outdoors or inside. Anything that bounces light can be used as a reflector; white foamcore and poster board are good examples. Foamcore is less convenient to transport because it is rigid, but it is superior while in use for that same reason. The larger your piece of foamcore, the more light it will reflect.

If you have never used a reflector before, you can get an idea of what they can do by experimenting with one of those springy, reflective automotive window shades from an auto-parts store (or you can buy a Videomaker window-shade reflector from us). A few companies sell excellent reflectors, designed for photography and video production, for as little as $50. Some have gold metallic foil that produces warm, glowing skin tones. Any way you look at it, it is amazing how one or two well-placed reflectors can dramatically change the look of your videos.

If you’re pleased with your results with reflectors, consider using diffusers, which are used to soften hard, direct light. Diffusers tend to be larger than reflectors, because they spread and soften light over the entire subject. Consequently, they are more cumbersome to set up and more costly to purchase, but diffusers are wonderful tools for controlling light. Direct sunlight can cause blown-out highlights and harsh shadows. With a diffuser, you can obtain soft light, making your subject look really good with natural-looking skin tones.

Shaping light is not difficult or expensive. Consider doing some self-training by setting up your equipment and running some trials with different setups during a time that you are not making an important video. These passive light control tools allow the shaping of natural and artificial lights. I encourage you to experience the great results you can derive from these products. With just a little effort, you can greatly improve the look of your videos.

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