Steve, Honestly, knowing w



Honestly, knowing what lights to get is a by-product of knowing how to light your shots.

Instead of wondering what lights to buy, you should be learning how to use lights while filming. This is a process that takes years. I doubt you’re that patient, so instead I recommend spending at least a week googling like mad and reading every article and watching every how-to video you can find. Make it your passion, your hunger, your obsession, for 7 days. It may only take a minute to grasp a simple concept like a basic 3-point lighting technique, but it takes much more than 3-point lighting to know how to light a shot. Start there, and keep going.

I’m not trying to deflect your question or blow you off, but the simple fact is that you could have the “best” lights in the world, and they won’t matter if you don’t know how to properly use them. Conversely, a pro can light a scene beautifully with a flashlight and a $30 garage light from Home Depot if he has to.

Familiarize yourself with the difference between a tungsten and an HMI. Find out what a C-Stand is. Learn how to properly pronounce Fresnel. Learn what CTO and CTB mean and when to use which, and the difference between a key and fill light. Find out why you can shoot some frame rates in the US and others in the UK (hint: it has to do with lights and electrical current). Know how many watts of lighting you can plug into a normal circuit before you risk blowing the breaker. Find out what a Kelvin is and why it’s important. Ditto: Cross lighting. The inverse square law. Soft box. China ball. Gobo head. Glints. Kicks. Lighting contrast ratio (it’s K+F:F). Senior/Junior/Tweenie/Tiny. Practicals. Spill. Barn doors. Cookies. Scrim. Diffusion. French flags. Be able to know – without thinking about it – how to light someone with glasses, or someone who’s bald, or someone who has a dark complexion.

Now, does it really matter how you pronounce Fresnel? No. BUT, if you do enough studying, you’re bound to find out as you go, and that’s the point I’m making. Good lighting doesn’t just come out of a box, no matter how many people recommend it. You can’t just flood a room with light and expect it to look good. Study, study, study – the more you learn, the better prepared you’ll be to decide what lights you do (and don’t) need. Don’t go shopping – go learning.

After your 7 days, and once you know exactly what kind of lighting you need for your particular projects, you’ll be able to pick a basic lighting kit (the one Rob mentioned or any of a thousand others) and then supplement it with whatever other tools you require. You won’t need the advice of a forum like this. By learning how to light BEFORE you buy, you’ll save yourself a lot of money, time, and effort in the long run.

I hope this is helpful. I know it’s not the exact answer you were looking for, and I hope it does not come across as condescending. It is certainly not intended that way.

Best of luck to you,


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