Use Available and Artificial Light for Interior Lighting

In our Tips & Tricks segment, John introduces some tips on interior lighting.

Video Transcript

Hi, welcome to Tips and Tricks. My name is John Burkhart and today’s segment is going to be a little bit about indoor lighting. Specifically, we’re going to teach you how to use available light indoors, mix it with artificial light to create an overall pleasing scene. So, let’s take a look! Stephen Muratore: Lighting in the studio is actually relatively easy, since we have a great control over the lamps in the studio. However, when we go on location, and shoot scene at someone’s home or their office, we tend to throw out all those rules and just start shooting. Nevertheless, even shooting during the day time, there are at least two challenges that present themselves to us as we’re shooting. They are light intensity and color temperature. Let’s tackle the problem of light intensity first. Even during the day time, sometimes the room is simply too dark to give you good exposure right away. First thing you can do is go to manual iris control, and begin opening the iris until you get a good exposure. If this alone doesn’t brighten the picture enough, try slowing down the shutter speed. This will also brighten the picture. But be aware, however, in certain circumstances, it might give you a telltale motion blur. You can do both of these things with your camera alone to give you a better exposure. A large window in the room is a problem that you can actually turn to your own advantage. If your subject is sitting right in front of the window, typically her face will appear too dark. Now, you can use a reflector to bounce some of that sunlight back into her face, but the better solution is to turn your subject so the window is to one side. Now you can use the sunlight as your key light. Put the reflector on the other side of your subject to fill out those harsh shadows, make them soft, and you have an attractive picture. You probably have all the equipment you need already at your disposal. Look around the room to find the lamps that are already there. Now, you can get the greatest advantage of those lamps if you first replace their bulbs with a higher voltage bulbs they can handle. Second, remove the lamp shades. This will definitely increase the light intensity. If you find that the light is too harsh, back the light away from your talent to soften the light. Also, you can use the reflector from the other side of the talent’s face to fill the shadows. If you need to bring in higher voltage lamps, be careful not to overload the electrical circuits. Check the circuit breakers to see which circuits control which plugs. Then disperse the load accordingly. Now, if you don’t have many circuits available to you, you may need to use only one bright lamp. But in many cases you will find that the room you’re in has a white ceiling. You can take the bright lamp and point it at that ceiling to create a bright but soft light that will flood the whole area. Now let’s deal with the problem of color temperature. The challenge here is to get natural looking colors in our picture while dealing with competing colors coming from the sunlight which is relatively blue, and the incandescent light in the room which is relatively orange. Now, the first thing we can do is take off the automatic white balance control on the camera. Go to manual. Now place a white card directly in front of your talent, catching the light that’s falling on your talent. Set your white balance to that card. Another thing you can do is exclude the sunlight from the room entirely. Do this by hanging a dark curtain, or at least closing the blinds. Now everything that’s left in the room is light of the same color temperature, namely the light coming from the incandescent bulbs. Get that white card and set the white balance to that. Now, another way to go is to let the sunlight illuminate your subject, and balance the color of your lamp to the sunlight. You can do this by placing the blue gel over the lamp. If we take just a couple of minutes we can get shots on location to look just as good as those we take in the studio.