Many video producers want to get a great low light scene captured for their project. And while it may seem like you can just walk into a dimly lit room and start shooting, lighting a scene to look good when you shoot it with your camera takes a few tricks up your sleeve.
Location, Location, Location
Sometimes, the biggest issue you'll face when attempting to create a low-light scene is the existing light overpowering the lighting you're trying to set up. Choosing the right location is crucial to give you the maximum amount of control over your lighting setup. So look for a room with no windows, or shoot at night to avoid this issue. Having a blank canvas to work with makes it a lot easier.
Having the right tools at hand can help you control the intensity of your lights. Ideally, you'll have multiple lights with a range of wattages to choose from. But if you're options are limited, neutral density gels can help cut the intensity of light without altering the hard or soft quality of the light. Another option is to use dimmers on your lights. The downside to dimming is a potential shift in color temperature.
Once you've got the intensity down, you'll want some diffusion around to help control the hard or soft quality of the light. Umbrellas and diffusion gels can help you dial in the exact look you need. Also, don't forget to use colored gels to give the right mood. Whether it's a cool blue or a warm amber, a little color can make a big difference.
Another key element is to control the spill of the lights you're using. You can achieve this by using the barn doors on professional lights. It's also essential to have some blackwrap on hand to really sculp your light, and focus it where you need it. You can also use black fabric and a black foam core board to help control any reflected light from surfaces that aren't shown in your scene. Whether it's a white wall or ceiling, covering it in black will help absorb that extra light for you.
Exposure may well be the best tool you have for controlling your light. Even a well lit scene can appear dim if you've got the right exposure. It's important to remember to light for the camera you're shooting with, and to have the right amount to get the proper depth of field for your scene. Keep in mind that low lighting doesn't mean no lighting. Any areas that you want detail in will have to have enough light on them for your camera's sensor to pick it up.
Achieving a great low light scene is more difficult than it seems, so choose your location wisely and use the tools you have to control your light intensity, quality, and spill. These tips, along with proper exposure can help that low light scene, really shine.
Greg Olson is Videomaker's multi-media producer.