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Old February 17th, 2013, 07:16 PM   #1
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Lighting with no lights

Hi all,

I've got a big project coming up that will require 10+ quick outdoor interviews within a few hours. I'll have no time to set up, so I'm limited to my main camera on a tripod with 1 LED camera light (which I haven't purchased yet, so recommendations are welcome).

So i'm after some tips on the best way to use my 1 light, plus natural light to my advantage. I'll be honest, lighting is still my biggest weakness, so any tips appreciated.

As always, any info much appreciated.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 07:39 PM   #2
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Grab a couple of 5-1 multi-purpose pop out reflectors (42" is a good size). If you can diffuse the overhead light and bounce some back to the face, you'll probably get a more versatile setup than a single on-cam LED light. If you have the time, you should read up on outdoor lighting techniques, check out some tutorials on YouTube and shadow a few outdoor portrait photographers.

Keep in mind, you'll need sturdy c-stands,clamps(or reflector arms) and sand bags whenever you're dealing with reflectors outdoors. Don't be the red-faced DP chasing after a reflector that is flying down the street.

Depending on the length of interviews you'll have to make minor adjustments to account for the solar transit.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 09:11 PM   #3
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Unless you're getting something with about 200 watts or more of power, most lighing is pretty useless outdoors especially if there's any sun at all UNLESS you're within about 5 to 6 feet of the subject and are pumping about 85 watts and up right in their face. Watch any good news cameraman. If doing a run and gun they've got their LED or Anton Bauer (which is what I used) with and 85 watt bulb, they're about 3 to 5 feet maybe 6 on a stretch from the subject (maybe a politician leaving a a courtroom after being read the charges-atleast here in my state). If they're doing a standup, live or live to tape for air later there's a good chance you'll hear the whine of the generator from the live truck in the background and they've got the trusty omni 600 with some Tough Spun over the lkens or shooting thru an umbrella.
+1 on the reflectors and find a LED that is equal to about 130 or higher watts, slam it on the camera and simply use it for fill if needed. If the sun is pounding and super bright that day try to find some sort of shade, use the reflectors and the light as the fill to open shadows at the eyes and go for it.
Keep in mind that about 6 feet is going to be your max distance with a powerful LED or even tungsten light that you can throw on the camera and that might be stretching it a bit.
Don't forget sandbags for the reflector stands just in case.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 09:44 PM   #4
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Ditto what Mr Bloom has said.
I always try to put talent in the shade (hate the squinting look) and make sure background is in the shade. A little soft fill from a reflector.
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Old February 18th, 2013, 07:07 AM   #5
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Hey Jody

You are shooting this on your new JVC I assume??? Surely no lighting is needed?? That cam is supposed to be awesome so like Phill says put them in some open shade and let mother Nature do the lighting for you.

Chris
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Old February 18th, 2013, 10:05 AM   #6
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Re: Lighting with no lights

In the area of tips for using natural light here are a few things I would recommend considering:

Avoid shooting during the middle of the day if you can. This is when things look their flattest and least interesting.

When shooting with the sun lower in the sky place your subject with the sun more to one side and not straight behind the camera or behind the talent. Think of it just like any other key light and use the 45 degree rule as a starting point. A bit of contrast across faces is much more interesting the a totally flat look. Take a reflector to balance the darker side of the face or reposition the talent till you get the look you like. If the shadows look harsh you can get a diffuser to soften the sunlight. In lieu of spending money for a "real" diffuser you can make one using a translucent shower curtain set up on a stand made from PVC pipe. For safety sake anytime you are using something that in essence is a sail it needs to be manned and controlled.

Don't always think about adding light. You may find that a piece of black foamboard held just out of the camera frame can give you a more pleasing look as well. This works especially well when you are dealing with a cloudy day with very flat light. White foamboard is an excellent soft reflector as well when you do need to add a bit of light. Keep both flavors in your kit.

The last but most important thing is to practice your setups with test subjects BEFORE doing it with the talent. Ideally do it weeks or days ahead using friends and family as your on camera subjects. When you do a setup record it and narrate the setup using the camera audio. Even the ones you don't like record them too and talk about them on the audio track. If you want to be really diligent start making blocking sheets showing your setups. That makes it easier to communicate what you want your grips to do when you have the luxury of extra hands.

You'll see what works best for your style of shooting and it will become second nature to set up good lighting. Even if its provided mostly my mother nature.
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Old February 18th, 2013, 10:08 AM   #7
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Oh.. I missed out on one last thing - camera settings.

Camera settings can do a LOT to make the most of your lighting setup. Learn how gamma, black level, and knee settings help your images look their best in high contrast environments or add some extra pop and interest when contrast is low.

Your cameras response to the light you are feeding it matters.
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Old February 19th, 2013, 03:55 AM   #8
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Hi Jody,

How about some background info on how you have to shoot these interviews?

Do they come to you or do you go to them?

Location, fixed or multiple?

Type of people eg. outdoor activity types, office workers, protesters, church group etc?

Duration of each interview, are the subjects going to be 'rushed' or relaxed?

Same topic for each or different?

Will the background be pertinent?

Don't worry, we're not going to whizz over to Noo Zealand to pinch your gig........ :) but it would help to know.


Al
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Old February 19th, 2013, 09:23 AM   #9
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Good advice so far. My setup is a large reflector on a high stand and a homemade single stand butterfly scrim. I place the talent with their back to the sun, put the reflector higher than their line of site angled down (so they do not squint) and the butterfly over their head to diffuse the sunlight but still let some through for a hair light. Expose the camera for the background and fill the subject to proper exposure with the reflector

I do not like the 'person in shade with blown out background look' outdoors. Since putting this setup together I can shoot at any time of the day, be in control of the exposure and easily choose a background.

For audio I put a shotgun on a boom stand. To work this way you need useful stands and sand bags.

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Old February 21st, 2013, 04:11 AM   #10
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hey Jody

You are shooting this on your new JVC I assume??? Surely no lighting is needed?? That cam is supposed to be awesome so like Phill says put them in some open shade and let mother Nature do the lighting for you.

Chris
Yep I am using the new JVC.

I did a couple of IVs yesterday with it and it actually went pretty well considering I had minimal lighting.

For the outdoor IV, I placed the subject on a slight angle so the sun lit up their face but so they weren't staring directly into it. Then I used my little 96-LED light mounted on a tripod to fill the slight shadow on the other side of their face. The eye sockets are a little dark but otherwise not bad.

For the indoor IV, I placed the subject facing some open windows then used my LED light to fill one side of the face. Would have been nice to have another LED to light the other side though.

The end result is something I'm reasonably happy with. But I'll let you guys be the judges (pics attached).

Definitely have a lot to learn about lighting though. Looking forward to reading more tips. Thanks guys.
Attached Thumbnails
Lighting with no lights-screen-shot-2013-02-21-11.01.32-pm.png   Lighting with no lights-screen-shot-2013-02-21-11.03.34-pm.png  

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Old February 21st, 2013, 07:21 AM   #11
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Hi Jody,

In my opinion, for what it's worth, I think you've done better than you did in the 5 Finger Shoes Promo.

However, I think there are a couple of things to nail;

Subject one,

a) Your camera is elevated in regards to the subject, He has very bushy eyebrows, you need to drop a little to see his eyes. It also gives a better perspective, not a 'I'm looking down on you' perspective and allows a better view of his eyes. I don't know what the interview is about but I'm guessing it's a little more substantial than an ENG crew outside the courthouse yelling" Sir, sir, is true you got away with a claim of 33 million dollars for corporate lunches this year?" No-one really cares about the person as they scurry away, the audience really only wants to hear the answer. Here, you want the audience to connect with the subject and to do so, we need a clear view of his eyes, and to be on the same level.
If your interviews are all with "normal people in normal circumstances", eye level shots would be best. If your interview is with a "normal person hanging from a karabiner on the side of Mount Cook" shooting from an elevated position is great as it shows you're all hanging off karabiner’s on Mt Cook and it's 300M to the bottom. Make sense?

b) Try and pull in closer to the subject, your interviewing him, not showing us the background scenery. Keep it tight.

c) Your highlights are a bit blown out but you're getting closer, well done.

d) Your positioning of the subject is far better than the second subject in the 5 Finger Shoes Promo. Well done.

e) I may be wrong, but I think your focus is a little soft.

Now, could you have moved the subject to shade or were you stuck with where you were?

Subject 2;

a) Lighting is getting better, use of natural light is good. Your highlights are still a tad blown out, but definitely better. I don't think you need a second LED.

b) Focus seems sharper.

c) Is it imperative to show the background, not likely. Centralise and tighten the shot, but tilt up a bit because the top of her head is missing.

d) A little light on the eyes gives life to your subject, well done.

Maybe make up a little pocket sized prompt sheet for yourself.
Subject;
1. Position relitive to the sun.
2. Background.
3. Height.
You;
1. Can I put subject in light shade.
2. Location
3. Eye level.
4. Don't chop head off.
5. Contrast of clothing in variance to skin tone.
6. Keep shot tight. (this will help with over exposure on skin tones due to high contrast clothing.)

OK, well done for getting out there and having a go.

Al

Last edited by Alan Melville; February 21st, 2013 at 07:24 AM. Reason: added info
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Old February 21st, 2013, 09:42 AM   #12
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Re: Lighting with no lights

Overall I agree with Alan. My one rule (unless it something special I'm going for) is the center of my lens should be just about the same height as the subjects eyes. Now that is not a 100% hard and fast thing but for me, it's a good starting point. Also unless you the background is going to help tell the story or is an iintergal part of the story I try to keep as much of the background out as possible either thru framing or DoF or both...
I disagree a bit with the head being chopped off. SOMETIMES it's OK to do that BUT if you are going to do it, make sure it's for a good reason and don't make it look like you did it accidentally. In almost all case keeping the subjects head in the frame is a good thing to do so I would stay with that unless it's specified to cut it closer.
Otherwise overall, it's pretty good and get's you going in the right direction. Stuff like this takes practice like doing anything else in this business, the more you do it the better you get.
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