We all make mistakes. But when it comes to lighting, making mistakes can cost you time and money. Luckily, there are some common issues that beginners often run into, and we’ll show you how to avoid them!
Overlighting is a common mistake that beginners make. It can cause shadows to be invisible and highlights (the brightest part of your image) to be blown out, resulting in a flat-looking shot. This can create unflattering skin tones and make it harder for actors to read the script or act believably. Additionally, overlighting may lead you to underexpose other parts of the scene—like the background—which will appear too dark on the screen. To avoid this problem, try using less light than you think you need first, then move lights around until they’re positioned where they should be.
Not Lighting Backgrounds
You may have heard the expression, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” When it comes to film lighting, this is true—but not how you might think.
The background of your scene can be just as important as the foreground if you use it correctly. Backgrounds help create depth and context for your actors. They can also help with storytelling by establishing where your characters are concerning one another and their environment. So don’t underestimate the importance of the background.
Diffusion is a way to make a light source appear larger and softer. It can be done with paper, silk, or diffusion gel. It can create beautiful lighting effects when used sparingly and only when needed. When overused, however, it establishes unnatural shadows on the subject’s face that may not feel right for your scene.
A common mistake beginners make is adding too much diffusion to their lighting ratios because they think more diffusion means better quality of light (it doesn’t). Adding too much diffusion will overpower the rest of your lighting setup, cause you to lose any definition of your subject’s features, and create unwanted shadows under their eyes and nose bridge—which is flattering for most people!
Improperly Lighting For Shadows
Shadows are a crucial element of film lighting. They help to create depth, shape, and dimensionality in your shot and add mood and atmosphere. But when you don’t know how to light shadows properly, it can result in uneven lighting, unflattering, or distraction from the subject.
There are several common mistakes beginner filmmakers make when using lights for shadows:
- Using a large light source (such as an open window).
- Using a light source that is too close to the subject (or too far away).
- Lighting from the wrong angle results in shadows that look unnatural or inconsistent with the rest of your scene.
Get Hung Up On Gear
Don’t get hung up on gear. Gear isn’t everything and isn’t the most important thing. What you can do with your equipment is more important than the equipment itself.
Don’t be afraid to use what you have. If you don’t have a certain kind of light, find another way to do something similar that looks good with what you have at hand!
Don’t worry about other people’s use (like big Hollywood productions). There are no rules for film lighting as long as it works for your project and makes sense within its context!
Don’t Just Rely on Practicals
When starting, it’s tempting to rely on practicals for everything. You’re not sure what any of these lights do, so the idea of experimenting feels overwhelming. But don’t get stuck in your ways! You’ll learn more by trying new things than by staying with what you know.
Practicals are only one tool in a filmmaker’s toolbox; they shouldn’t be used as a crutch or an excuse not to try something else. If you find yourself relying on them too much (or at all), try going off-script once in a while and seeing what happens!
The end goal of every filmmaker is to create a film that looks and feels fantastic. This can be difficult for beginners, so we’ve put together this list of common mistakes filmmakers make when lighting their scenes. Hopefully, it’s helpful!