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Lighting goes a long way to making or breaking a shot. The main part of what you really see in the frame is the light falling on the subject or talent. A great image that’s poorly lit looks weak, but even an average subject when lit well can look great. It’s just like audio. Do it badly and your whole piece is ruined. Do it well and no one will really notice, because everyone is watching the story unfold. That’s just what you want.

Getting good lighting requires understanding a few basic concepts, and having the experience and confidence to play around with the fixtures to get just what you want in a reasonable amount of time. Yes, good lighting takes time, and unfortunately you don’t always have a lot of that on the set, so you have to augment it with experience. Thus our constant reference to the “time-in-the-boat” concept. (If you want to race 12-meter boats the crew that usually wins is the one with the most time in the boat.)

While there are a lot of instruments and fixtures in the lighting universe, the reality is that we have access to only what’s on hand. If you own your own kit or use the ones from Media Services, then you’re limited to just a few techniques. That’s actually a good thing, because you can learn to work with them easily. We have two basic kinds of Lowel kits you can sign out. Once you have a feel for how they work, it's as if you have a good friend to help you out. Getting the quality and style of light you want is a combination of touching things with your hands and matching the results to the images and ideas in your mind.

Being quick with your hands is a very easy task to learn. All it involves is setting things up and taking them down until you feel really comfortable doing so. Sometimes learning is just that simple. Having a few “luxury items” such as clamps, flags, gels, and reflectors of your own can give you a real edge in coaxing the highlights and shadows to do your bidding. Again, it all comes down to practice, with your hands and with your ideas and seeing the results on the screen.


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