There are so many moving parts when it comes to video production that it’s easy for beginners to forget some of them. Lighting is one of the core components of video production that is often forgotten, yet is absolutely essential. One of the first things low budget shoots cut or overlook is lighting, and it’s no coincidence that bad lighting is one of the easiest tells when it comes to picking out low budget work.
Why is lighting so important in video & film production? Here are some of the biggest reasons.
Lighting sets the mood
You already know that dramatic lighting can make or break a scene in a creepy horror movie, right? Imagine if you tried to depict a girl trying to escape a haunted house that was lit up like your kitchen. Not very inspiring, right?
Although many people think lighting really only matters in extreme examples like the haunted house, there is both art and science to setting the proper mood for any video production, even if it’s a short business or sales clip. For professional videos like that, you might want a bright yet warm and friendly light to show your work at its best and help sell your products, right?
Careful attention to lighting and mood will help you ensure that you never ruin a comedic moment with overly dim lighting, cast doubt on your hero with shadows, or otherwise sabotage your own storytelling.
Lighting helps tell the story and shape the experience
When it comes to storytelling, great lighting can play a subtle yet powerful role. You can control how your audience takes in the story with directional lighting, pinpointing critical people or objects that help establish plot points. You can just as easily distract your viewer with poor lighting, causing them to miss important moments or look at the wrong things.
Lighting signals quality and professionalism
Lighting truly determines the quality of your video in the eyes of even inexperienced viewers. A novice can recognize bad lighting; even if he or she isn’t sure why the video looks bad, or what it is about the video that looks “cheap,” they’ll be responding to the way the lighting looks. Even a 15 second commercial relies on skillful lighting; no one wants to buy products that are advertised in a spot that appears to be shot in someone’s den thanks to bad lighting.
Great lighting means less editing, and the reverse is also true
Poor lighting guarantees more time in the editing room—sometimes significantly more. And while you can sometimes go back and shoot scenes again, that’s not always an option. In the end you might have to go with what’s there, and that can mean your editor is trying to use software to fix dim scenes that look awful and match them with other scenes that were lit more successfully.
Lighting helps ensure continuity
Let’s say you’ve decided you want to shoot with natural light only to avoid the need to work on lighting. You’re hoping that if you shoot during the day the sunlight will be enough and you won’t need any extra lights or equipment. You shoot inside, and the light is pretty good, but your final product isn’t very bright. If you’d used reflectors it would have been much better. You also notice that one scene is very confusing because of the way that the light coming in from the windows changed.
The same thing happened outside. The scenes you shot earlier in the day didn’t match up well with your afternoon work, and here and there clouds made parts of scenes look different. Once you edit the scenes together, they’re confusing! Why? Because keeping the lighting constant ensures continuity and preserves the illusion that a five minute scene that took three hours to shoot really took place in the same five minute window.
There’s a great deal more to lighting a video production well than turning on a lamp and pointing it at someone, or going outside and hoping for the best. Training, education, and experience are essential to learning how to light any production perfectly. Ironically, the very best lighting often goes unnoticed by 95 percent of people who see it—while the worst lighting is what people notice and remember. Just remember to pay close attention to lighting your production to set the mood, tell your story, make editing simpler, ensure continuity, and create a professional looking end product.