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Lighting Maketh the Shot

The blog on corporate video production

A recent corporate video shoot at Standard Bank for the Holycow Agency got me thinking about the role lighting plays in a successful video shoot.

Lighting setup for a recent corporate video shoot

The rapid tech advancements in cameras and lenses are fantastic. I love that dynamic range is on the up, that lenses are becoming faster, sharper and more affordable. Somehow this all seems to be to the detriment of lighting and honing in on the craft of lighting. There's an awful lot of people out there referring to themselves as cinematographers and DP's who have no understanding or appreciation of the importance of lighting.

Our job as filmmakers and video crew is to shape a shot that draws attention and focus where it's needed. The trend now seems to be about allowing a shallow depth of field accomplish this. I'm all for blurry backgrounds but I know with that with a few thoughtfully placed lights and reflectors I can make the focus of my shot really standout.

The key here is the term "thoughtfully place lights". Too often I see a video crew set up a couple of LED lights, put them on full blast and consider that as effective lighting. It's not. Here's a tip for when doing a corporate video shoot. Switch off the office fluorescents if you can and light your subject with your own lights, thoughtfully, and see the difference. On a shoot without lights? Then try using a reflector. We've used tin roofing, white card and even a white bed sheet to bounce light to get a better shot. There's no excuse for not taking lighting seriously, after all it's the biggest part of our job as a DP. Experiment, learn, even take a course (the best thing I ever did was a week long DP course at MaineMedia with the masterful Bill Holshevnikoff).

You see it's not the technology that improves the final shot so much as the craft and attitude of the filmmaker. Our passion should be about the art of the final picture and what it communicates rather than just how blurry bokehlicious the background is.

Charles Meadows is part owner of Incubate Video Productions in Johanesburg, South Africa. He can be found most time running around the wonderful continent of Africa filming and loving what he does.

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