Fun Video Shows 10 Ways to Light Yourself, and the Moods they Create

Simple differences in the quality of light on a face can have a significant impact on how a person is perceived. I'm always a sucker for seeing how those different looks are achieved, and the team from The Lighting Channel has put together a video that demonstrates 10 different lighting looks on a face, along with the moods they create.

According to their Facebook page, they plan to release behind-the-scenes tutorials for each of these looks in the coming weeks that go in depth into the setup. For now though, here's a basic rundown of the looks in this video with some of my own thoughts thrown in.

Portrait: They used a china ball as a keylight to camera left, bouncing some fill in off of a piece of white foamcore. For a rim or backlight, a high angle light was added.

Horror: Classic lighting from below. There's also some light on the background that gives shape to the dark outline of the head and shoulders.

1920s Beauty: For this look, they actually stretched some stockings over the lens to create that soft, almost diffused look that was popular in older TV and film. The lighting uses more of a direct spot above, just off-center, with a hair light from above and behind.

Artificial Intelligence: Using a ring light, they created a direct light with minimal apparent shadow. Another trick done was in the overall color of this look, and it's quite cool compared to some of the others, which does lend itself toward a a sterile, synthetic, or AI type feeling.

Sci-Fi: Tubular fluorescent lights have a science fiction feel to them when used as a practical — just look at any modern day sci-fi film and you'll likely see a few — so they are used to accent the background. The flashing red with blue first made me think of police, but with some sound design added, it takes me to science fiction easily.

Sadness: Interesting idea here. By shining a light through plexiglass with water running over it, shadows of rain were placed on the face. Again, note how sounds (music) really sells this.

Film Noir: A window blind (or cookie) was used to cast the shadows across the background. The keylight was controlled to illuminate only a small area across the face. This could be done with barndoors, flags, or in their case, a hole cut into a cardboard box.

World Leader: This might be my favorite. Going back to a china ball from just above, and cutting out bouncing light from black blankets on the sides, this was a simple way to get a great look.

The Interrogator: This is a simple backlight on someone and then let their front stay in the shadow. This one might be my least favorite, as there might be other more interesting, yet still simple ways to create a feeling being interrogated.

Angel: Same keylight as the world leader look, but the background is now completely white.

While I pointed out some looks I did and didn't like, there's no right or wrong here, just subjective thoughts from your audience, and how as a filmmaker you want them to feel as a result of your lighting decisions. So what do you think of these looks? What would you differently to get a similar mood in your images? Something I find interesting is combining styles, and how that might look. What if you were doing a sci-fi horror? Flashing lights from below plus some tubular fluorescents?

Mike Wilkinson's picture

Mike Wilkinson is an award-winning video director with his company Wilkinson Visual, currently based out of Lexington, Kentucky. Mike has been working in production for over 10 years as a shooter, editor, and producer. His passion lies in outdoor adventures, documentary filmmaking, photography, and locally-sourced food and beer.

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