How to Light the Face for Video

In this short video from Crimson Engine, cinematographer and director Rubidium Wu takes you step by step through how he lights his closeups for video.

In the immortal words of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” “We didn’t need dialogue, we had faces!” The human face has long been the primary access point to our emotions, intentions, and attitude. Not only is this where we find the eyes, the proverbial “windows to the soul,” but it is also capable of conveying endless bits of information in the blink of an eye.  And if you find yourself doing any videography or filmmaking, from feature work to starting a YouTube channel, there’s a good chance there will be plenty of closeups in your future.

So when photographing the face, it’s good to make sure that it’s done correctly.

In this short video from Crimson Engine, host Rubidium shows us his step-by-step approach for lighting his own closeup. While your own approach may vary, he does a good job of breaking down why and where he has placed each of his four sources of illumination. Better yet, the sources in question are all very affordable.

Going from natural light, to one light, to two, and eventually to four, you learn things like using multiple color temperatures, how the size of the source affects the softness, and how background lights separate subjects from the environment.

If you are a videographer doing a great deal of closeups for your projects, it is well worth a watch.

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steven tippett's picture

where is the hair light placed? did i miss that?

Christopher Malcolm's picture

I believe it is an LED placed overhead and slightly behind the subject pointed down.

Mark Richardson's picture

This was great!

Rubidium Wu's picture

Thanks for featuring the video, Christopher! This is from a year ago, shot on the 5d3 with magic lantern. I've since bought the canon c200 and there are a lot of new updates for this on the youtube channel.

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Love you channel, man. Just bought a C200 myself, and you've got great content. A terrific place to start for anyone learning the camera or looking to pick up tips on cinematography.

michal haro's picture

thanks a lot for this great guide christopher


Micheal faze's picture