How to Create Realistic Lighting in Filmmaking

You can't control what the weather will be on any given day, and that dictates a lot of how natural light will behave. In this video, Rob Ellis takes you behind-the-scenes to go through how to create realistic-looking lighting no matter what conditions you're in.

This video is a seven-minute masterpiece. Replicating daylight during the nighttime is no small task, but what's so impressive about Ellis's work is the attention to detail. In some of these shots, he shows the basic setup with no accent, practical, or bounce lighting and it looks good. So good, in fact, sometimes it's hard to tell why you would go to extra effort to improve it. Then, he does. He points out areas of shadow that are incongruent with the time of day he is trying to sell the viewer, or light bouncing to areas he doesn't think look natural, and so on.

A higher-level effect of this video is just how much the lighting can impact the mood of the scene. If you take the example where the subject is standing just inside the front door looking into the house, with everything well-lit, it doesn't tell us much. When the subject is put into some shadow and is looking into further shadow, you get the impression that the scene is serious and suspenseful.

When you next light a scene, even if it's a photo, bear some of these tips in mind and take a long, hard look at your lighting to check it makes sense for what you're trying to create.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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