When it comes to artificial lighting, while technical skills are critical, even more important is learning to light scenes in service of the narrative rather than conspicuous lighting for its own sake. This great video demonstrates that concept and offers five useful steps to put you on the path to success.
Coming to you from Scott Choucino of Tin House Studio, this excellent video tutorial discusses approaches to artificial lighting. The first and foremost priority should be deciding on the story and mood you want to convey. Whether it's a party scene or a hot summer day, nail down the narrative before picking up any lighting gear. This narrative guides your subsequent choices around lighting quality, directionality, and adjustments through subtracting or adding light.
Too often, amateur photographers get distracted by flashy but impractical lighting setups because they seem inherently interesting. As Choucino notes, you can always spot amateur lighting because it draws excessive attention to itself rather than blending seamlessly into the scene. The mark of pro lighting is that it looks realistic rather than conspicuous. While he doesn't dismiss technical virtuosity outright, he wants to dispel the notion that professional photographers always rely on complex, multi-light setups. In reality, most shots require only one primary light. The complexity arises from all the subtraction and addition of light through flags, reflectors, and other modifiers to sculpt that primary light source.
So, if you find yourself obsessing over tricky three-point lighting setups or meticulously calibrated gradient effects, take a step back. Remember that serving the narrative and mood should be the primary goal. Let dramatic lighting serve this purpose rather than lighting for attention-grabbing flair alone, and the results will speak for themselves. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Choucino.