Tips for Shooting Black Light Video

Tips for Shooting Black Light Video

It so happens that ultraviolet light bulbs (or black lights) weren't discontinued in the 90s. In fact there are plenty of photographers out there who are shooting some incredible stuff under black lights. But shooting video in this guise brings its own set of unique challenges. Here are some tips to create video in this hedonistic and fluorescent style.

Invest in Watts

Ultraviolet light bulbs are not readily available from your local hardware store, you’ll have more success by either getting in touch with a party lighting store, or by using an online distributor. The most affordable way of purchasing UV light is to look for UV tube lights or for UV Edison bulbs. The more bulbs you can afford for your project the better given that most of the UV lighting source available to the consumer are low wattage.

We used six Edison bulbs, three on each side and approximately 2-4 feet from our subject for the music video below. This generated enough strength in the key light source to sufficiently make our subjects glow.

Pay Attention to Other Light Sources

Any extra source of light will reduce the fluorescent glow effect of your UV lights, so a very dark studio is essential. We decided to introduce subtle lighting from behind our subjects through colored gels to add an ambience to the scenes. By doing this in a subtle way, we were able to get creative with the tone of the scene, whilst maintaining the UV glow.

Get Creative With Your Composition

Having effective UV lighting is only half the story. You need to put something in front of the camera. There is specialist UV enabled paint which is readily available that can be applied to pretty much anything including skin. With the help of a talented make-up artist, this can be extremely effective. Almost all white cotton and fluorescent cotton is also effective under the UV lights. It’s a case of experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work.

Once you have your glowing subject, go back to basics with composition techniques to create compelling scenes. In our music video production, we used fluorescent green wool wrapped around light stands to create a futuristic laser effect. When shooting music videos, getting creative with a limited budget is essential. Wrapping a $5 ball of yarn around light stands might not be glamorous, but little tricks like this create excellent production value if executed with intention.

Use HSL Secondary in Premiere Pro to Enhance the Effect

Towards the bottom of the Lumetri Color panel in Adobe Premiere Pro you’ll find the “HSL Secondary” tool. This gives you the ability to create masks based on hue, saturation, and luminosity, then color grade just these areas. Once familiar with the tool, it is easy to localize the bright sections of your UV scenes given that the rest of the scene will be very dark. You can then boost the brightness and saturation of the lighter areas to make the florescence pop .

Shooting under UV light is a lot of fun and can create some unique sequences for your showreel. Shooting music videos is an excellent platform to get creative with new techniques in video, so don’t be afraid to introduce black light into your next project.

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Jay Scott's picture

For any Canadians reading, Canadian Tire stocks Sylvania T12 48" tubes for $25 each.Getting suitable fixtures was the tricky part. You want to avoid any white coated worklights to minimize the purple they will throw. Either paint them black, or check halloween stores on November 1. Their fixtures often only come with a T8 bulb, but usually have a switch and are lightweight black plastic. The metal fixtures get a bit heavy when you hang a few off a light stand.

And, don't waste your time on LED UV lights if you want pure black light at wavelengths lower than 400nm.

Garett Harnish's picture

They might be discontinuing them; they are on in-store clearance for $12.43 at my nearest store (qty 1) and several others nearby don't have any stock.

Chris Adval's picture

That's a super clean sample you provided. What camera and lens you used on this? Sony A7Sii?