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Lighting faces is one of the fundamentals skills needed in cinematography. A good cinematographer can create pleasing light on a subject in any situation. Sometimes all you have to work with is one light, and knowing how to use that one light and the tools at your disposal to create good images will make you a more well rounded filmmaker. Today, director of photography Michelle Kwong walks us through how to create high contrast lighting, with just one light, by using lighting modifiers to shape the light.
In this video, Michelle shows us how she approaches high contrast lighting. First, she sets up the position of the light relative to the actor. With high contrast a three quarter wrap around the subject’s face looks best. Next, she blocks the light from hitting the background, to isolate the light on the subjects face. This makes the face the brightest part of the frame therefore increasing the contrast. Lastly, she shapes the light on the face using light modifiers. This allows her to adjust the lighting without adding more lights.
The main techniques we will be discussing today are diffusing light and shaping light. Diffusing light is when you soften the quality of a light. This can be done with diffusion, with bouncing, or with some other method. Diffusing is always a good idea to make shadows more pleasing on a subject’s face. Shaping light is when you control the way the light falls on a subject. This can be done by softening the light, bouncing the light, or cutting the light from hitting parts of the scene. In this example black fabric was used to control the light and create shadows on the subject.
Ultimately, the best lighting is the one that tells the story the best way. Lighting with one light will help you become a better filmmaker by helping you understand what each light is doing. Sometimes the more simple the lighting the better it will look in a scene. It all depends on what your film and resources require. There is almost always a way to make the light falling on someone’s face more flattering, and this episode will help you get one step better.
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