lighting Getting soft light & shaping light

Hey all!

I am trying to learn lighting, just trying to be super basic here to start out and crawl before I try to take any real steps. I'd love advice/help on achieving soft flattering light for lighting people as well as tools and methods I can use to help shape the light overall. I don't have any delusions I will ever be a cinematographer, in the future I plan to work with whatever great DPs I can find but with COVID and the fact that I'm just starting out that isn't happening right now and I figure the more I know the better. I'm very interested in it and feel I know what I want to see but as far as actually trying to do that job of being the technician type who can make it happen well I feel that's less my forte. I just think it's an entire skillset for some talented individuals who aren't me and who am I to think I can serve as my own DP anyway, I don't think that. Thanks all!

Here's some details:

So I have a few light bulbs I bought with some clamps from home depot just so I can experiment and try to learn without spending a fortune right away. They are Cree brand LED Bulbs Daylight balanced (5000K) and then the most legit light I have (and it probably isn't even that great) is the Godox SL60W (5600K) which I just acquired more recently. I also have a 5 in 1 reflector disc. In case there is any confusion I've tried to link the items I mentioned below.

Soft Light
So in dealing with the Godox light, I thought finally I would be able to have a softer light because before when messing around prior to getting this light I was using the clamp lights with the daylight bulbs and then shinning those through the diffusion part of the reflector, it was fine but nothing great. I figured with an actual softbox and more professional light (although I know it is still lower end overall) I would be able to achieve something decent enough for say a basic interview set up at the very least. However even with the softbox and adjusting the angles and increasing/decreasing the output of the light it makes the subjects skin/face look awful. It's like all their imperfections really stand out very clearly and it is just completely unflattering where as if I turn the light off and use houselights the subject looks way way better. This is just me experimenting with myself and willing volunteers so it's okay for now that it looks like crap. I tried working with the Godox as a key and while I could do fine with fill light and back/hair light in trying to replicate a three point lighting type set up the key just looked terrible. I later tried shinning the light directly away from the subject and bouncing it off the wall, this seemed to help but I can't help but feel like I'm doing something wrong when all these various videos online have their set up with the light as a key and shinning directly on the subject (softobox on) and quite close. Is the softbox not enough for some reason? Should I forget trying to follow the set ups I've seen in the videos and just mess around more? I just know that the light is super unflattering right now and I'm setting it up like the others using the exact same light.....if I had to guess it looks bad because it isn't very soft and is just way too harsh but why would this be even when I set the output down very low (or high, whatever) and with the softbox diffusion? It's frustrating.

Shaping Light
My next question is dealing with learning to shape light. I'd love suggestions on this as far as what type of diffusion material is effective, what works well to shape/cut lights, etc.

Anywayyyyyyyy. Overall I'm just trying to keep things relatively simple now and learn any way I can even if behind the scenes doesn't look pretty, as long as it functions for what's in front of the camera I'm cool with it at this point. Another note is I don't yet have any warmer (or RGB) lights but I will look toward doing that in the future to open up my options more.

Thanks all and I look forward to discussion with you!

Godox Light
Daylight Bulbs
Clamp Light
Reflector/Diffusion
 
Bunch of stuff here to break down.

First, I'll say: it would be interesting to see examples of what specifically is 'unflattering' about the light. 'Unflattering' can mean a million and one different things and is incredibly subjective. Can you provide some image examples of flattering vs unflattering?

The softness of a particular light is a direct function of its size (or relative size): the larger a light is, the softer it is. The smaller it is, the harder it is. A light thought of as a 'hard' light really close to your subject may in fact be softer than a high output soft light that is much further away because the relative size of the 'hard' light is larger.

What specifically is unflattering about the softbox could be anything from the angle to the size/distance, the colour etc. It's far easier to discuss lighting by seeing it than writing about it.

As for setups on YouTube - these can sometimes be handy because they give you a half-decent starting point, but there's no real rules; if the light doesn't look good, move it. Move it to a place where it looks better.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Some people prefer to use unbleached muslin for their diffusion.
Some people light it bleached. Everyone has their own style.

Here are a couple of conventional ways to use light in a soft and flattering manner - but they are complex!

Book light

Cove Light

And also another useful tool

Negative Fill
Outside on a cloudy day this is way better than adding light - you take it away by draping up duvetyne everywhere you want to stop ambient light bounce.

And finally

Makeup!!! Yes makeup!! even for men!
Powder helps stop the skin from being all shiny and can help cover imperfections. Could be part of your problem.
It would help if we saw a picture.

Generally Hard / Soft light isn't flattering because of how it makes the skin look but rather because of the way it produces shadows on the face.

Also cold light is less flattering on the skin so that might be part of your problem too.
 
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For some visual to go with all that text, take a look at about 30 seconds worth of this video (the link should begin the video from the correct time stamp) from around 0:08 - 0:37. The narrator speaks using explanations I would for how my light is on my subject. It isn't that flattering, it gives the subject a "rough" look, etc. and the subject during this portion looks like what I'm working with. It is simply "unkind" light.


Maybe the simple answer here is "move the light dummy" but I just don't get why so many set ups I see online are so similar and are able to achieve a good look with the same light I have and I'm unable to replicate it. I mean the simplest thing I should be able to do when starting out and knowing basically nothing is to take a set up someone gives me and replicate it I would think. Why can't I do even that much? Either way I'm looking to have a place to discuss lighting and my struggles with it and even if the solution here ends up being simpler than I anticipated, this is still a thread where I would love to have ongoing discussions.
 
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Bunch of stuff here to break down.

First, I'll say: it would be interesting to see examples of what specifically is 'unflattering' about the light. 'Unflattering' can mean a million and one different things and is incredibly subjective. Can you provide some image examples of flattering vs unflattering?

The softness of a particular light is a direct function of its size (or relative size): the larger a light is, the softer it is. The smaller it is, the harder it is. A light thought of as a 'hard' light really close to your subject may in fact be softer than a high output soft light that is much further away because the relative size of the 'hard' light is larger.

What specifically is unflattering about the softbox could be anything from the angle to the size/distance, the colour etc. It's far easier to discuss lighting by seeing it than writing about it.

As for setups on YouTube - these can sometimes be handy because they give you a half-decent starting point, but there's no real rules; if the light doesn't look good, move it. Move it to a place where it looks better.


First, thanks for the response. Yes I imagine it would be a lot easier if I uploaded some pics, I'll get on that. I guess I was trying to avoid it because who wants to post unflattering pictures of themselves or their family members online for people to view lol. I posted a video above that may be useful in showing what I'm talking about.

I'm specifically talking about people's faces or skin when I refer to flattering/unflattering so I guess an example might be if you've ever been in one of those bathrooms in a bar or club with the weird lighting. I can go in there and be washing my hands and look up to see a hideous ghoul that I know is not indicative of what I actually look like in most situations. All the sudden my face is covered in acne and blemishes and there are unsightly areas under my eyes and the lighting is just unkind to even the most attractive of people, unflattering.

This is the best overall explanation: I can film myself with the same camera using whatever lights are around and I look fine but it doesn't look interesting or "professional".....so while the subject looks all nice and pretty it is flat.....so I start adding in the Godox light and all the sudden there's more interest starting to happen but it's like bringing out all the worst qualities in my face/skin (the same with other people I plop in front of the light). I don't expect the light to necessarily make everyone look BETTER than they do but I certainly would hope it isn't going to make them look significantly worse than they do. Why is my "pro" lighting making my subjects look worse? At least I know if I need to make someone look bad (maybe they are sick or have an awful hangover) I can do that! haha

I've seen myself in recent videos taken without pro lighting, even close up I look fine. I had professional photos taken not that long ago (before pandemic, but I doubt I've turned into the undead in the past 8 months) I wore no make up and I saw them before they were retouched in any way......I looked perfectly acceptable, the lighting used by the photographer was flattering for my face so I'm fairly certain we are dealing with "user error" in this case where I can't get any type of "forgiving" light for faces. The episode of Seinfeld where Jerry sees the girl in bad lighting and good light and she looks like two different people is a fair example too haha though not quite so extreme. I also asked my mom to just stand in while I tried to light her, she was wearing make up and isn't a ghoul either, she didn't look good, it made her look way older than she looks in "real life." I just can't figure out why these youtubers all seem to set it up the same way but it isn't working for me but you are correct, they give a a good starting point but there are no real rules. I'm still very much the learning phases....it's VERY overwhelming (and looks more and more expensive the more I learn about it) . Things like writing, editing, acting, sound etc. come naturally to me and while creating the idea of how I want the light to look does as well, actually achieving that or anything close to it and actually working with the lights and physically adjusting, etc. seems so complicated and mathematical in comparison to everything else it doesn't seem to come naturally to me at all, quite the opposite even.

However I accept the learning process and that it will take time, my attitude will likely evolve over time but it just feels so rigid trying to get the lighting right, like there is little room for creativity or play and it has to be just so to be correct but I know that I'm probably dead wrong about that and just don't know what I'm doing yet. Sorry for the wall of text and thanks for reading! I've been looking for a place online to talk with people about this stuff and try to learn and discuss when watching videos/reading articles/experimentation start to fail to be enough.

Thank you.

Seinfeld Two Face
 
Some people prefer to use unbleached muslin for their diffusion.
Some people light it bleached. Everyone has their own style.

Here are a couple of conventional ways to use light in a soft and flattering manner - but they are complex!

Book light

Cove Light

And also another useful tool

Negative Fill
Outside on a cloudy day this is way better than adding light - you take it away by draping up duvetyne everywhere you want to stop ambient light bounce.

And finally

Makeup!!! Yes makeup!! even for men!
Powder helps stop the skin from being all shiny and can help cover imperfections. Could be part of your problem.
It would help if we saw a picture.

Generally Hard / Soft light isn't flattering because of how it makes the skin look but rather because of the way it produces shadows on the face.

Also cold light is less flattering on the skin so that might be part of your problem too.

Okay thanks for the muslin for diffusion suggestion, I'll look to buy some of that. Would you be able to explain the difference in the look of the two or I should just try both probably and see what I think? I guess I'll need to buy stuff to hang it with/on.

Duvetyne for negative fill, okay great thank you!! Using natural light I think is awesome but it worries me in terms on continuity but I'm sure I'll learn how to use it effectively.

As far as makeup I will definitely consider that, although I referenced above that I had professional photos taken of myself earlier this year and I wore no makeup and they looked fine. I feel like it is me screwing up the lighting somehow rather than anything else. The idea of cold light (daylight yes?) being less flattering could be a key to my issue as well. I knew I would eventually need some warmer lights but thought I could start using all daylight stuff to learn a bit and build from there.

The cove lighting video was really really good, thanks! Is it accurate that if for example we wanted to use a practical like a lamp as our motivation for light and I'm using daylight lighting....it would be wise to switch the bulb in the practical to a daylight bulb instead of what would traditionally come in a household lamp?

I know this is a lot to unpack and I genuinely appreciate anyone and everyone who takes some time out of their day to try and help me in this process. As I said above I've been looking for a place to discuss and learn with others and so far indietalk seems great and very helpful.

Thanks!
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
yes it looks weird to mix daylight with non-daylight balanced bulbs unintentionally so you're gonna watch those color temps to match.

negative3 fill is used inside too.. like if you see my profile how much light there is on my face.
If I had covered the wall i was looking at in duvetyne it would have stopped all that light from bouncing into my face and there would be a lot more shadows. instead its a white wall in front of me that massively reflects light.

There was a thread one time, this guy couldn't get his two shots to match and it went on for pages and I warned everyone stop trying to help him until he posts an example. Finally an example was posted... the two shots he was trying to match ... one was day time and one was night time. LOL. he never even mentioned it.

This is an example of why its really hard to help people on the internet when they don't post any pictures about what theyre producing.
 
yes it looks weird to mix daylight with non-daylight balanced bulbs unintentionally so you're gonna watch those color temps to match.

negative3 fill is used inside too.. like if you see my profile how much light there is on my face.
If I had covered the wall i was looking at in duvetyne it would have stopped all that light from bouncing into my face and there would be a lot more shadows. instead its a white wall in front of me that massively reflects light.

There was a thread one time, this guy couldn't get his two shots to match and it went on for pages and I warned everyone stop trying to help him until he posts an example. Finally an example was posted... the two shots he was trying to match ... one was day time and one was night time. LOL. he never even mentioned it.

This is an example of why its really hard to help people on the internet when they don't post any pictures about what theyre producing.

For sure, I see what you're saying and I can tell shaping the light/controlling spill, etc. is going to be quite important when it comes to getting the results you want. Yes I know pics def would make a big difference, I'm going to mess with it a bit more and stop trying to replicate the youtube setups and just see if I can get it looking better then report back. Thanks!
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
For sure, I see what you're saying and I can tell shaping the light/controlling spill, etc. is going to be quite important when it comes to getting the results you want. Yes I know pics def would make a big difference, I'm going to mess with it a bit more and stop trying to replicate the youtube setups and just see if I can get it looking better then report back. Thanks!
Personally I don't notice a huge difference... but I hear over and over again that incandescent light bulbs and their tungsten filament are the most flattering for human skin. And those are also the cheapest bulbs you can buy. They use more electricity and they break if you shake them lol.

But a lot of people swear by the tungsten filament.
Check out my chocolate light thread i have a tungsten pic in it


Sometimes I post pics in this stillsshare thread, you could feel free to share something there if you're ever satisfied with a picture
 
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Personally I don't notice a huge difference... but I hear over and over again that incandescent light bulbs and their tungsten filament are the most flattering for human skin. And those are also the cheapest bulbs you can buy. They use more electricity and they break if you shake them lol.

But a lot of people swear by the tungsten filament.
Check out my chocolate light thread i have a tungsten pic in it


Sometimes I post pics in this stillsshare thread, you could feel free to share something there if you're ever satisfied with a picture

Nice! That chocolate light produces such an interesting mood I was surprised.

I will look into just some incandescent bulbs too and just try to experiment with things more. I'll be wanting to introduce more color eventually too so I don't know if I'll be able to be effective using gels with what I'm working with or if I'll need to buy another light that can go for the warmer color temp (or an RGB). As I said I have no delusions of being a DP myself so I guess in my insecurity with my lighting skills I was just trying to follow examples of super basic setups I've seen just to see if I could recreate them but I think it's time to just play around more and see what I can come up with.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
I own Aputure
Nice! That chocolate light produces such an interesting mood I was surprised.

I will look into just some incandescent bulbs too and just try to experiment with things more. I'll be wanting to introduce more color eventually too so I don't know if I'll be able to be effective using gels with what I'm working with or if I'll need to buy another light that can go for the warmer color temp (or an RGB). As I said I have no delusions of being a DP myself so I guess in my insecurity with my lighting skills I was just trying to follow examples of super basic setups I've seen just to see if I could recreate them but I think it's time to just play around more and see what I can come up with.
Its hard to make your own style when youre new but thats a crazy thing about cinematography, everyone does it their own way.
So many DPs go nuts for anamorphic lenses.. oh its the first priority in their budget, believe it.. a bunch of others swear by backlighting.

If I only had one light!! they say, that light would be a backlight.

Then you listen to someone like Roger Deakins - literally the most renowned cinematographer alive - and he says I've dont use backlights and I've never shot anything on an anamorphic lens. LOL. Seriously man just do what you think looks good, look to others for inspiration but its all about your own style.
 
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It isn't that flattering, it gives the subject a "rough" look, etc. and the subject during this portion looks like what I'm working with. It is simply "unkind" light.

This is probably annoying - but is that what your subject looks like (what's in the vid) or do you just connect with the way it's being described? There's nothing inherently 'wrong' with the lighting in that video, though some might find it unflattering.
Maybe the simple answer here is "move the light dummy" but I just don't get why so many set ups I see online are so similar and are able to achieve a good look with the same light I have and I'm unable to replicate it. I mean the simplest thing I should be able to do when starting out and knowing basically nothing is to take a set up someone gives me and replicate it I would think. Why can't I do even that much?
I disagree. I really dislike YouTube for these kinds of things for exactly this reason - no-one that I know of is teaching the why of lighting, just the how. Why should I put my light in a particular place? You're right: the simple answer may be 'move the light' but how are you to know that, or where to move it to, when all you've seen is one specific lighting setup?

There are many, many different reasons that your setup may look different, including just the actual space you have to work with.
I guess I was trying to avoid it because who wants to post unflattering pictures of themselves or their family members online for people to view lol. I posted a video above that may be useful in showing what I'm talking about.
Totally get it. We're not here to judge what you look like, we just want to help your lighting.

Is it accurate that if for example we wanted to use a practical like a lamp as our motivation for light and I'm using daylight lighting....it would be wise to switch the bulb in the practical to a daylight bulb instead of what would traditionally come in a household lamp?
Yes and no. Depends (ha, what a cop-out answer!). It's good that you're thinking about colour temperature. I would suggest try both out and see what you think looks best (or most fitting for what you're trying to achieve).

Lighting is an art, which is why I don't think any YouTube setup tutorial really does it justice. My suggestion is to get a friend or family member who has a free afternoon and wants to hang out to be your subject. Setup the light and take photos or video of them as you move the light around them. As you move it closer and farther away.

For example, have them sit in a chair. Imagining they're the centre of a clockface, position the camera at 6. Put the light directly above the camera. Have your subject hold a piece of paper under their face (so you can see their face) describing the setup (i.e. light at 6, 3' away) and take a picture or 30 seconds of video. Cut, then reposition the light. Maybe walk it back 3' then take another 30 seconds of video or another picture. Move the light to 4 on the imaginary clock face and position it 3' away from your subject. Then 6', then 12'. Have a look at what happens. Try different heights.

Expose each time for the light to be your key and see what the picture looks like. This way you get to really visually see the effect of your light on someone's face. Where does it look the most flattering? Where do you like the way it looks?

Then experiment with diffusion etc.

It might sound time-consuming and/or annoying but this is how you really start to comprehend what lighting is. I don't personally think you can learn how to light without actually doing it - no amount of YouTube or theory is a good enough stand-in for actually doing it. And this is a great way to start.

Think of it this way: I'm awful at drawing. I can watch a YouTube tutorial on how to draw a cat, and I'll draw an ugly-ass cat. The only way I'm going to get better at drawing that cat is by practicing and experimenting.
 
This is probably annoying - but is that what your subject looks like (what's in the vid) or do you just connect with the way it's being described? There's nothing inherently 'wrong' with the lighting in that video, though some might find it unflattering.

Thanks so much for the detailed reply!!

Basically the thing I'm trying to work on at present is for an interview type set up. I'm going to interview some family and friends about their day, then cut it together with some b roll of some of the things they did that day. So I'm trying to simply present my subject in an interview type situation and I'm not really trying to create much of a mood or atmosphere I simply want them to be the clear focus of the shot and to look good. Where as if I'm doing an interview set up for true crime I may take it a different route but for this just imagine upbeat happy light hearted etc.

So if I were to be hired in the future for example to do something like that, no one would want to work with me afterward because I make everyone look like goblins with my lighting. So this is what I'm doing just as practice.....in the section of that video I refer to I can see when that lighting, although unflattering, might be used in a different set of circumstances but in this scenario that lighting is what I'm getting but it's not at all what I want. I think basically what I've learned is I'm probably not doing anything wrong I just need to experiment more and stop trying to replicate youtube or other online set ups that show how to work with or achieve fhree point lighting or flattering light, etc. so much.

I disagree. I really dislike YouTube for these kinds of things for exactly this reason - no-one that I know of is teaching the why of lighting, just the how. Why should I put my light in a particular place? You're right: the simple answer may be 'move the light' but how are you to know that, or where to move it to, when all you've seen is one specific lighting setup?

There are many, many different reasons that your setup may look different, including just the actual space you have to work with.

I've seen a number of set ups but I am trying to achieve a flattering interview look where the subject is the focus of the shot and they look nice. So these are some of the set ups I've been looking at online recently but failing to get the same look even with the same set ups they are using.

However you are correct, perhaps my environment or other factors beyond just the light may be causing mine to look different.
Yes and no. Depends (ha, what a cop-out answer!). It's good that you're thinking about colour temperature. I would suggest try both out and see what you think looks best (or most fitting for what you're trying to achieve).

Lighting is an art, which is why I don't think any YouTube setup tutorial really does it justice. My suggestion is to get a friend or family member who has a free afternoon and wants to hang out to be your subject. Setup the light and take photos or video of them as you move the light around them. As you move it closer and farther away.

For example, have them sit in a chair. Imagining they're the centre of a clockface, position the camera at 6. Put the light directly above the camera. Have your subject hold a piece of paper under their face (so you can see their face) describing the setup (i.e. light at 6, 3' away) and take a picture or 30 seconds of video. Cut, then reposition the light. Maybe walk it back 3' then take another 30 seconds of video or another picture. Move the light to 4 on the imaginary clock face and position it 3' away from your subject. Then 6', then 12'. Have a look at what happens. Try different heights.

Expose each time for the light to be your key and see what the picture looks like. This way you get to really visually see the effect of your light on someone's face. Where does it look the most flattering? Where do you like the way it looks?

Then experiment with diffusion etc.

It might sound time-consuming and/or annoying but this is how you really start to comprehend what lighting is. I don't personally think you can learn how to light without actually doing it - no amount of YouTube or theory is a good enough stand-in for actually doing it. And this is a great way to start.

Think of it this way: I'm awful at drawing. I can watch a YouTube tutorial on how to draw a cat, and I'll draw an ugly-ass cat. The only way I'm going to get better at drawing that cat is by practicing and experimenting.


Lighting is an art and I think I'm taking far too much of a mathmatical approach to it, put it right here because that's where it goes instead of why it goes there or what it might look like over there, etc. Although I did adjust some things and the intensity of the light, I kept trying to place it a similar position to what I saw on the set ups online because that "right" but I guess there is no right so to speak.

I think I absolutely need to do this "clock exercise" it sounds like it would be far more beneficial than continually trying and failing to replicate a certain type of set up I've seen online. Very good suggestion thank you.

It does sound time consuming and it is a bit frustrating but I understand and accept these things take time to learn and get decent at otherwise anyone could throw together amazing footage with no problem. Trying to purchase and figure out the diffusion stuff and negative fill stuff is somewhat more annoying just because it means purchasing more and more stuff but I guess that's part of the game.

I'm sure you're cat drawing isn't so bad! haha. You're right though, the only way to really get good and understand all this is via ACTION and lots of failing and trying again and again.

Would you suggest doing this clock exercise in a room where I have full control of the light or just go ahead and try to work with natural light coming in through windows, etc. ??
 
I'm probably not doing anything wrong I just need to experiment more and stop trying to replicate youtube or other online set ups that show how to work with or achieve fhree point lighting or flattering light, etc. so much.

You're exactly right. Have a play with your one light and observe what it does. Then you can bring in other lights, and once you have a base idea of how your light responds, you will likely have a much better time of the YouTube lighting setups - because now you'll be able to look at the example and know that even though the angle may be correct, the distance or height of where you have your light setup is different from the example you're seeing. Once you figure out how your light responds, you'll be able to make a much more educated decision (my light looked much closer to that when it was a big higher and further away, so I'll do that now to try and replicate it)

I kept trying to place it a similar position to what I saw on the set ups online because that "right" but I guess there is no right so to speak.

You're exactly right - there is no 'correct'. I've shot interviews with classic three-point setup and I've shot interviews with one light. I've shot interviews with seven lights - and I've shot them with no lights.
It is good generally to learn classic three-point lighting as a starting base, but putting a light somewhere that looks better for your subject is not wrong just because it is different to what someone on YouTube says.
This video is a little old, but I think is a decent breakdown of three-point lighting - and is done in a way that you can directly see what is happening (and all in around 10 minutes to boot!)

Would you suggest doing this clock exercise in a room where I have full control of the light or just go ahead and try to work with natural light coming in through windows, etc. ??

To start with, I would suggest doing it at night, or with the blinds closed. For this exercise, you want to see only the effect that your one light has on the person's face and the exposure of the image. Once you start to grasp that, you can introduce other lights and you'll have a much better idea of what angles are better/worse and how your light might interact with other sources of light to create a more 'flattering' image.
 
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I am trying to learn lighting, just trying to be super basic here to start out and crawl before I try to take any real steps. I'd love advice/help on achieving soft flattering light for lighting people as well as tools and methods I can use to help shape the light overall.

If you don't mind spending a few hours learning about lighting for still/portrait photography, I'd strongly recommend Philip McCordall's videos on subject lighting. With several different examples and set-ups, he explains exactly what every ray of light should be doing, where it should be falling, what effect it will have, how a second light will change things, what to do if you don't have a second light (he makes great use of reflectors, diffusers and mirrors with a single light source).

It might be worth remembering, too, that the surface you're lighting contributes to what you're seeing, and it will respond differently to different light temperatures. I once made a large poster that I could only work on in daylight, because I literally could not see where I was painting white-on-white under artificial light, and yet in the finished product, even if other people can't see this invisible-ish white paint, they can feel its presence. That's where make-up fits into the grand scheme of things - like great lighting, you shouldn't notice that it's there, only feel that something's missing if it's removed!
 
This channel is helpful for interview setup


Thank you!

Also if it helps these photos taken from one of those videos shows a fair comparison between the kind of result I'm getting on faces and the kind of result I would prefer for this set up.

What I'm getting:
IMG_7417.jpg



What I want:
IMG_7415.jpg


I'm sure everyone can see how one flatters the subject more than the other, that's basically what I meant. The answer is probably that I'm just not very good at lighting yet and I shouldn't have expected to be able to "just" copy some youtube set ups even if it is for something very basic like a talking head. In the video the less flattering lighting is sort of straight on and even though I'm not setting my light up like that this is still the result I'm getting, possibly from the light being "out of control."

I think my problem is I have too much light spill, the light is going on the subjects face but also all over the place and bouncing off the light color walls in all the rooms I have to shoot in and it's just a lot going on. I don't think I took into account (being so new at this) how much light bounces around and such. I need to work more with shaping the light, I look forward to posting more about my progress soon but I wanted to reply to this because these videos were helpful as well as showing a very good example of what I meant by "unflattering vs flattering" lighting.
 
You're exactly right. Have a play with your one light and observe what it does. Then you can bring in other lights, and once you have a base idea of how your light responds, you will likely have a much better time of the YouTube lighting setups - because now you'll be able to look at the example and know that even though the angle may be correct, the distance or height of where you have your light setup is different from the example you're seeing. Once you figure out how your light responds, you'll be able to make a much more educated decision (my light looked much closer to that when it was a big higher and further away, so I'll do that now to try and replicate it)



You're exactly right - there is no 'correct'. I've shot interviews with classic three-point setup and I've shot interviews with one light. I've shot interviews with seven lights - and I've shot them with no lights.
It is good generally to learn classic three-point lighting as a starting base, but putting a light somewhere that looks better for your subject is not wrong just because it is different to what someone on YouTube says.
This video is a little old, but I think is a decent breakdown of three-point lighting - and is done in a way that you can directly see what is happening (and all in around 10 minutes to boot!)



To start with, I would suggest doing it at night, or with the blinds closed. For this exercise, you want to see only the effect that your one light has on the person's face and the exposure of the image. Once you start to grasp that, you can introduce other lights and you'll have a much better idea of what angles are better/worse and how your light might interact with other sources of light to create a more 'flattering' image.

Thank you thank you, I will be doing this.

Also the video was very helpful because you can really SEE what is going on as you said. Again, thank you.
 
If you don't mind spending a few hours learning about lighting for still/portrait photography, I'd strongly recommend Philip McCordall's videos on subject lighting. With several different examples and set-ups, he explains exactly what every ray of light should be doing, where it should be falling, what effect it will have, how a second light will change things, what to do if you don't have a second light (he makes great use of reflectors, diffusers and mirrors with a single light source).

It might be worth remembering, too, that the surface you're lighting contributes to what you're seeing, and it will respond differently to different light temperatures. I once made a large poster that I could only work on in daylight, because I literally could not see where I was painting white-on-white under artificial light, and yet in the finished product, even if other people can't see this invisible-ish white paint, they can feel its presence. That's where make-up fits into the grand scheme of things - like great lighting, you shouldn't notice that it's there, only feel that something's missing if it's removed!
Thank you! I will check the videos out!
 
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