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Bryce Keil- ‘A Light at the End of the Tunnel’: A Primer to Lighting Your Next Shoot

In this modern day and age of digital connectivity, we are increasingly faced with rich media components to our advertising campaigns. Clients want their messages to be as far-reaching as possible. More and more vendors are being asked to pitch campaigns with video elements leading the charge. No matter how accomplished we are at the art of actually pointing and shooting, whether we have the best lens, if we’re shooting on digital RED, or we have managed to lock down the entire cast of Stranger Things to give a PSA about riding your bike through the woods near a shady government facility–the next and, arguably most important, step is to light that pretty back drop that you’ve erected.

The tunnel can be long, dark, and a bit scary but don’t worry–there’s light at the end. Let this guide ‘enlighten’ you on how best to get started on your next projects’ illumination.

– Lesson One: Fixation

OPEN FACEDopenfaced
Likely the most common light that you’ll run into during your journey, the Open Faced light is used primarily to cast hard shadows by creating hard light. Good for blowing out a back drop and getting subjects illuminated, but that’s about it. It is, however, commonly used in a nighttime outdoor setting. The wattage differs fairly wildly with the Open Faced lighting fixture.



The Fresnel lens is something that you’ve likely encountered if you’ve ever attended a live theatrical performance. It’s a special lens type, divided into concentric circles, giving a much more conventional light cast. It also serves as a hand-held spot light essentially, allowing you to adjust distance from the lamp to the lens. The Fresnel light is a great option when shooting a deep focal length and a need to focus the beam.




While not a fixture, practical lighting is still a large element to consider when setting up shoots. A practical light source is any light that will appear in your scene, be it a overhead tungsten, table lamp, candle, flashlight, etcetera. While perceptually seeming basic, additional bulbs are often used to replace the standard to achieve various lighting effects. Practical lighting is often used most during indoor daytime shoots to achieve the effect of darkness or evening outside.


LED PANELSledpanel

If you’ve ever stepped on a film/photography set, chances are you have run into these. LED light panels are a fantastic option for achieving good lighting on a budget, but they’re also a great option for shaping and defining your light. They’re often battery powered (for the cheaper option) so it’s a good idea to be near a power source or be carrying an extra-long extension cord for hard to reach shooting areas.

While there are many variations on what we just discussed, the aforementioned light sources are, for the purposes of this writing, just to get started. With a small production, any combination of these three will get you a desirable product. When you’re out in the weeds, don’t forget that you can still change lighting styles on set. If you’re not happy with how it looks, reset. Don’t be afraid to change from a hard light setting (more shadows) to a soft light setting (diffused shadows). We’ll discuss more on that in the very near future.

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