Training Your Eye – Lighting for Cinematographers

Shane Hurlbut exposes into what you need to know for good Cinematography.

“What Do You Like?”

Let’s start with the basics.

KeyLight: This is the first thing you start with and this light will dictate all of your other levels of exposure with your back light and fill light. Deciding on the quality of you key light will be your choice. You can use hard light or soft light, or in this case we are showing you a book light in our lighting example, which is a very soft source. Where you position this light is up to you as well.

Back light: Some like a heavy back light in certain situations. Others like the subtlety of a back light at night, where it barely etches your actors out of the dark background. All of these choices establish your style. I try to not repeat my looks, and I am constantly challenging myself to light differently, lighting that will be unique to the story. Challenge yourself. Move out of that comfort zone. Remember that abyss I talked about jumping off just to see what it looked like on the way down? This is what I was talking about.

Fill light: It is my favorite training tool because it is what shows you every detail. Or you may choose to suppress the fill to the point where your audience has to squint to see. Now you might be thinking, “OK, what I see is what I get on the monitor.” Yes, but what is that measurement? Take the few seconds it takes to get out there and read on your light meter what you see and respond to. Log that in your memory or a book with the scene number. I always draw a quick crude lighting plot of where things are located. That way you are good to go. I have burned myself too many times by not doing this, and I sit in the theater beating myself up over not taking those few seconds.

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