Besides a camera, light is the most important tool you need to shoot good video/film. Sometimes the light you need is already there and sometimes, more often, you’ll have to bring equipment in to create or modify your light. Regardless of your light source, or your reasons for shooting, budget filmmakers should ask themselves these questions:
- How do I want to portray my subject? Your lighting strategy may be different for a supermodel than for a war veteran.
- What are my technical limitations? Do you have time/resources/permission to bring lights or reflectors? Are you capable of moving your shooting location into the best lighting conditions?
Available v. Artificial
As their names imply, one type of light source is ready for you to use and the other has to be fabricated; outdoor and indoor lighting conditions that already exist on site are called “available” light; the light kit you bring and set up is always “artificial.”
(Side note: “Natural” light is any available light that doesn’t require electricity, e.g. the sun, northern lights, a campfire, Chuck Norris, etc.)
Working with available light is a skill equally crucial to the filmmaker as knowing how to set up a pricey light kit, especially for guerrilla/documentary filmmakers. Obviously there are myriad advantages to available light. After all, it’s: free, inconspicuous, doesn’t have to be loaded into your car, doesn’t require extension cords. But don’t be fooled by convenience; available light has to be utilized correctly.