Using existing light to its fullest potential

It’s my belief that when you can control your existing light – or practicals – to the point that it looks like you brought lights with you – then you have skills.

I like to keep things simple – especially since I work solo all the time.  So I have to keep things Zen like – hence why I choose whenever I can to use the existing lighting when on location.

I shoot as a hybrid digital filmmaker and I understand the constraints of the contrast range of Canon DSLR’s. I have to know how to compensate with lighting so that I’m not trying to fix a mess in post production.

In my opinion, the ability to control the existing light in a given shooting situation requires more skill than setting up lights.  True, at some point you will probably need to augment the existing light with some sort of lighting, but I’ve found, up to the present time, that the existing lighting of a given project has been sufficient – even desireable, to provide a look that would require alot more time and lighting equipment – thus delaying, or even adding to the expense of a project.

From a business perspective, given the nature of todays economy, there are clients who just don’t have the budget to allocate for renting a “proper” lighting kit. I know, my clients have said so.  They’ve hired me to use my expertise and still stay within their tight budgets.  

Light modifiers such as light discs  and translucent silks with collapsible frames can provide a level of control in conjunction with existing light that gives a natural look to a subject.  There’s nothing worse than watching  someone being interviewed with “3-point Lighting”.  It’s not natural.  

The skill of observation of how light is falling on a subject is one that can profoundly affect ones creative vision.  Using reflectors or silks to control existing light is a fantastic way of developing your skills.  It also requires less of a “crew”.  You can employ anyone to hold a reflector – they don’t need to be a trained lighting technician.

I do bring a lighting kit with me – basic as it is, but not once have I found where I couldn’t get what the client wanted with existing light.  It was a matter of positioning the subject for the interview and understanding how to expose accordingly.

The ability to shoot professional quality content on a tight budget is that of walking a fine line.  But it also shows how skilled one truly is in their creative vision with existing light.  

The “Yes I Bounce” blog shows clear examples of why learning to control existing light is a skill worth having.

The blog posting and comment thread over at “Documentary Tech’s” really provide a solid reason to quit chasing technology and use the tools at your disposal to create something compelling. In my work, shooting Canon t2i DSLR video has been life changing in the vision of my work.  I’ve also come to understand why now broadcast is still stuck with using small sensor vidcams.  Noticed over the weekend at some shows that being able to have everything in focus can save your bacon if you haven’t nailed the focus.  But it also looks boring – at least to me it does. These tools are just that – tools.  It’s the operator, the eye behind the tool, that creates the vision.

Why I dropped the Red Scarlet Dream and Got a DSLR