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[Cinema Secrets] Love, Magic, and Lighting — an article on the Smart Living Network
April 29, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 1

Love, Magic, and Lighting

From the Cinema Secrets Blog Series

Vision involves 3 things, namely, an eye (or "eye"), light, and then something for that light to reflect off of. The way that we see is completely dependent on those 3 variables. If the lens of the eye is covered, then there will be no sight. If there is no light, again, there will be no sight. If there is nothing to see, technically I guess you would be seeing, but seeing nothing, because there is nothing to bounce the light back at you. Needless to say, in the completely visual realm of videography and photography, light is a very necessary tool and can be utilized in some pretty fun ways!

Natural Lighting

Natural light is pretty easy to work with. A big reason that it is so easy is because it is 100% free! Natural light can be used very artistically or just for an evenly lit shot. If it happens to be a cloudy day, the overcast acts like a diffuser, this produces an incredibly soft and even light regardless of how your subject is positioned (clouds are also free yay!). 

Sunlight is awesome for everything! Portraits look great any time during the day under the sun and landscape photography can typically ONLY be shot in the sun. There are a few drawbacks to natural light though. The worst is that there is a VERY specific time that the lighting is available, because we have that "night" thing. Another unfortunate circumstance of sunlight is that it is uncontrollable. There is no dimmer switch on the wall for the sun, nor is there an app for moving it around the sky. Sorry.

Ambient City

When the sun goes down and the creative juices are still flowing, a great place to find some fantastic shots is areas bathed in artificial light from cities. I have noticed that each city has a pretty unique look to their lights. Grand Rapids, where I shoot the most night photos, has a very orange glow to it. This can be good or bad depending on what your subject is, what your style is, and just plain personal taste. Of course, every city is going to be rich with wonderfully diverse spectrums of colored light. There are some very unique light sources that give off really great multi-colored bokeh! 


When I am in a city it is an absolute essential to have a lens with a MASSIVE aperture. Unless doing photos with a really long shutter speed, a wide aperture will do wonders. I shoot on a Canon 1.4 50mm prime. It gives me the ability to get awesomely lit subjects with virtually no ISO noise and a fast shutter speed, thus reducing blur. The picture below was taken with that exact lens in an almost completely artificially lit environment. 

Fickle Studio Lighting

Unless a photographer has a very good idea of what they want, and knows what they are doing, studio lighting can be a serious pain in the neck. For the typical studio lighting setup, there are at least 3 lights, or 2 lights and a reflector. The key light is the main source of light, illuminating the subject, the fill light (or reflector) fills in the shadows that the key light creates (shadows in clothing and facial features), and the backlight differentiates the subject from the environment. Studio lighting can afford an artist the ability to pretend like they are shooting in Hawaii or right outside an exploding building.

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