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Lighting!! (3 replies)

4 years ago
rlandry1 4 years ago

So, I'm new to the whole cinematography thing. At least in practice (I've read countless books on the subject). But I realized something today, believe it or not, reading a book! Particularly in a section that was explaining how exposure works. 

I had an epiphony. If I want a great exposure for both my subject and background. I should expose the background first!

Here's why: After exposing for the BG, and I achieve the amount of contrast I desire, I would THEN bring in my subject(s) and light them appropriately. So, depending on how much light I have and the direction I go with the BG exposure, the result of this will determine how much light I will need to expose my subject.

For example. I'm shooting in the middle of the day in an interior with my  subject standing in front of a window. Say I look out the window and see that there's a lot of great imagery outside that I want to be exposed. I would have my subject stand out of frame while I expose for the background scenery.

Then, assuming that in my interior I am working from a blank slate, I would then bring in my subject. But because I have my exposure settings set for the BG, my subject will appear to be in complete silhouette (asside from any back light).

Then I'm like, "oh, but I would also like for my subject to be exposed as well because this is a comedy and not a drama or film noir. So, instead of changing the exposure settings, which I think a lot of first timers do, I would simply bounce (or reflect) light or shine (through a lamp) light on my subject to a certain degree of subject/background contrast that is suitable for my tastes (or to whatever degree is appropriate for the story).

Obviously there are plenty of instances where you might do the opposite of this. And certainly there are instances when you might be moving a lot and the BG is not very consistent.

But is this correct? Or are there holes in my logic?

Jacob Sacks-Jones
4 years ago
Jacob Sacks-Jones 4 years ago

This general process where you're balancing background and subject will work for a fair few situations, but I think you should be flexible. Sometimes you'll want the silhouette and sometimes (a lot of the time probably), you'll actually want to blow out the windows a fair bit. Also you may be in a situation where you say do not have a lamp sufficient to match direct sunlight outside. For exposure I generally like to work along zone system lines and decide what I want to place where on the scale, and then check where a couple of other key points are falling, making adjustments if necessary. In that case if you're working in a situation with windows where you can't control the light levels outside, that probably would be your starting point to work out where your interior is going to fall, and how much light you might need to add. 

simon m
4 years ago
simon m 4 years ago

rlandry - thanks so much for posting this, very helpful. I never thought through the problem as you have. By exposing for the BG, you still give yourself the options of going for a silhouette, or lighting the subject. Would love to know what Roger's process is in this kind of scene. 

4 years ago
Morris 4 years ago

I always start by lighting the set. (with blocking in mind) It usually stears me in a certain direction and brings up opportunities/ideas I might not have thought about during prep.

When I'd start with just lighting talents, I wouldn't know where I'd end up. (And I'd take too much time from production)
It's just an approach, I guess, but for me it works. 

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