5 Film & Photography Lighting Tricks

December 22, 2017

Welcome back and happy Friday! I’m super excited to have a Video alongside today’s blog post! You can check it out here or watch it at the end of the post. As you can see from the title, today I wanted to talk about some lighting tricks or “hacks” that I’ve used or learned in the past. The video is a visual example of everything I’m going to go over in this post, but in 90 seconds! So make sure to check that out! But let’s jump in!


1: Coloring. This is something that I came up with while shooting my stop-motion film The Book Club. Space was tight on-set as most of it was shot inside of a dollhouse. I didn’t have many lights that were versatile enough to not only fit in the set, but also be able to change color freely for different moods. I did however, have about ten small flashlights and some post-it notes of varying colors. I figured out that if you simply peeled off one of the colored sticky notes and placed it over top of the flashlight, you could achieve nearly any color of light. Granted this is a limited method given the fact that it’s just a small flashlight. It worked for me because I was working with a set that was entirely on miniature scale. But the same principle can still be effective on a larger production!



2: Focusing Light. Another flashlight trick. And although you can substitute it for a different light source if need be, the flashlight size tends to work best. Grab your flashlight and a camera lens (I’d recommend using an old lens in case of any damage. In the video I use a vintage lens which you can pick up for fairly cheap) if you shine the light into the lens so that it passes through the glass, you can achieve quite a few different interesting visual effects. The lens can actually focus the light so that it appears more similar to the bulb inside the flashlight. This is one of those tricks that is best explained visually, so make sure to check out the video!


3: Light Flares. This is something I’ve seen demonstrated often, I had fun trying it out for the first time in the video! In this trick you’re essentially recreating a lens flare of sorts, by shining a light (again, flashlight might be good! or mobile phone) into the edge of your camera’s lens. The effect it creates is really interesting and could come in useful on many occasions.


4: Shaping. This is an interesting technique. The basic principle is to take a material like cardboard, paper etc. and cut shapes or, a shape, out of it. When you position your light behind the material, the light shines through the empty spaces and can create a lot of different moods. For instance, to simulate the look of drawn or slightly open blinds, you can cut out thin horizontal strips. When the light passes through it and lands on your subject it’ll cast long shadows. Try combining the post-it notes with this for colorful shapes or shadows. 


5: Endless Colors. This is a cool one! Take a laptop or smartphone. And just do a Google search for any color you want. Find one that looks good to you and fills the whole screen, and turn your brightness all the way up. Now you can use the screen as a light, with an endless number of color options! Of course this has many limitations to it. But if you’re shooting in a controlled environment, without extremely bright lights, this method can be pretty wonderful. 


As I said at the beginning, definitely check out the video below! It was crazy fun to make, and In some cases it’s just much easier to understand all of these by seeing them. Thanks so much for reading! I hope this post has offered some insight or assistance. I definitely plan to do more of these “Hacks in 90 Seconds” videos, with corresponding blog posts in the future! If you have any ideas please drop a comment down below. I’ll be back on Monday with a new post! Have a great weekend, stay safe, and be kind.






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