How to Light Your Photos Like a Cinematographer

“There’s no such thing as bad lighting.”

Does this statement from an accomplished American cinematographer Michael Goi surprise you? Well, it all depends on the purpose or emotional message you want to convey. Joel Dryer uses a pretty horrific lighting setup to demonstrate that statement. And he explains that this sort of lighting can be perfect in some situations—a horror movie, for example:

When lighting a scene, you need to consider the emotional message that you wish to convey. Is it a horror movie? Do you want to depict loneliness? Depression? Happiness? As long as your lighting perfectly depicts that emotional message, there’s no bad lighting.

there;s no such thing as bad lighting

Horrific lighting example? Imagine if this was a horror movie.

Once you’ve decided on your photo’s story, the next step is to follow these four basic elements of lighting to bring that story to life.

1. Color

Color is all about choosing the right white balance. It also involves how you work with light sources of different color.

2. Intensity

Light’s intensity odenotes how subdued or blown out the light is. Dryer uses this difference to mimic two different lighting situations: morning and night time.

3. Angle

Angle refers to the direction of  light and how it strikes your subject. We’ve all heard about Rembrandt and butterfly lighting, but there’s more to lighting angles than just those two common setups.

4. Quality

The quality of light is the softness or hardness of the light. A large source of light is soft. A small source of light is hard. A source of light far away from your subject will produce strong shadows—an example of hard light. A source of light that is close to your subject will wrap around your subject and produce less pronounced shadows—an example of soft light.

Watch the rest of the video for more information on how to use different types of lights, light modifiers, and lighting angles to produce images worthy of Hollywood cinematography.

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