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3.6 Light

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to avoid backlighting and use natural light to your advantage.

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3.6 Light

Welcome back, I'm Cindy Burgess for Tutsplus. In the previous lessons, you learned about proper framing and composition and how to capture good sound. Now we're going to focus on lighting. One of the most common mistakes we see with amateur video is something called backlighting. This happens when you place your subject in front of a bright light source like a window or the sun. As you can see, the person ends up in silhouette. Now chances are you were able to see the subject's face just fine when you were standing there looking at them in person. That's because our eyes are masterful at compensating for extremes in contrast. Cameras, not so much. If you're a photographer you know that one solution is to use a fill light, your flash to illuminate the person's face. Some video cameras come with a built in light that you can use, but you have to be fairly close to your subject for it to work. There are all kinds of external lights you could buy to attach to your camera. Some are very small and light, like this one and they just slide onto the shoe on your video camera. Other lights are a little bit bigger and might even come with a dimmer switch, like this one, to give you control over how much light you're using. They even make little lights for smartphones. Speaking of smartphones, a lot of them have a built in light that you can switch on when you're recording video. It's not super bright, but it could make all the difference in dim or dark locations. The biggest part of preventing backlighting is being aware of how and why it happens in the first place. If you don't have an external light for your video camera or you don't want to take one along when you're traveling that's okay, just reposition your subject or yourself so that the window is no longer behind them. In fact, use that natural light to your advantage. Put your back to the window and have the subject face you. So that the light from the window shines in and illuminates their face. If you want to get a shot of your subject in front of a beautiful sunrise or sunset, you might run into the same problem with backlighting. If you don't have an external light, consider ways of using that silhouette effect artistically. For example, you might get a wide shot of someone doing a yoga pose silhouetted in front of a sunrise, or an over the shoulder shot of someone watching the sunset. If you have control over what time of day you capture video, aim for what's known as the golden hour or magic hour. That's the period shortly after the sun rises and shortly before the sun sets. I say shortly because the length and timing of the golden hour varies depending on the season and your distance from the equator. During the golden hour, the sun is low in the sky. As a result, its light is softer, it's warmer and golden. Shadows are longer and softer which can add dimension to the scene. Here's a sample from a video I shot in Comayagua, Honduras shortly after sunrise. The townspeople were finishing up the sawdust carpets that lined the streets for their Easter procession every year. As you can see, the lighting is very soft and warm. The golden hour is a beautiful time of day to capture landscapes and people. Not sure when the golden hour is where you are or where you're traveling to? There's an app for that. All kinds of them actually. Just search golden hour or magic hour. These apps will help you figure out when the sunrise and sunset is and will calculate the golden hour. All you have to do is enter your location. You can even be notified when the golden hour starts. Of course, you're going to find yourself recording video in all kinds of lighting situations, you can't always time it for the golden hour. If it's a bright, sunny day keep the sun behind you so that it's shining on your subject. This will help prevent backlighting. Your subject may be squinting, but at least they'll be well lit. So there you have it. You've now learned how to avoid the most common mistakes in video. Firehosing, the shakes, bad audio, backlighting, and vertical video. In the next chapter, you'll learn how to use all those pretty pictures and awesome soundbites to tell a story. I'm Cindy Burgess for Tutsplus. Thanks for watching.

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