PHOTO/VIDEO: Making Do, The Light Way

You’ve probably heard about this little business I’m in – newspapers – and its money woes blah, blah, stock price boo-hoos and the like. Here at the KSun it’s not nearly as dire as many other places, still, much like your own family probably is, we’re watching the dollars around here.

lights2We’ve been doing more video, and trying our best to take our skills to the next level. One easy way to do it, is by using lighting. Knowing that a request for expensive new lights, soft-boxes, barn doors, etc. probably wouldn’t get far, I’ve been making do with what we’ve got. What we have are the modeling lights on some old studio strobes and cheap lamps from Home Depot – neither of which have as much oomph as proper lights, but they work pretty well.

We’ve transformed a former office into a “studio” but it’s got its challenges. Mainly, it’s a really small space. Small spaces make it a challenge to control that light, even when it’s underpowered.

As you see, I went with a typical three-point lighting scheme, plus one. The key (main) light is through the umbrella to make the light nice and soft. I’m not looking for dramatic horror-flick lighting, here… I could only find one umbrella, so to control the fill, I bounced it off a the wall on the right. The el-cheapo Home Depot lights are employed as rim lights in the back, which basically helps throw some light on the subject’s hair and shoulders so they don’t melt into the black background, especially if they’re wearing a dark suit, sweater, etc. We’ve had those issues before. I use two rim lights because the darker side could melt into the background, especially after the videos are compressed for the Web. They seem to lose a bit of contrast when they’re squooshed.

Last year we did candidate interviews in our break room with a single light shot into a reflective umbrella. They looked OK, but you could hear traffic out the window, or the buzz when the fridge came on, and really, it’s not nice to hog our palatial break room. Plus, I couldn’t control the light on the background – a very expensive black fabric remnant – so you could see the wrinkles if the light was just right, or wrong, I guess.

Check out the difference between last year (left) and this year (right). The new ones aren’t live yet, because I’m still shooting them. They’ll run with their related stories in mid-October.

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Every once in an almost-every-time politicians will jokingly ask that I make them look good. I usually just smile and nod, but my job isn’t to make the politician look good, it’s to make my work look professional. Even if that means using cheapo lights.

– Derek Sheppard