Studio Lighting and the Art of Storytelling
January 30, 2014
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The benefit of studio lighting is in its ability to create a natural light equivalent in a controlled setting. Lighting techniques are used to do everything from setting the mood in restaurants and stores to creating the tone of a motion picture. Good lighting also creates a mood or tone in images, too. Altering the arrangement of just a few items in a studio lighting set-up — the strobe lights, diffusers and shadows — can dramatically change the intensity of the lighting, which ultimately affects mood. Here are four basic lighting techniques that can be altered as you wish to help tell your story.
Neutral Mood Lighting
Creating a "happy" mood consists of even lighting and fairly soft light. Diffuse the light so the shadows are almost nonexistent. Move the lights around the set-up and try different positions until you find a spot that gives you bright lights without harsh shadows. If necessary, use a diffuser to soften harsh lights and remove shadows. Like any lighting concept, you'll have to arrange and re-arrange your lighting set-up to get the lighting the way you want it. For added benefit, make use of a reflector to create soft highlights and lowlights on your subject.
Perhaps you want the lighting to portray a sense of danger or horror. In this case, you'll want to make use of shadows to create a silhouette. To do this, point a single light at the background behind the subject to cast a shadow. Don't use a diffuser. Of course, you also can shoot at night to create a more dramatic effect.
Have you ever considered the mood a streetlight creates? Usually, it instills a sense of mystery or danger. Recreate this mood with studio lighting by placing a back light high above your subject, so it acts like a streetlight. If you're doing this outside, the process is the same. Simply mount the light high up where it can't be seen. Add even more mystery with fog.
In photography, harsh shadows are often a bad idea unless you want to create a strong emotionally charged image. When this is your goal, create harsh shadows by pointing undiffused light at your subjects. Use back lights to light the background, but be sure not to use a diffuser to soften the light. The harsh shadows help allude to an emotionally charged situation and heightens the intensity of your image. As with all your lighting set-ups, play around with the placement of the lights to create the effect you're looking for. Lighting is always a bit of trial-and-error.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.