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How to Light Up Your Marketing Video

A lot of options are available to light the scenes of your marketing video. You can use the available light in the locale where you’re shooting or spend a decent chunk of change for a professional lighting kit — or you can find a solution somewhere in the middle.

Hard or soft lighting

For the type of video you’re generally likely to make, soft lighting is the winning choice. It’s used in most Hollywood productions because it ensures a more natural look that doesn’t draw the audience’s attention to the lighting itself. Though you can always make a creative choice to use hard lighting for certain scenes, soft lighting most often serves you best.

Diffused light can originate from several places:

  • Direct light: Bounced off a reflector (or bounce board), a cloth disc the size of a Hula-Hoop with silvery fabric on one side catches the light and throws it back at wherever you point it.

  • Diffuser: Use a white, translucent cloth attached to the lights by clips or even some reliable clothespins. (A film shoot is about the only place you’ll find more clothespins than you use on the standard clothesline.)

  • Softbox light: This type of light is contained in a large, hood-shaped housing with a white, diffused filter. You can buy one as part of a lighting kit (which is slightly more expensive than buying the light alone) for an easy, powerful lighting solution.

  • Umbrella reflector: When you attach a reflective umbrella to a light, you can point the light at the umbrella to produce a pleasant, diffused effect. The umbrella reflector is a favorite of photographers.

  • Do-it-yourself diffuser: On the other end of the scale, a white poster board or square of foam core makes a good reflector. You can use pieces of cheesecloth to filter the light for a softer look to produce a good, natural-looking light.

Natural lighting

Natural light refers to the type of light that’s normally available at a shooting location. Natural light is the easiest lighting to set up, whether you're indoors or outdoors.

Indoor lighting

If your script takes place in the workplace, shoot in your own office, where the abundance of fluorescent lights gives everything a uniform, well-lit look.

Fluorescent light can give human skin a slightly greenish, unhealthy look. Also, the uniform lighting inside the office can lead to a “flat” look to your video.

To shoot indoors with regular indoor lighting, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid placing your subject in front of a window. Position the subject against a wall, facing the light. If you have to shoot by a window, draw the blinds or curtains.

  • Position the camera between your subject and the window.

  • Use the sunlight from the windows as the main light (or key light), and position a lamp (the fill light) to the side of the subject to fill in any hard shadows.

Outdoor daylight

Shooting in bright sunlight outdoors can give your video a harsh, overly contrasted look with lots of shadows. Plus, you have to keep in mind the whole matter of the revolving Earth. In one shot, the sun is in front of the actors, and in the next shot, it’s behind them. And then it hides behind a cloud!

To shoot video outdoors in natural light, heed these guidelines:

  • Position subjects so that they aren’t facing into sunlight. In addition to the annoyance of squinting, facing the sun leads to lots of shadows and a washed-out look.

  • Use a reflector to eliminate shadows. Have a crew member hold the reflector.

  • Shoot on an overcast day or at dawn or dusk. Your camera (and your subject) will love the even look of the light.

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