7 common corporate video lighting mistakes… a what NOT to do guide

This post will take you through some of the mistakes that many people new to video production make in relation to lighting…So that you don’t have to make them too…

1 Not using lighting

The first mistake you might consider making is choosing not to use lighting at all for your corporate videos. Lighting isn’t particularly expensive to hire. If you are planning on making lots of videos it might be worth weighing up the cost of investing in your own set of professional lights. In some situations natural light might be sufficient, but in general, if you are working indoors, having lighting will create better results. Granted, the example below is from a studio set up but the difference between the unlit and lit shot is massive and I know which one I prefer!

Corporate video Lighting example

2 Thinking you know what you are doing, when you don’t

Lighting for video is an art form. Putting lights in the right place is just as important as having your camera in the right place or pointing your mic in the right direction. You will be glad to hear that it is an art form that you can learn relatively quickly. Do your research and have an idea about what kind of lighting effects you are trying to achieve in advance of getting on set. Simply buying a lot of fancy gear, turning up and pointing them at your subject won’t work. Here is a diagram which shows you how to use three point lighting for interview set ups.

three-point-lighting for video production

3 The overbright background

In smaller spaces with lighter coloured walls and surfaces, the background can reflect more light than you want and give your subject really hard outlines. To avoid this you need to move your subject as far away from these walls or surfaces as possible. This will enable you to lower the lighting in the background area and increase the light on your subject if needed. If you can direct the light on your subject from a height, this will cast the shadows to the ground and out of shot, rather than on the walls in your shot.

4 White walls

White walls are awful. Fact. White walls have no texture and they are void of any emotional connotation (unless they are perfectly bright and white and you are aiming for feel of heaven!). White walls don’t hold shadows very well and should be avoided at all costs. If you are planning to shoot interviews do not use a space with a white background. Put some thought into the location and the background of any sit down interviews.

5 Shadows

Lighting a set properly involves using a few lights. If you are not accustomed to using lights, you will be quite focused on getting your subject lit evenly. Being absorbed in that process can often stop you seeing other things. A common mistake is the rogue shadow that has been created by a member of the crew or some equipment. It is really quite annoying to get to the editing phase and find that there is some inexplicable shadow in the background of your shot. A similar error is accidental reflections of crew or camera in mirrors, windows, glass picture frames etc. Be aware… be very aware.

6 Using direct light on the face

A face should not be subject to direct light i.e. a bright light being shone right onto it. The human face is flattered by diffused lighting. Using diffusers to cover your light will not only make your shot look professional, it will make your subject a lot more comfortable. Another way to diffuse light to evenly light your subject is to point your light source at walls or the ceiling. The light will bounce off the surface and this can create enough extra light to fill the shadows on your subject. I would recommend experimenting with this technique before using it. The video below gives a live demo of the use of different types of light diffusers/modifiers.

7 Hot spots of brightness (over exposure)

When creating videos for the internet, we would recommend aiming for soft, even light. Avoiding ‘hot spots’ is as much about how you use your camera as it is about using your lights correctly. ‘Hot spots’ are the really bright spots that you can sometimes get in a shot, often on faces, if the shot is over exposed/you have too much light. To avoid this, you have a number of options, depending on your situation and it may be a case of balancing a few factors. Diffusing your light as explained above is one method. You also need to ensure that your camera is set to the right aperture. If you are shooting outside in daylight you will need to increase your aperture to allow less light to flood your camera and therefore avoiding the hot spots. Use the zebra function on your camera if you have it; it will show you over-exposed areas of your shots.

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3 thoughts on “7 common corporate video lighting mistakes… a what NOT to do guide

  1. Johanna-Mai Vihalem

    “the example below is from a studio set up but the difference between the unlit and lit shot is massive and I know which one I prefer!” – which one do you prefer? The examples seem like two different ends of bad to me.

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