May 18, 2014

Find out How an Everyday Marble Can Help When You Shoot Outdoors

Catch Light marbleThere are many factors to consider when you're planning an outdoor shoot, one of the major ones being how you're going to deal with natural light. One of the issues that's bound to come up while dealing with that big key light in the sky is how to find out which direction the light is coming from, which is especially important if you're planning on using it as a catch light. In this video from photographer Frank Donnino, we're shown how to use an everyday marble to determine where a light source will hit your subjects' eyes, so you can put them in the position that will give you optimal results.

In cases where the light is very directional, finding out where the light is coming from is easy. However, sometimes that's not the case -- maybe there's an over-abundance of light, maybe it's overcast. If you find yourself in that kind of situation, especially if your shot needs to be really precise, like in the example I gave earlier about lighting someone's eyes with a catch light, Donnino's marble trick definitely will be a lifesaver.

Now, some of you may already use this trick (as Donnino says in the video, younger people may not know about this), but perhaps this is a good refresher. As you'll see in the video below, he uses a 25mm marble, opaque or shiny (though he prefers shiny) to find out where the light bounces off of it. This is such a cool idea, because the marble is essentially representing an eye. The way he holds the marble is key as well, because he uses his thumb as a stand in for his subject's nose. This helps to visualize where exactly which direction your subject's face will be facing.

Check out Donnino's video below:

Have you ever used a marble (or something similar) like this on your own projects? Do you use other tricks to find out which direction light is coming from? Let us know in the comments.

[via Frank DonninoPetaPixel]

Your Comment

33 Comments

Waste of time....a 3:20 video that could have just been 30 sec.long

May 18, 2014 at 10:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Adam

This comment perfectly encapsulates everything that's wrong with the internet. Well done!

May 18, 2014 at 11:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan

Thank you

May 24, 2014 at 1:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dheep'

I have a better idea: look into your subject's eyes if you want to see if the eye light is hitting their eyes.

This guy sounds like he's desperate for a trick to claim he invented.

May 19, 2014 at 12:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

That's not a better idea because the marble is a solid color and it's easier to see the light with that, rather than an eyeball. The guy in no way, shape or form sounds desperate or seems at all excited about claiming an invention. He's simply passing along a great tip. Weirdo.

May 19, 2014 at 12:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jeff

I think you could have expressed it without the insult.

May 19, 2014 at 9:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Internet

OK. Thanks for the input.

May 19, 2014 at 12:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

Congratulations on having worked exclusively with very patient actors who will sit in for your prelight, blocking, lighting, and takes. Most talent will complain a hell of a lot more than a marble will.

And show some respect for somebody who practices the same craft as you, man. He's probably been at it longer and he's trying to show newcomers some practical tricks. Even if you don't like his advice, be respectful of what he does for a living and what he's trying to do for fellow craftsmen.

May 22, 2014 at 6:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Blakeney

Well, what if you're wanting to set up the shot, without the talent being there? If you're a one man band setting up the shot, it would be quite useful to you being there solo to set up the shot and be ready to start shooting as soon as the talent arrives…or maybe if shooting yourself?

May 27, 2014 at 4:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CC

Very nice. Thank you! Good video and very nice man...

May 19, 2014 at 12:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dig it. Zach and Jody Gray rock btw. http://www.zachandjody.com/

May 19, 2014 at 12:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I just look my subject and rotate him until I like the light on his face, I actually don't see the advantage in using the marble sphere but that's personal preference, thnks for sharing Frank.

May 19, 2014 at 2:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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robbie

I bet your subject would see the advantage.

May 19, 2014 at 3:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Julian

Care to explain?

May 19, 2014 at 2:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Christian Anderson

"Hey Robert Downey, Jr., would you mind standing in and spinning around in a circle with hot lights in your face while I light this shot?"

-No Working DP, Ever

May 22, 2014 at 6:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Blakeney

What I don't get in this Video:

First he explains how to point the "nose" in the direction of the light source, or so that the "shine" is correct for him; then in the end he wants us to point it towards the camera ?? How would that help ?

Isn't this all relative to both the angle between the talents face and the light source AND the angle between the talent and the camera?

May 19, 2014 at 3:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I use a white foam sphere. One of those they sell for toilets. Or my fist.

May 19, 2014 at 4:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I always do that with the ball of my light meter. And I guess every DOP do the same...

May 19, 2014 at 8:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Fabio L

I think this is great!
Not for seeing where my light is or any of the purposes that he was listing but for crafting a sophisticated catch light.

May 19, 2014 at 10:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Josh

Zacuto RED CAMERA OPTIMISED marbles are available at $50 each, or you can get PBloom signed marbles for $40 each that he has lost along the way. Ill take cheques or cash.

May 19, 2014 at 10:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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god bless you sir haha

May 20, 2014 at 2:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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dof bag

Are they Mysterium Marbles or Dragon? Asking for a friend.

May 22, 2014 at 6:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Blakeney

This also seems like a good hack to setup that "twinkle in the eye" look if you don't have actors or stand ins.

May 19, 2014 at 11:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Earnest reply

(From the creator of the video) Although I am very flattered that that the info passed on from another photographer (can't remember her name) was passed on to those who may not know how to see light, I always chuckle at SOMEONE who has to say negative things about such a simple technique. To the haters (and you know who you are), the CODE OF ETHICS on my site www.MyBaldPhotographer.com/bs is PEFECT FOR YOU since you know everything already. Good for you! However..this video was not made for you. For the newbies who got something out of this little lame video (yes..I know it's lame) I made (I have no idea how this spread) go for it and use the technique well. Don't listen to those who already know it all and look down on you anyway. LOOK UP AND SEE THE LIGHT! Thanks.

May 19, 2014 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Hi Frank, Im one of those newbies you're addressing :) And I cant understand all those haters whining
about a "waste of time" when they could have just not watched the video instead :)

A few posts up I described the only thing I didnt understand about your video.
I would appreciate very much if you could explain what you mean by pointing the "nose" first in the direction of the light and in the end straight at the camera?

THX and many Greetings, David from Germany

May 19, 2014 at 1:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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David Laun

Thanks for the tip. Love your code of ethics btw. Ignore the haters! Thank you for posting helpful tips and please don't get discouraged from posting more. Somehow I doubt you will get discouraged tho. You seem to have a good balance on life. It's people like you that I can really respect.

May 19, 2014 at 2:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brad Lavins

For me is not easy to find the light This has been very helpful. Thank you so much for this tips.

May 19, 2014 at 12:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Elda

Interesting trick and sounds perfect for any of us DIY film-makers. I like the marble idea for reflections in the talents eyes. There's also a great app called Sun Seeker that gives you a live view of where the sun is and where it will be a few hours from now, which is extremely helpful for outdoor shoots. Will certainly use this trick for indoor lighting.

May 19, 2014 at 2:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matt

This is embarrassing. How can one be a useful photographer if they can't even figure out where light is coming from? How can one 'not see the light' - it's inherent to the act of seeing itself.

If I contracted a photographer and saw her holding up a black marble, it'd be the last time I hired her.

May 19, 2014 at 2:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Christian Anderson

Thank you for the tip Frank. Love your work. Thanks for putting in time for those who are willing to take tips from you. Yeah...those need to Look up and see the light. :0)

May 19, 2014 at 2:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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so many snarky clever responses!
Have any of you considered that often times in production the crew spends many hours setting things up before the talent is even on site? That is one good reason to use tricks like this.
I love learning little methods such as this one. Another favorite that I am surprised I never hear is using a rubber band when using the pan/tilt lever on a tripod. It smooths out the jerkiness of cheaper ones especially.
Simply hang one of the lever, then grab it instead of the lever. It will stretch until the friction 'breaks', and then it will gradually turn.

May 22, 2014 at 5:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Calaverasgrande

Great tip, and Frank seems like a great dude to work with. Thanks Frank!

May 22, 2014 at 6:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Blakeney

This tip could well be employed by some cinematographers. Often movies are lit with many lamps and many catch lights are reflected. The result is unnatural. This tip could help them see the fault before Angelina arrives on set.

Thanks Frank for sharing.

May 23, 2014 at 2:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Peterade