"Good lighting, for me, is really simple lighting."
If one walks onto a professional sound stage and sees an army of lighting units set up all over the place they might think, "Whoa! Look at all those lights! The lighting is going to look so good!" However, when it comes to lighting, more doesn't necessarily mean better. In this video by Cooke Optics TV, DP Geoff Boyle talks about how some cinematographers overcomplicate their lighting, and gives some advice on how we can simplify our own without sacrificing image quality.
Some scenes are more complicated than others and require a shit-ton of lighting equipment, from lighting units to modifiers. However, the message Boyle is trying to communicate is that DPs can and should try to find simpler, more efficient ways of lighting a scene.
One mistake I made in my first year of filmmaking was using all of the lights I had in my kit. Maybe it was because I had my professor's voice in my head talking about 3-point lighting, or maybe it was because it was fun to set up lights, or
maybe definitely it was because I didn't know what I was doing—either way, just because you have lights doesn't mean you need to use them.
Modifiers, like diffusers, flags, and reflectors, can often give you all the spread, control, and illumination you need without having to rely on a whole lot of space or energy. So, if you've got a few lights on hand, see if you can replace at least one or two of them with a light modifier. As you saw in the video, Boyle was able to recreate some pretty amazing images that used a lot of lighting with only one light, two sheets of poly, a trace frame, and two black flags. In other words, he used one light and five modifiers—that's pretty awesome.
How do you simplify your lighting setups? Let us know in the comments below.