September 12, 2014 at 7:06AM


Lighting a dark scene

Hi, I am planning to make a short movie which entirely takes place in an apartment and according to the script power cut off,so it is gonna be dark mostly. As I am doing research in web, I've seen some people suggesting to light the scenes from outside the windows but I am living at 9th floor,so that's out of the question. Also rooms are not that big and the halls are narrow,it is kinda baffling how to set up lighting. Also I read about day for night shoots, or handling the darkness at the post but even though I used Adobe Premiere in the past it has been a while and I am not quite familiar with what I can or I can not do at the post. I really wanna do this movie but I am kinda confused at the moment because of this lighting issue.

I have Canon 550D, a 50mm 1.8. and also a very tight budget.

If anyone can give me any idea how to light in the darkness, that'd be great. Thanks


Using lights creatively for dark scenes is a hard thing to accomplish, and from a former 550D owner to another, its hard to shoot dark scenes with.
make sure you soften the lights you do have, any harsh lighting is unrealistic for the moon or other such lighting sources.
if you don't have a soft box or umbrella then just bounce the lights that you have off the ceiling or a wall.
lighting from outside would be nice, because it looks like moonlight streaming in.
if you can do one shot in someone else's house that is on the bottom floor of light streaming through the window, then you can emulate this look on your 9th floor by shooting your lights through your blinds (after taking them off the window obviously), off camera.
just make sure you put the lights a bit higher and aimed down to make it look like moonlight.

don't worry about gels for lights, you can change the color to more blue in post (which for some reason we perceive as the color of moonlight)
or if you don't have good color grading software, or a good editor, you can change your white balance so your image is blue rather than a neutral image.

hope this helps!

September 12, 2014 at 7:57AM

Connor Norvell
Cinematographer, Writer, Director

This question was asked about a week ago. You can checkout my answer to that question here:

Some specific challenges you will run into:
- Canon 550D is only 4:2:0 which means not a lot of color depth
- Its only only 8-bit which means heavy signal compression
- f/1.8 will leave you no room to focus so I suggest stopping down to f/2 or f/2.8 when you can

Having shot low light scenes on the 550D, I think the importance is getting light where you need it. On a low budget, its going to be pretty near impossible to light an entire room for that camera. Instead, focus on lighting what you want your audience to see. Faces, movements, etc. If you have practicals, use them!!! In my opinion, I'd rather blow out a lamp in the background than have no light in my scene.

If you have more specifics like what your scene entails, what you're trying to convey, your full equipment list, or some set pictures I can try and reply with some more specific advice.

September 12, 2014 at 2:29PM

Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer

I would get a couple LED panels and place them to look like moon light coming in through windows. place them in front of where a window "should" be and get a set of blinds or cut foam core to hang in front and break up your light. Put it in rooms down the hall spilling into the hallway when they are walking to add dimension. Dim them down and diffuse them to give a nice side light to key with and keep a bounce card near by for fill if its to contrasty for you. I believe in getting it close as you can on set and just tweak in post.

Rental prices shouldn't be to high on a couple panels, check for local owners or friends who may be willing to give you a deal on the rental or hire them if they bring them along type thing. You could also use work lights or LED strips or something from home depot or ikea. Just keep some diffusion near by to soften the source.

September 16, 2014 at 9:45AM

Chase Axton

Thanks for the advice guys,appreciate it. I'll try to think of a way to do this with what I got,if not,i might focus on something more doable. Again, thanks.

September 22, 2014 at 1:34AM


i think the if you sell to your audience that the light its off, you can lightit as if there where lights on (in some parts) always with out showing the source of the lights, lighting from above, with the lightis hanging. Movies are veracity, noth truth. and usualy the audience bought wath you sell them.

September 25, 2014 at 7:04AM

Baltazar Nadalino
Director de Fotografia

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