April 28, 2020

Learn How to Light Overhead Shots Like a Pro

Overhead camera
If you're wanting to spice up your next project with some sweet overhead shots, you might want to learn how to light them first.

Last week, we went over a few clever DIY ways to shoot overhead shots without a dedicated rig, from taping your phone down onto a coffee table to shooting throw a mirror. This week, however, it's time to take it a step further and talk about lighting.

How do you light an overhead shot? I think we all know it's not as easy as flipping on your kitchen light and calling it good, because—you know—your camera will cast a big, blobby shadow over your shot.

Aputure's Matt Esteron offers some great tips and techniques on how to light for these kinds of compositions, whether you call them overheads, flat lays, or tabletop shots. Let's get to it!

So, what's the big, mysterious lighting trick that will help you light overheads like a pro?

One big key light with a softbox and a bounce board.

That's it.

The powerful key offers enough light to properly expose your overhead shot, while the softbox diffuses that light to give it a soft, even spread without casting shadows. The bounce cuts even more shadows.

And that's the important part here, friends. Novice filmmakers notoriously create overhead shots that have a lot of unattractive shadows being cast by their hands, camera, and the objects within the frame, most likely because they literally flicked on the ceiling light right above their setup.

That's a big no-no. Not only is it more difficult to control and direct light from a stationary source (like a ceiling light), but its placement is simply not conducive to overheads. 

It's better to grab a key light, whether it's a fancy studio light or a shop light you dug out of your garage, throw some diffusion material in front of it, place it on the opposite side of your overhead camera rig, and grab a bounce board (even a white piece of cardboard will do).

Aside from lighting, staging is going to give your shot that nice polish and professional look you're going for. So, before you hit record, make sure the objects you're shooting are arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way. 

What's Next? Create this simple DIY overhead rig!

If you've got a C-stand and some random heads and spigots lying around, you can create this super simple DIY overhead rig that's not just simple to set up but also fully adjustable.      

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That's a big no-no. Not only is it more difficult to control and direct light from a stationary source (like a ceiling light), but its placement is simply not conducive to overheads.

April 29, 2020 at 6:52AM, Edited April 29, 6:52AM

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