When it comes to any type of production, proper lighting is one of the most important aspects. In this two-part series of Reframed With Drew Geraci, the Sony Artisan is joined by portrait photographer and fellow Sony Artisan Monica Sigmon to further explore the topic. “Lighting is the most important because it helps convey the story and the message that we want to deliver to our audience,” explains Geraci. Watch Part 1 as Sigmon explains how she creates cinematic lighting for portraits and Part 2 below where Geraci shares a few of his favorite lighting techniques for video.
Part 1: Cinematic Lighting For Portraits
Sigmon’s portraiture has a very dramatic and cinematic lighting look, and in the Part 1 she shares some of her secrets. First she shows a softbox and says to think of it like a window. The center of the softbox has the hottest part of the light, so you don’t want your subject to stand there. “We want the softest light to fall on her (the subject),” explains Sigmon. “So by bringing her back to the edge of the window, or the edge of the softbox in this case, now that light is feathering across her and giving us that beautiful Rembrandt shadow.”
She has a little subtractive lighting to add shows to the subject’s face. She also uses a splash light which she says some people might mistake for a fill light. “The difference is that I won’t see this complicate the shadows on her face that we very deliberately created,” she says. “So all this does is give me a little bit of base exposure in the shadows, and that’s all I need.” With this setup, Sigmon poses her subject to get the proper lighting pattern across her face and, using her Sony Alpha 7R IV and Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master, she’s able to capture beautifully-lit and dramatic images.
When the type of portrait you’re taking changes, so does the lighting. In Part 1 Sigmon also shows us how she would light more of a commercial/business-style portrait. She uses a softbox from above and has her subject lean over a reflector below, adding great light to the subject’s eyes.
Part 2: Making Your Video Portraits Pop
In Part 2, Geraci takes a deep dive into his techniques for video portraiture lighting. “It’s not different from still lighting, but you have to make sure that when your subject is moving that they’re lit from every angle,” explains Geraci. “And that’s a lot different than shooting still subjects because the model isn’t going to be moving in still portraiture lighting. But here we have to make sure that our characters react to the light and react to the scene and that they’re lit perfectly when filming.”
Geraci uses a key light at about 50% power, which will depend on the lightness of your background. “The first thing that you want to set up is your far key light, and this goes on the opposite side of the face that we want to have the shadows. So we’re going to position this 3-ft. softbox and I’ve got it about 4.5-5 feet away from our subject. The softbox is great because it’s going to cast really nice, soft tones on the face and come out with really nice balanced images.”
To make the lighting more dynamic, he adds a fill light to the background and a highlight to accentuate the subject’s shoulders and hairline. These lights add great definition and tone to show a separation between your subject and background. Then he turns on a tube light that completely changes the look and fully covers the lighting for the scene. All of these elements create a beautiful and natural look.
After the natural look, Geraci has some fun with RGB and spot lighting to create a scene that makes it look like the subject is in a club. “Just using these little light tubes can really add a whole lot of flair and a whole lot of extra love to your scene. I really like them because it really helps tell the story.”
He uses a spotlight to create moody lighting over his subject and places the tube lights around the ground to create a final scene where each image impacts the other. They add more depth and dimension to the scene, making it pop. For a scene like this, Geraci likes to shoot with his Sony Alpha 7S III for its low-light capability along with the Sony 24-105mm f/4 G.
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