Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quick & Practical Lighting With Household Lamps

In movie making a practical light is a light source that shows in the frame and appears to be illuminating the scene, but usually isn't. The table lamp or candle may be too dim to reach the entire scene and fill light is carefully added that is "motivated" by the practicals. A talented Director of Photography will carefully craft the mood of the scene by blending all the light sources.

Or you could be like me and hurriedly throw together whatever lamps you find in your living room and garage and pray you can pull something off. In September I was asked to create still photographs for the opening sequence of The Mens Room, a low budget short thriller involving a taxidermist, a secret man cave and a bloody knife.

A couple's changing relationship was to be depicted over three Christmases, from happy newlyweds to eventual cold indifference, all to set up the thrills to come. No, I won't tell you what happens.

Our Miami Shores living room received an early Christmas make over thanks to the talents of Art Director Anais Sancetta and vision of Director Eve Ganzel. With about an hour before the actors arrived - Claudia Buckley playing Evelyn and Misha Kulberg as Bill - I marshaled a bunch of household lamps, window light and strings of Christmas lights to create a warm and cozy scene.

Here are the steps I took:

Practicals are the light coming through curtains and Ikea lamp that back lights stuffed ducks and carpet, with Christmas strings on. Curtains burned out, room too dark, contrasty and cold. I love the stuffed squirrel at lower left has own accent light, the taxidermist's gift to husband. How romantic.

 A big box store fluorescent work light is gaffered into the fireplace ... who knows what the color temperature is. Yes we should of lit the candles. Hey, it's a low budget film.

 A tall halogen floor lamp placed on piano bench provides overall fill off the ceiling, while music lamp and Ikea lamp rim the sofa.

OK I cheated here, I pulled out my Dyna-Lite strobe head with honeycomb grid, but just used the modeling lamp to spot light the mountain goat above the fireplace. 

A halogen desk lamp indirectly opens up the bottom right floor by the Christmas tree.

And finally, a small LED dialed to tungsten color balance opens up the actors just a touch. Yes, I too see the black power cord snaking into the upper right fireplace.