Skip to main content

GLOBAL – A chain is never stronger than its weakest link. When you’re shooting video on your camera phone, the camera is plenty good enough. To make your videos look even better, make sure your scenes are well lit.

Camera phones are great pieces of technology, especially in good lighting, so in order to get your videos to be as good as possible, let’s see how we can play to its strengths.

Quality of light comes in two distinct flavours: Quantity and quality. You need a bit of both to make your videos sizzle, but that doesn’t mean you have to head to your local film supply store to spend a lot of money on lighting equipment.

The two things you have to keep in mind is “How much light do I have”, and “Where is my light coming from”. People, for example, tend to look better when they are lit from the side and above. The easiest way of getting the feel for this type of lighting is to go outside: The sun at about 5pm is a perfect example. The light source should be behind your right shoulder. When the actor is facing you, the lighting will be pretty close to perfect!

Indoors, we have to think slightly differently. A 500W halogen work lamp can be bought cheaply from your local do-it-yourself emporium. If you raise it up in the air (put it on a book shelf or similar) and point it at your actors, you’ll get very harsh, dramatic lighting. Use the light directly from the side for a Sin City-style feel.

For a less harsh, more ‘human’ lighting, point the work lamp at a white ceiling, and look at your actor on your camera phone screen. Because the light is reflected (known as ‘bouncing’) off the ceiling, it will be a beautiful, soft light source that won’t throw the harsh shadows we associate with direct lighting.

The easiest way to learn how to light properly is to use a teddy bear. Not as a light source – as a model: stuffed animals tend to be a lot more patient than humans when you’re first starting out. Put the bear on a chair, set up your camera phone, and start experimenting with the lights. Try direct lights, bounced lights, and dimmed lights. Try mixing light sources, and try ‘shaping’ the light by shining the shop light through an object with holes or slats in it for cool lighting effects.

Once you feel you’re getting the hang of your lights, take the teddybear’s place, and perform a monologue to camera. Do you feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?