4 Master Lighting Tips for Next Generation Cinematographers

Read these great lighting tips for cinematography students and film students. Tips from Uta Briesewitz, ASC, David Moxness, ASC, CSC, Stijn Van der Veken, ASC, SBC and more…
Above photo by Daniil Kuželev in Odessa, Ukraine.


4 Master Lighting Tips for Next Generation Cinematographers


Tip #1

“Watch the world around you, get inspired by it. Memorize these moments when you see ‘light happening’, …and even when it’s just standing in line at a coffee shop and you watch the sun kicking off the windshields of the driving cars outside and those light kicks dance around on the wall behind the barista. Whenever I recreated such a moment with rotating mirrors outside a restaurant the producer would usually come up to me all concerned and ask, ‘What is this?’ And my answer would be, ‘This is natural light, this really happens. Just watch for it next time you get a coffee.’
~Uta Briesewitz, ASC

Read more in our exclusive interview, “A Conversation with Uta Briesewitz, ASC: Episodics and Features.” ‘In feature films for theatrical release you can live more in wide shots since the big screen of a movie theatre allows the audience to discover things in the frame; even small details. You can see several actors in a wide shot and make your own decision who to look at, and it might not always be the person who delivers the line.’…

Tip #2

“Faces. So much emotion, character and storytelling will come from the actors, specifically their close up. Sometimes I feel lighting faces gets lost, yet it can be such a huge factor in storytelling. How best does the lighting portray that character – or characters – in a scene?”
~David Moxness, ASC, CSC

Read more in our exclusive interview, “Lighting the Narrative: A Conversation with David Moxness, ASC, CSC.” ‘Regardless of genre, story comes first. My approach and goal is to complement and tell that story via the photography. Mood and feeling play a big factor. When lighting for a particular genre the type and style of lighting, hard/soft, warm/cool, naturalistic/avant-garde are all factors I consider.’…

Tip #3

“Put your ego aside, accommodate the story, the performances and the director, and know you’ll only achieve this as a team, never as an individual.”
~Stijn Van der Veken, ASC, SBC

Read more in our exclusive interview, “A Conversation with Stijn Van der Veken, ASC, SBC: Leading Your Audience’s Eye.” ‘Cinematography is all about guiding the story and the actors’ performances to the audience in such a way that the story is believable although it is fictional. Therefore, we create a visual atmosphere which supports this by using light as our main tool blending it with camera positions, camera moves and the right choices of focal lengths and framing…’

Tip #4

“A piece of advice I got when I was a very young cinematographer was, you can light the actors any way you want, but let the audience see their eyes. To this day, I always make sure there’s something in the eyes. Now, of course, you can point out some of the obvious exceptions. You look at Gordon Willis, ASC’s work on Godfather – the lighting and every frame is perfect, but he wouldn’t let us see the eyes, and the effect is very powerful. But we’re not all geniuses like Gordon Willis.”
~Peter Levy, ASC

Read more in our exclusive interview, “A Conversation with Peter Levy, ASC: Insights into Cinematography and Advice for Students.” ‘I advise my students that, when in a position to do so, always hire people who know more than they do. Don’t fall into the trap of hiring your buddies and your classmates – you’ll be working with people who have had the same experience as you and you’re basically creating a feedback loop where you cannot learn any more.’

Photo by Tobias Keller

Photo taken in Forrester Station, Alpha, Australia by Tobias Keller: “I noticed how amazing the golden sunset light looked through the dust clouds thrown up by the cattle. The next day I brought my camera along and managed to capture these incredible light conditions. To me that shot perfectly captures the earthy serenity I so love about the Australian outback, along with the warm and calm character of the people working that incredible landscape.”


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