Badly lit shots can make or break your film and lighting can be one of the hardest things to get right when you're on a budget.
We’ve rounded up some of the best budget lighting tips around for aspiring filmmakers. You might have great DSLR skills but unless you can light properly then you might end up losing out on key exposure for your film at festivals.
Some filmmakers suggest shooting in black and white to reduce lighting issues, as Christopher Nolan did in his early outing Following. Check out our list of ways to get around this and what to remember when you light your scenes.
Do it yourself
There are plenty of tutorials out there with many different ways to do this, but we’re particularity fond of this quick checklist by Ryan Connolly at Film Riot, which runs through the basics you’ll need.
Among the kit to make the list are clamp lights, which you can add different bulbs onto and paper lanterns, which give nice and soft light while reducing shadow.
While it’s an American tutorial, most of the items here are pretty easy to pick up online or in your local DIY shop.
Use natural lighting
Natural lighting is a budget filmmakers’ best friend. It’s an easy way to create soft and organic lighting for your shots without having to fork out any money.
However, you’ll have to remember to keep this consistent and not let lighting changes throughout the day be reflected in your footage.
Director Ewan Stewart, short filmmaker and cinematographer, gave Ideas Tap his best budget lighting tips.
He said: “When filming interiors, windows can be a great advantage, but you have to be wary of where the sun is.
“If you film half a scene in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, your lighting will change dramatically and you may not be able to match your shots unless you plan carefully.”
Get it right in camera so you can get it right in editing
Filmmaker Simeon Quarrie told The Video Mode at our filmmaking workshop in 2016 that lighting properly in camera will really help you when you come to edit your footage.
He explained: “If you don’t light someone properly you cannot shape the light. You can make them brighter but what happens is you can’t control the shadows in the right way, so what will happen is everything will get brighter.”
Watch the full video below.
Keep it simple
One of the biggest problems with lighting is casting shadows. According to Filmmaker Magazine, cinematographer PJ Raval gave some good advice at a SXSW panel a few years ago.
He said: “If you are sourcing from a few directions, the white-walled apartment is the enemy of cinematographers.
“A good way to combat that is to use fewer sources so you don’t have shadows going every which way. The hottest point can be coming from the window, and then you can augment that with fill.”
Rent out expensive gear
Unless you want to start building up your expensive professional gear, it is a much cheaper option to rent out some key kit. There are plenty of places you can do this from professional filmmaking companies to peer-to-peer marketplaces like Fat Lama.
Be sure to check out our tips on renting out equipment before you do this.