You’ve Got to See How a Professional Cinematographer Lights a Simple Scene

You’ve Got to See How a Professional Cinematographer Lights a Simple Scene

Most simple scenes in films are lit in a very elaborate way. In his workshop, cinematographer Erik Kress shows how he lights a casual over-the-shoulder composition, making it look natural while everything is shot on an artificial set.

Whether you are a stills photographer or a cinematographer, learning from professional directors of photography is one of the best sources to hone your lighting skills. In this workshop, they show a simple scene of a man and a woman hugging and giving a toast. The set is built for the purpose of the workshop. The scene has to look as if it was lit by the sun coming through a nearby window.

Erik Kress shows how to mimic natural sun light that illuminates the composition. For many, it may sound like a simple solution: well, just put a light outside the window and you’re all set. That’s what Kress first did. You will see why it wasn’t enough. He shows his process of building the shot one light at a time and shaping it with various modifiers so the end result looks natural as if it had been shot in an actual room lit by the sun.

By the end of the workshop, you will understand this diagram, although it may look complex and “over-the-top” to some of you:

Lighting diagram for shooting a close-up by the window (by Erik Kress)

In the other videos from the workshop Erik Kress shows how he did the reverse shot and what kinds of lights he placed around the actors to make it look believable. Here are the following parts to the series:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Here, there’s a summary of the lighting setups they did throughout the show.


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