Cinematography is one of the most challenging aspects of filmmaking. Among the many problems that plague productions of all tiers, lighting is one of the most common. More often than not, you can find yourself in situations in which setting up lights can be difficult, or where the lights simply isn’t enough. Underexposure is a real problem, and for most amateur teams, dealing with low light can be something they may not be able to overcome in the most optimal way. There are a couple of ways to tackle this, so here are 6 tips to deal with low light in film sets.
Use any light at your disposal
Any source of light is better than no light, keep that in mind always. Whatever light you have at your disposal can work to illuminate your subject, so don’t be afraid to use it and adjust with the means you have available. If the only thing you have is your phone lantern, but you don’t want a hard illumination on your characters, you can even use a t-shirt to diffuse the light if you don’t have anything else.
Shoot with the biggest aperture possible
Most filmmakers know this already, but you need to go back to the basics and retrace your steps when you find yourself before any sort of complication that might hinder your progress during shooting. This includes, of course, adjusting the aperture of your lens to the biggest possible one to let the maximum amount of light into the sensor.
Lower your shutter speed to let more light in
Going through the optical settings like a checklist should be the method to follow when trying to come up with a solution to an image problem. Once you have opened up your aperture to the max, you can play with your shutter speed depending on the action you are shooting. A slower shutter speed will let more light in, but it can alter the focus of your subjects and cause motion blur in extreme cases.
Reduce your frame rate carefully
Similar to the shutter speed, the frame rate of the camera should be checked to see if it is possible to adjust it to compensate for low lighting. Reducing the frames per second can brighten up your shot, but at the cost of affecting the fluidity of motion in your final product. Be careful with it and adjust within a range that doesn’t compromise the integrity of your shot.
Increase the gain of your camera
One of the last resorts in digital filmmaking to deal with low-light situations is increasing the gain of the camera. More commonly known and found on DSLRs as the ISO value, this setting can easily help you with poorly lit shots that desperately need some light. The only downside is that you will get noticeable grain on your image if you go overboard, so be cautious about the liberal adjustment of this setting to avoid future problems that can’t be fixed so easily.
Light up your scenes in post
Ideally, you should not rely on post-production to fix everything you didn’t quite manage during the shooting, but if it comes to that point in terms of lighting, there are some last-minute fixes that can be done to get your shots more properly illuminated. It won’t be quick, or cheap, or easy, though so try your best on set to get something to work with later.