One of the first things to think about whenever you pick up a video camera or any camera for that matter is where the heck is the primary light coming from? Normally we go about our daily business not even thinking about what angle the sun is, what direction is it coming from or what is our primary light source. The eyes and brain have a seamless way of figuring out the best way to see and interpret what we see and make brightness and contrast compensations nanosecond by nanosecond depending on the lightning situation. A camera does not have this on-board ability.

So to be a good video shooter you need to think about the light source and where it is coming from and where your subject is in relationship to that source. After all, without any light source you will have no image. Generally speaking you want a side light source to come from about 45 degrees from your subject. If you don’t you will likely get an image that is a flat light and only see people with big round flat looking faces. Or if you’re in an office situation you might get a heavy top light that casts long shadows in front of the face, or worse you might get a bottom light that makes for a horror look. Not too flattering if you are taping the boss for a stockholder presentation.

So an effective video will have the lighting coming from a nice angle, just over your shoulder. By thinking about where your source lighting is coming from and positioning your camera appropriately, you will be going a long way towards making a better picture and a better video. A nice strong bright light at the correct angle will be key, and that’s why the pros call it the “key light”.

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