Lighting the Human Face with Dedolight

A lighting tutorial by Ian Murray with Dedolight LEDs. Learn more about hard and soft key light and its effects.

Understanding the difference between hard and soft light; how to distinguish between hard and soft light and how to evaluate hard and soft light; the characteristics these different types of light bring to the image.

The primary goal of this video is to introduce some of the principals of cinematography through the act of portrait lighting, or the act of lighting the face. We will show practically how this is achieved.

“We often look to nature for lighting inspiration. As cinematographers our job is to notice the light that inspires us and to be able to recreate it. The tools I’m showing you here allow you to evaluate the light and better understand the physics of it and, in turn, how to apply it to cinematography.”

“We start seeing light. It’s really very craftsman light. What you do is you just start studying the subject and in that process of studying it you become more sensitive to it and by being more sensitive to it you can start manipulating it in ways that you’re aware of that other people aren’t. But what happens with studying light from a photography point of view, a cinematography point of view – is your relationship with it changes a little bit, you become more intimately involved with it. And that’s what I realised is that the beauty of this process is you start seeing light…”

Ian Murray, Cinematographer

Lights used for this tutorial:
DLH1000SPLUS, 1kW tungsten soft light with Panaura5 soft box
DLED4-BI, 40W focusing bicolor LED light head (with mini soft box)
White, silver and soft-gold reflectors

It is important to understand the structure of the human face in order to effectively light it. The face can be defined by 5 distinct points: nose, chin, the 2 cheeks and forehead. The face can also be divided into 4 distinct facets, made up of ear to jaw and cheek to nose, on both sides of the face. By arcing a light around the face we can see how the different facets react to the light from different angles. This is also affected by whether the light is soft or hard, or a combination of these. This gets more complicated in a multi light setup.

“In reality you tend to work with varying degrees of hard and soft, often in combination. In most situations a face is lit with a variety of lighting textures. Understanding and replicating these produces the most complex and richest images.”

Ian Murray, Cinematographer

Lights used for this tutorial:
DLH1000SPLUS, 1kW tungsten soft light with Panaura5 soft box
DLED4-BI, 40W focusing bicolor LED light head (with mini soft box)

Where to place the lights in relation to the subject is crucial to achieving results. Here we look at several different lighting setups – from classic 3 point lighting to alternative 3 point lighting technique; ear side key; far side key; how to use fill light effectively; and achieving the classic Hollywood beauty and glamour look.

“The classic beauty lighting technique is diffusing an on nose key position just above the lens. This minimises wrinkles, double chins, large noses, jowls, and emphasises cheek bones. It’s the classic technique.”

Ian Murray, Cinematographer

Lights used for this tutorial:
DLED4-BI, 40W focusing bicolor LED light head (with mini soft box)
DLH1000SPLUS, 1kW tungsten soft light with Panaura5 soft box
White, silver and soft-gold reflectors

Understand the ways in which one can create light in the eyes.

Eye lighting can come from direct lighting, with filters designed to blend the light invisibly with the rest of the face, or the light can be gentle reflections in the eyes, or a hard point – as a cinematographer you need to know how to control the eye light with regards to size, shape and intensity. Eye lighting will, inevitably, be a major influence in creating the portrait.

“The Eye light provides a limited area of fill or highlight when the key or fill leave one or both eyes in darkness. So the eyesight is really a remedial light, it’s what you use to remedy a problem. The eyesight is used when you can’t see enough life in the eyes and need to introduce a sparkle into the eye.”

Ian Murray, Cinematographer

Lights used for this tutorial:
DLED4-BI, 40W focusing bicolor LED light head
DP2.1 imager projection attachment with DPEYE filters
DLH1000SPLUS, 1kW tungsten soft light with Panaura5 soft box
White, silver and soft-gold reflectors

Classic portraiture from Leonardo da Vinci to Rembrandt, Looking at specific, traditional lighting styles, using a single light, and then developing onto classic Hollywood and beauty lighting.

“Let’s not forget the beauty of just using one soft light and seeing how a human face responding to soft light, graduating from the highlights, softening into the shadows. Let’s not forget how beautiful that is. Many artists base their whole careers on just studying that one phenomenon. They sit their models next to a window, and all they’d do is they do is paint their models from day to day, painting them, endlessly fascinated by what that light would bring. A North soft light coming from a window with a model sat next to it – I mean that’s, arguably some of the most beautiful lighting you’re ever going to see: very very simple.”

Ian Murray, Cinematographer

Lights used for this tutorial:
DLED4-BI, 40W focusing bicolor LED light head with mini soft box
DLH1000SPLUS, 1kW tungsten soft light with Panaura5 soft box
White, silver and soft-gold reflectors

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