Photo/Video Lighting on a Shoestring Budget

Marshall Rimmer, Filmmaker

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9 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Scouting the Location

    • 3. White Balance (bonus lesson)

    • 4. Necessary Purchases

    • 5. Recommended & Optional Purchases

    • 6. Deciding the Look

    • 7. Sample Set-Up Walkthrough

    • 8. Backdrop & Backlights

    • 9. Final Tips

29 students are watching this class

Project Description

Before You Begin...

Welcome to my class! I hope you will learn many film tips that will stick with you throughout your filmmaking career, whether you are an aspiring professional or active hobbyist.

If you're part of Skillshare's Membership program, you can sign up for my other classes completely free of charge! I recommend going ahead and doing that now, even if you're not planning on immediately jumping into the other courses. That way, if you ever have questions about other topics, you will be able to access these classes more quickly. It will take two seconds and is completely free!

Once you've signed up for the other courses go ahead and continue your work on this unit.

Scout the Location

Go to the location where you will be shooting.

Take note of:

  • Ambient light. Is it daylight or inside light?
  • The location and number of electrical outlets. You may have to purchase extention cords and/or power strips depending on your findings.

Purchasing the Equipment

Paper Lantern
​Lantern Cord
​Clamp Light
​Mic Stand
Dimmable Daylight Bulbs
Power Strip
Extension Cord
Dimmer Switch
Gaffers Tape
Dryer Sheets
Wooden Clothes Pin

And pick up an SD Card if you need one (slow-motion may require high write speeds like this card listed).

.... And if you would rather spend a little bit more money to get a decent lighting kit, here is a good option.

Deciding the Look

Depending on your project and which sample look you like in the additional resources below, decide upon the look that you would like your project to have.

Lighting the Subject

Arrive at your location and get to it!

Just a few additional tips:

  • Have your subject stand at least 4 feet away from any wall or backdrop
  • Raise lights high enough so that there is no awkward nose shadow, but not so high that the subject gets "raccoon eyes"
  • Use fabric softener sheets to not only diffuse, but weaken the intensity of the clamp lights. If you use 100W bulbs, the backlight my be harsher than desired.  Add 1-4 sheets per light depending on the desired look.

Show it off!

Upload a picture of yourself (or a model/friend) properly lit in your new lighting setup.  Let us know what type of project you are looking to pursue and why you chose the look you chose.


  • Shopping List

    A master list of the equipment can be found here.

  • Look Guide

    *D stands for "Direct light" (clamp lights)

    *S stands for "Soft light" (China balls)

    For less intense backlight, attach fabric softener sheets to backlights using clothespins.

  • Miscellaneous Tips

    • Full CTB color correction gels will add 2400K into your image, effectively transforming 3200K daylight bulbs into 5600K daylight.
    • Daylight bulbs typically emit light at 5000K whereas true daylight is closer to 5600K.  This means that, to a trained eye, the daylight bulbs could look slightly yellow when compared with true daylight. To correct this, you can purchase a (1/4) CTB color correction gel and affix it to your lights with clothespins.

    • It's typically more pleasing for the backlights to appear slightly cooler than the main source of light. If you were to affix (1/2) CTB color correction gels to the 5000K balanced backlights then set your camera's whitebalance to 5900K, the backlights would look slightly cool and the keylight would look slightly warm.

    • Light is governed by the inverse-square law. This means that a light at 1 ft from the subject is twice the intensity as the same light 4 ft away and three times the intensity as the same light 9 ft away, etc. Effectively, this means that if you are attempting to increase the difference in exposure between a subject and its background, you may need to physically move the light closer to the subject and adjust your camera settings accordingly.
  • Lighting Terminology

    • Three-Point Lighting - A lighting set-up that consists of a key light, fill light, and back light.
    • Key Light - the main (and typically brightest) source of light on your subject. It typically strikes from the front or the side.
    • Fill Light - a light typically positioned opposite the key light in order to reduce contrast. This light is commonly ambient bounce, extremely soft, and often goes unnoticed.
    • Back Light - a light positioned behind the subect in order to separate the subject from the background.
    • Soft Light - a type of light that is very diffused and casts very little shadow on its subjects.
    • Ambient Bounce - light that is provided from other sources and literally bounces off structures and creates a
    • Chiaroscuro Lighting - high contrast lighting
    • Flat - an image with little contrast or highlights
    • Intensity - The brightness of a light

If you are still looking for a good camera, here are some options...

Consumer Cameras

Sony A6000
Sony A6300
​Sony A6500 
Nikon D3500
​Nikon D3400
Canon Rebel T6

Professional Cameras & Lenses

Sony A7s iii
Sony A7s ii
Panasonic GH5
Canon 5D iv
Sony to Canon Lens Adapter
​Canon 28-70mm Lens
Canon 70-200mm Lens

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