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| Shooting Techniques | Adequate Lighting | Too Much Light |

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Use Adequate Lighting

Shoot Where There Is Enough Light & What To Do If You Can't

  1. Don't Skimp on the Light: Even though video requires less light than film, shooting indoors, without additional lights is considered a low-light situation for pretty much all video cameras, even the expensive ones. Details that your eyes pick up easily in what doesn't seem like a dim room vanish when you play back the tape. If you want to be sure to follow the action and pick up the details, you'll need to shoot where there is enough light.

  2. Bearing that in mind, shooting outside during daylight hours will almost always guarantee you enough light. The sun is your most reliable source of light, even on a cloudy day. In fact, a cloudy day is preferable to a sunny one because the clouds even out the shadows falling on your subject and cause less reflection in the snow or sand. If you can shoot outdoors, do so.

  3. If you must shoot inside, don't be afraid to drag in a lamp from another room to enhance the light in your scene. If you have an on-camera light or a kit and some knowledge of how to light for video, then use it.

  4. Dealing with Low Light: It often happens that you have no extra lights and no control over the lights in your scene. It's nighttime and you're trying to capture an event in a restaurant for instance. When you compare the image you see in the LCD with what you see with your naked eye, the difference is obvious. Everything is either dark and muddy or completely non-existent. What's worse, your camera can't seem to focus (let alone white balance) on anything. Putting the camera on manual so you can open the aperture wider does no good because the aperture is already open as wide as it will go. What do you do?

  5. First, put the camera on manual focus. This will stop the auto focus from "hunting" for the right subject in the dim light. Because the aperture in extremely low light is open as wide as it will go, the depth of field is very shallow. The focus will do it's best to keep whatever is in the center of the frame in focus, but as objects in the center of the frame change or move about, the focus will shift as well. Focusing the camera manually requires skill, whatever your lighting situation, but it is particularly difficult in low light situations. You can't often be sure when you're going to need to rely on manual focus, so it's good to have figured it out before you get into a shoot that's important to you. But that's a separate lesson.

  6. Next, boost the gain on the camera. Gain is either a control that you'll find in the on-camera menu or along the side of the camera. Basically, this sends more electricity through the camera's imaging system, artificially amplifying the light, like turning up the volume on your stereo. But just as you get more hiss when you have to turn up audio that's been recorded at a low-level, turning up the gain on your video camera will give you electronic noise in the form of a more grainy image. But if you don't have enough light, you don't have enough light. A little extra noise is better than recording a bunch of murky shadows.

  7. If your camera doesn't have a gain, it probably has a low light or night shot mode, which can be accessed through the on-camera menu. If these do not boost the gain, they will slow down the shutter speed, which you could do manually. This will cause a trailing effect, but if the light is extremely low, you may have to live with it.

  8. Do Not Shoot Into the Light: Whether you use the overhead lights in a classroom or office, a light kit or the sun, make sure the camera is not tilted up into the light. In extremely low-light situations, you may be tempted to point your camera directly at a light sources in order to get more light. This is not likely to give you the results you're looking for as the light bounces around in your lens causing flares or muddiness. What's worse, such behavior, especially when prolonged, is rumored to cause damage to your camera's imaging sensors. Unless you're going for a specific effect, it's not worth it.

  9. You should also be careful not to damage the camera accidentally this way. This happens when we thought we turned the camera off, but didn't, and the lens is pointed at a light source. Try to avoid this; your camera will stay true longer if you do.

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