Want to get better at lighting.


New member
I am a young filmmaker and I've been having trouble grasping lighting. I have shot multiple short films but they have mostly all been with available light, and I want to take my film making to the next level. But I have been having a difficult time understanding lights. Things like what lights to use, color temperatures, using flags, Gel types, etc. It's so much to take in. If anyone can help with some websites, videos, books anything, it would be greatly appreciated.


The two articles below will help you learn about lightning. The Setting Up Camera & Lights article teaches how to position and adjust the lights, and teaches about the different types of lights. The Color Temperature & Gels article teaches the difference between tungsten and daylight lights and gels.


I would recommend to purchase an inexpensive 3-piece lighting kit with barndoors on eBay or Amazon to help learn the basics of lighting. If your lights have a color temperature of daylight, then buy tungsten gels to put over your lights. If your lights have a color temperature of tungsten, then buy daylight gels for each of your lights. This will allow you to film with both tungsten and daylight, regardless of the color temperature of your lights. You could also buy some C-47's (wooden clothes pins) to attach the gels to your lights for $5. I would also recommend to buy a set of Opal Frost 410 diffusion gels. If your gels come large enough, you can cut them in half to cover 2 lights per gel. Diffusion gels will allow your lighting to be diffused so it's not as harsh on the actors -- so it looks more natural. ( eBay has had the least expensive gels on the Internet over the last few years - http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_odk...l+frost+gel.TRS0&_nkw=opal+frost+gel&_sacat=0 )

Type of Lights to Use: Tungsten lights are usually the least expensive and the most powerful, but they do have several disadvantages. They're very hot so you'll need to wear gloves when touching them or you'll burn your hand, you need to wear gloves when changing the bulbs or the oils from your hand will cause them to break, the bulbs are expensive ($15 - $25 each) and burn out frequently, they use a lot of watts so you have to plug them into different circuit breakers so you don't trip the circuits (each circuit can handle either 1,500 or 2,000 watts each -- circuits in living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms can handle 1,500 watts, while circuits in a kitchen MIGHT be able to handle 2,000 watts. Each house has different types of circuit breakers, and businesses can usually handle more. Make sure to shut off all other electronics plugged into those circuits first, before turning on your lights, or you might blow a circuit if using tungsten lights).

LED lights are more expensive, but aren't hot, the bulbs don't burn out, and have low watts so you won't trip any circuit breakers. Unless you have a budget of $500 or more, I would recommend to buy a 3-piece lighting kit that is about $100 - $200, regardless of the type of lights.

Color Temperatures & Gels: This is pretty easy once you understand the basics. If you're filming interior scenes that you would expect lamps to light the scene, then you should film with tungsten lighting. If you're filming outside, or inside near windows with daylight coming through, then you should light your scene with daylight lighting. If you are using tungsten lights to light an interior scene without windows, then you don't need any gels. If you're using tungsten lights to light an outdoor scene or interior scene with windows, then you need to attach daylight gels to your tungsten lights. If you're filming an outdoor scene, then you need to use daylight lights or tungsten lights with daylight gels. Although, you usually need to use flags to reduce outdoor lighting when filming outside (search on Amazon or eBay for 5-in-1 reflector, which comes with diffusion).

Tungsten Light + No Gel = Tungsten Color Temperature
Tungsten Light + Daylight Gel = Daylight Color Temperature
Daylight Light + No Gel = Daylight Color Temperature
Daylight Light + Tungsten Gel = Tungsten Color Temperature

After you adjust your lights and add gels if needed, then set the color balance on your camera to neutralize the color temperature. If you hold something white in front of your camera or aim your camera at something white, adjust your color balance so the white object looks white in your camera's monitor.

Flags: You can use flags to prevent lighting from hitting your subject or certain portions of your scene. If your light comes with a barndoor, then you can move the barndoor in front of your light so it blocks the light. You don't always need to use flags for each scene, but it helps when you have a bunch of lights and you only want to add lighting from certain lights to certain parts of your scene. You could also attach other types of flags to stands to block out lighting or create lighting patterns/shadows if you want to get very creative with your lighting, but I would recommend to just start with barndoors as other types of flags are more expensive, and barndoors will be used for 90% of your shots. You can also use other types of inexpensive flags to block out light, such as a flattened cardboard box placed in front of a window.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!
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i am a filmmaker and was having trouble with my lighting. But your advice helped to rectify the problem. Thanking you for sharing such an advanced technological details on lighting and how it work efficiently.


Hey FilmHB! Thanks for the tips! I tried to access the links you shared, but I think the website is down.

Is there any other place where I can learn the basics of lightning?



New member
Hey! I am new to lighting as well. Not really experienced. I tried to open links but they did not work. Which light is better to use for small objectives and which for the big, is there a difference?