How to Use Light Diffusion Gels for Soft Lighting [ReelRebel #39]

How to Use Light Diffusion Gels for Soft Lighting [ReelRebel #39]

You've finally upgraded your lights to the big leagues:  Beautiful, professional lights that will make your subjects shine bright.  However, you may have run into a problem.  Maybe those lights are too bright.  Maybe you're getting all sorts of shadows, and your subject doesn't look natural, not to mention they're uncomfortable with these harsh lights bearing down on them.  Not to worry: there is a way to reduce that harsh light by using diffusion.  A simple way to make the light easier on the eyes, on your subject, and in your video.

Diffusion: When Your Lights Are Too Darn Bright

Why do you need diffusion?  You're changing the quality of the light you're shooting with.  If you're unsure of whether your light is hard or soft, take a look at this nifty article.  But essentially, hard light creates very defined shadows, soft light creates opaque and spread-out shadows.  Tungsten lights tend to be harsh (brighter).  They produce darker shadows, and bring out imperfections.

Diffusion comes in several different grades to help give the light a softer look, allowing the light to wrap around the subject more, reducing the strength of the shadows, and giving the subject's skin a smoother, younger look.

Decide what kind of diffusion you need from the variety of options you get in a package, and simply clip them to the light's barn doors.  It's basically like sticking a piece of wax in front of your light to bring down the intensity of it.  You may need to counter this by opening the iris on your camera to allow in more light.  If that's not possible, you may simply need to bring the lights closer to the subject.  The light's brightness will go back up, but you'll be able to keep the softness.

It's easy, but don't just use the first gel you try out.  Try all the different ones in your arsenal to find the one that best works for you.

A ton more Reel Rebel tips on all kinds of lighting:

For the very basics on lighting, go to this video right here.  It's Video Lighting Basics 101.

Need to know the basics of color temperatureLook no further.


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View The Full Video Transcript:

Hey I’m Stephen Schweickart with the Reel Rebel We’ve touched on a number of lighting subjects before; ND filters, color temperature, three point lighting. But today we’re going to dive into an advanced lighting idea that allows you to change the quality of the light you’re shooting with. Let’s take a look at Diffusion.

So you’ve probably figured out by now that you can’t just show up on set and shine any old light on your subjects. As much fun as it would be to light your scenes with just flashlights, you don’t want your video to look like the Blair Witch Project. Using professional lighting alone is a big step in bringing what we in the industry call “production value” to your piece, but sometimes a naked light won’t do exactly what you need it to do.

Tungsten lights tend to be harsh. Not like your mom saying she’s disappointed in you harsh, just the quality of the light is brighter, produces darker shadows, and worst of all, accentuates imperfections. And if there’s one thing actors don’t like, its having bright light blasted at them that makes them look old and rough. But thankfully, diffusion will save the day, and it’s as easy to deal with as an ND filter is.

Lighting diffusion comes in a variety of grades, just like ND, and usually in packs that include several different ones. Using them diffuses the light, duh, giving the light a softer look, allowing the light to wrap around the subject more, knocking down the intensity of the shadows and giving your subject’s skin a smoother, younger look. Believe me, your talent will always appreciate this.

Like I said before, diffusion is as easy to use as ND. Just decide the level of diffusion you want or need to give you the right softness, and then clip them right onto the light’s barn doors. Without being Captain Obvious, sticking what is essentially a piece of wax paper in front of your light will bring down the intensity of it. You may need to counter this by opening the iris on your camera to let in more light, or if that’s not possible just move the lights closer to your subject. This will bring the brightness of the light back up, but you will retain that softness.

Using diffusion is easy, but don’t just throw the first type you find on your light and leave it at that. Hold some different grades over your lights and judge which suits the scene best, and when you find the perfect one, secure it to the light, get back behind the camera where you belong, and start shooting.

Now that we’ve helped you shine some light on your scenes, shine some light on us by liking this video, letting us know what you thought in the comments section, and by subscribing to get more videos like this one, and vids from my personal VLOG about collecting china dolls. They really are quite exquisite.

About the Author -
Chris Atkinson joined ReelSEO in 2011. He is a longtime film and television reviewer, and has almost two decades of experience in the theater industry. He also writes on his personal blog - http://nymoviereviews.com. View All Posts By -

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